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Poland has had a good run of metal bands that fuse the raw brutality of death metal, the faster elements of thrash metal, and the evil that drips from black metal. Like Norway produces black metal bands, Poland has in the last few years produced many great bands including Behemoth, Hate, and Vader, bands that have probably been more or less responsible for creating this new wave of blackened death metal. I've had the pleasure of reviewing many bands like Pandemonium, Centurion, Embrional, Sphere, Stillborn, and Empatic, and like these bands, Hell United have sought a sound that combines the collected evils of black and death metal with some serious nods towards thrashy tendencies.
9 songs strong, Aura Damage, the second full-length album from Hell United, perfectly showcases a great understanding of how to create high-tempo metal riddled with tremolo riffing and blasting drums. Songs like the sinister "Deathlike Cold", the equally fast-paced "Apostle of Plague", and the tenebrous closing track, "Totality of I", are what make Aura Damage an album worth checking out if you are into the bands mentioned earlier.
The Polish quartet show great craftsmanship in the terms of writing metal, but it's not all fun and games. While the 2012 album shows great promise and provides great consistency in genuinely good songwriting, I found most of the album to border on a run of the mill-type of stuff. True, the album makes for a good listen and consists of mostly pretty good songs, but in the end it all flows together into an unmemorable blob and only the three songs I mentioned earlier are really memorable.
Hell United's Aura Damage is an album that I won't deny has a good vibe to it. It yearns to be listened to and the energy the album purveys is something special, but I gotta be honest and say that it isn't an album I would put on for my own listening pleasure. I wouldn't put it on for anything other than background music for when I do other stuff, but this purpose it serves greatly in that it has a great, oppressive atmosphere, good dynamic song structures, and pretty good riffs. But what makes it weak as a piece in its entirety is the fact that most of the songs sort of blend together. But even so, I feel I must give Aura Damage by Hell United 70% guitars because of the sheer force that the work conveys.
Originally posted on http://gouls-crypt.blogspot.com/
Despite its really cheesy name, Poland’s Hell United plays really classic black/death metal that sticks true to their Polish roots, reeking of the style that bands such as Hate, Behemoth and Azarath has created, as will be evident on their brand new full length album, Aura Damage, the follow up to 2008′s HornoKracy.
The band is relentless in their execution of their music, with album opener Red Limitations lambasting without mercy right from the start, with the aggressive riffing and the drumming all creating a wall of noise that hits the listener like a brick wall. The vocals of V particularly sound like a cross between Piotr Wiwczarek’s and Nergal’s, and is sure to please fans of Polish extreme metal. Apart from that, even the black metal moments are rather reminiscent of their Polish counterparts such as Thunderbolt, especially the Norwegian-inspired riffing style on the black metal moments on the album, such as the slower segments of songs like Deathlike Cold. That said though, Hinterland, the slowest track on the album reminds the listener somewhat of Marduk‘s slower tracks like Accuser/Opposer, with the feeling of doom and hopelessness that is invoked in the listener.
The production on Aura Damage is nothing fanciful as well, with the band attempting a sound as filthy as possible, what with the extreme distortion of the guitars, most clearly heard on moments when guitarists Rzulty and V utilise heavy, palm-muted chugging like on Apostle of Plague. And it is also this raw and gritty production that helps the record to shine, allowing things like the furious trem-picked riffs that are often present on the album to create an oppressive atmosphere.
Hell United‘s style of music is rather chaotic, with no fixed form or predictable song progression as the songs often transit between different styles without much warning, with fast and furious lead guitars included when least expected. While this unpredictability often ended up being a rather good thing, surprising listeners when least expected, this at times caused the enjoyment of the album to falter slightly, with certain moments sounding rather confusing, weakening the overall impact of the tracks especially on songs that suddenly see a shift to a less impactful section. The ability for the band to still sound rather tight despite the numerous shifts that a single song can contain is commendable though, and is a display of the ability of the individual band members.
However, Aura Damage is still a rather interesting and unique listen that attempts to push the boundaries that their predecessors have created,. Though this has at times created some rather awkward and confusing moments, the attempt and efforts that the band has put into this album is certainly commendable.
Aura Damage is an album that thrives on aesthetic. Like a sludgy, drawling, volcanic version of Behemoth, but pulling their own weight in terms of subterranean compositional tactics, Hell United escape such easily classifiable comparisons and enter their own noxious musical realm that is incredibly engaging in its propensity for shifting scenes of violence. This is a primal mixture of black and death metal infused with molasses and smoke, a veritable swamp of an album that flows through an interesting host of techniques and paces, all of them suffocating and consuming. The atmosphere is sickly and poignant, created by an incredibly fitting, purulent soup of a production, where the roiling bass lines envelop you like a psychoactive bog. They pulse out like venomous waves, slowly consuming you and lulling you into a coma, and just when you think you’re light is snuffed, they dial the intensity up to ten, and the guitars slice around you like a school of piranha, shredding your helpless skin as hallucinations take hold. Hell United pull off slow and fast paced material in equal magnitudes of quality, and everything in between, without ever releasing you from their menacing, monstrous grip.
