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One of Poland’s lesser-known death metal hordes, Hell-Born, has just released Cursed Infernal Steel, the follow-up to their criminally-ignored “Legacy of Nephilim” album (which included the ridiculously catchy, warrior soul-stirring anthem “Legion is Our Name”). I therefore had high hopes for this album; the black/death subgenre is getting more and more crowded as days go by, with torchbearers Behemoth, Belpheghor, and, well, Torchbearer leading the charge, but the strength of Hell-Born’s last offering made me believe that there may be room for them amongst those ranks. Unfortunately, upon a cursory listen of their new album, I began to suspect that this may not be the case; judging by Cursed Infernal Steel’s distinct lack of originality, it might be a few more albums before Hell-Born manages to distinguish themselves from the faceless masses of other bands in the genre.
Workmanlike riffs struggle to be heard above the fuzzy production (though to be fair, they are labeled as black/death metal – and the dark lord knows how much black metallers love their buzzsaw guitars!). The head-spinning technicality and skull-smashing brutality so beloved by their Eastern European metal brothers is entirely missing here – Hell-Born apparently missed the “Polish death metal = br00tal/mindfucking” memo. There’s a decent head-nodding groove on here, buried as it may be under the unrelenting mid-paced death march that comprises most of the album. The vocals are a point of interest – reminiscent of Nergal’s double-tracking on Behemoth’s latest opus, but not quite full-sounding enough to be identical. Gruff, gravelly, hoarse growls and gang vocals during the chorus provide a dash of uniqueness, yet sound frustratingly old-hat at the same time. Either way, they fit the music, and get the job done. Slayerisms abound on this disc; the solos are immediately comparable to Kerry King’s finest, and any faithful acolyte of the Bald Tattooed One will surely recognize his fingerprints all over the axe squeeeeels and the grooving, stomping riffs found herein. It’s not necessarily a bad thing.
This is inherently a strong release, marred though it is by the band’s inability to distinguish themselves from the myriad others who manage to carry off this sound with much more aplomb. There are bright spots to be found; the second track serves up some highly respectable blackened death, with its infectious opening riff that grabs attention and the constant blasts that punctuate the blitzkrieg assault; a wailing guitar solo shows up sometime past the half-way mark, spiraling down to merge with the relentless buzz of the rest of the instruments, then fading out.
There’s no “Legion is Our Name Part. II” on here; the songs have a same-y quality to them that may cause the listener to lose interest halfway through. Hell-Born is, basically, Behemoth on downers; a little slower, a little unhappier, and a lot less creative. Their glaring lack of the latter quality is readily apparent upon a brief glance at their lyrics – this sort of petulant Lucifer-lovin’ is SO Deicide circa 2004. “Satan’s Black Blood,” “Hellspawn”…come on now, try a little harder – you don’t scare me! English is a hard language to grasp, especially if you’re coming from the less-friendly side of the Iron Curtain, but still – Belphegor has “Fukk the Blood of Christ.” I’m sure Hell-Born is more than capable of coming up with something just as colorful.
If you like blackened death, you’ll like this. If you don’t, you won’t. Simple.