Hell – Curse and Chapter (Nuclear Blast)

Wednesday, 30th October 2013
Rating: 8/10

Even more of an impressive feat than making that initial comeback album (or in Hell’s case, first album overall), is getting to record #2, something the Andy Sneap-infused NWOBHM veterans have done with Curse and Chapter. Their 2011 Human Remains wasn’t quite all that NWOBHM-sounding to be frank, it’s almost like the Brits skipped over the generation they originated from in order to pump out something modern, which points directly at Sneap’s imitable production duties. They’ve done virtually the same thing here, yet Curse and Chapter has more jump to it, and ultimately, better songs.

Because the album has a sonic superiority that the albums of Hell’s contemporaries don’t (see recent outings by Satan, Angel Witch, and Witch Cross), there’s less reliance on having to run with Maiden gallops and melodies, and more onus on adventurous riffs in the context of traditional arrangements. Of course, none of this is the focal point if the animated, super-unique vocals of David Bower don’t tickle your fancy. He’s certainly take-it or leave-it, but in this age of one-dimensional vocalists, he’s got the individuality goods, like on “The Age of Nefarious” (a take on “The Age of Aquarius, originally from Hair), or the fire and brimstone “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”

Even with Bower flailing all over the place, the real catch with Curse and Chapter happens via the guitar work of Sneap and Kev Bower, like on the ominous opening build on “The Disposer Syndrome,” or the quick-to-the-punch “Land of the Living Dead.” The two rarely dig back into the 80’s coffin for their ideas, and if some of these riffs were sped up, they’d be ripe for Sabbat, Sneap’s criminally-underrated late 80’s thrash act. All of this are just more cagey ingredients thrown into a pot that isn’t for everyone, but easily has the mobility to do some damage across the pond.

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