Hellripper-Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags (Peaceville Records)

Monday, 27th February 2023
Rating: 10 / 10

If heroic trad metal one-man-band Trevor William Church of Haunt has an arch-villain, it might as well be James McBain and his blackened speed alter ego of Scottish riff-fiend Hellripper, an act that stands at the forefront of what is a white-hot subgenre at the moment. Hellripper’s latest album, Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags displays an agility that belies its awkward title. “The Nuckelavee,” a bombastic Children of Bodom homage, throws Midnight, Venom, early Metallica, and any number of melodic death bands into a cauldron from which spews forth and unfurls a masterpiece.

And that’s just the first track on this deliciously, decadently wicked album, Hellripper’s third to date.

Things get Darkthroned with “I, The Deciever,” majestically Dimmu Borgired in the title cut, and then fall into a deep NWOBHMania by the time “Goat Vomit Nightmare” crawls from its grave to pull you in. Harmonized twin leads set chilly nights ablaze as lightning tempos and occult lyrics straight from the handbook of Mercyful Fate and Highlands folklore fill the air with euphoric evil, hair-raising menace, and lycanthropic, moonlit thrills. From frightening In Flames-like gale force wind gust “The Cursed Carrion Crown” to broomstick fly-by “Poison Womb (The Curse of the Witch),” Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags only lets up when the closing strains of infernal death-race finale “Mester Stoor Worm” come into play, ushered in with chords that would make Dave Murray and Adrian Smith weep over their sheer beauty and reverence, signaling daybreak and an end to the horror…until another spin.

And those spins will come often, Hellripper crafting a positively addictive record that is not only inspired but will inspire bands and musicians for decades. A future classic steeped heavily in sounds culled from the past forty years of metal, Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags will stand as an unbreakable monument of Satanic wrath.

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