There is a myriad of prevailing, intoxicating imagery that courses through Aura Damage’s rotten veins, virtually all of it glorious, albeit in a twisted, sick way that only the more violent black metal mavens and cavernous death metal trolls will truly appreciate. Every track has many distinct lines and patterns, each of them pretty equal in terms of overall memorability and engagement, if not in direct method of delivery. Above all, this is generally a record of swirling, bubbling brutality, but through this balancing act it remains fresh and poignant throughout. Opener Red Limitations spreads fiery wings and rains apocalyptic blast beat death upon the scarred fiefdoms of the weak, before slowing down into an apocalyptic war march that subtly shifts diabolical riffing patterns, serving to build up and usher in the following Apostles of Plague, another ruinous earthquake of a track. Hinterland builds a slow serpentine monument out of measured, evolving riff patterns, slathered in murky mist and oozing atmosphere. Maelstrom’s Gravity is a primeval force of conquering plague, utilizing a varying pace and swinging, diabolical riffs to incapacitate and dominate the enemy. Closer Totality of I is another clinic in atmospherics, creating a world so thick you can taste the psychopathy in its virulent walls of riffing.
Hell United hail from Poland, a true hotbed of quality extremity these days. As alluded to initially, there is a prevalent flavor of Behemoth here (circa Zos Kia Cultus), mostly in the more break-neck sections and the barking vocal delivery. However, let me qualify this by saying Hell United in no way feel like forgery, only that the conflagration of their riffing patterns evokes a similar feeling of ancient grandiosity. This is complimented by their opposing tendency towards slow, murky marshlands of musicality that twist multiple layers of notation into a bubbling, delicious morass of evil, comparable to the newer work from 1349, though decidedly more interesting. I was also reminded strongly at times of their countrymen Stillborn and Pandemonium here, both of whom wowed me this year with their latest material, and would be worth checking out if you enjoy this. Hell United have stirred many complimentary flavors into their sludge-fucked cauldron of blackened death debauchery, and the result is quite filling, given the record barely eclipses 35 minutes. In fact, I’d say that length feels just about right, as there is so much to digest here that a lengthy record would not have gone down quite so well. What truly makes the record so interesting, however, is not only the variety of paces, or the conjured mixture of tantalizingly toxic aesthetic, but the layering of the riffing at any given moment. Hell United have written hundreds of menacing, unsettling, and downright violent guitar and bass lines for this album, and proceeded to layer them in such a way as to often create an ever-shifting, ever-engrossing experience that feels very multi-dimensional. Each song is a living, pulsing, psychotic world unto its own, and this morphing textural integrity is what makes Aura Damage so thoroughly compelling and enjoyable.
-Left Hand of Dog
I think this was one of the most anticipated new releases from Hellthrasher Productions for me. You know, once I’ve heard Hell United’s “Abhorrence Majesty” MCD I was really blown away by the sounds of this Polish band and really looked forward to hear some more. In the meantime I also have heard Eclypse’s only album, 2003’ “Applause (JHVH Elohim Meth)”, which was a band, before they changed the name for Hell United, but really – nothing was able to prepare me for such a devastating piece of music as the one, which I’ve found on “Aura Damage”. Fuck, this truly is one of the best, of not even the best, Polish death metal album of this year and also one of the most frequently listened to by me from the worldwide scene in the past month. But really, everything about “Aura Damage” is great. The front artwork looks stunning; it reminds me a little of Iron Maiden’s Eddie’s bat reincarnation from their old live album “Live at Donnington” hehe, but here it is more creepy, so well fitting to the red colouring of the whole booklet. Yeah, the layout is very cool, blood red colouring, with some great graphics and effects, what looks like all the pages were splattered with blood. I bet it would look fantastic on the vinyl, especially if the record itself was also blood / black splatter. Ha, who knows, maybe someone will release it like that one day?
And music wise Hell United delivers exactly that kind of music, which you would expect from them, only even better as what they have provided on the previous releases. I mean I am really impressed with the riffing, with the whole arrangements and song structures, which the band has collected together on “Aura Damage”. I’ve listened to this album several times and I can honestly say that there’s absolutely not a bad sound on it and everything is just top notch. My favourite pieces of “Aura Damage” would probably be those, which are the most untypical for the band and most surprising ones. I mean songs “Deathlike Cold” and “Totality of I” really surpassed my expectations and blown me off to the moon with some fantastic slow or mid paced, very possessing and almost catchy riffing. “Totality of I” is just awesome, as it mainly focuses on slower, kind of post metallic riffing, which has almost hypnotising effect and at times is it almost melancholic, which is perfect for the end of the whole album. “Deathlike Cold” has something from the black metal aura, if I compare some of the riffs to bands like (old) Disiplin. There’s similar vibe, one which just forces you to bang the skull and raise the horns. But this song is something more than just slow playing, as it blasts quite frequently also, in the end I must say this is the best song from the album. Fantastic stuff, really. I also strongly advise you to check out “Hinterland”, as it also reminds me some black metal albums, speaking of the atmosphere it creates, which is just purely dark and eerie. It is quite disturbing, but also almost hypnotising, but the final effect is just damn cool.
But most of “Aura Damage” is, as you would probably expect, more relentless and uncompromising; quite big part of this album has been played in furiously fast and devilish tempo, where the band blasts like crazy and simply destroys everything what dares to stand on their way. And also then Hell United really impressed me, like in the first couple of songs: “Red Limitations” and “Apostle of Plague”, which offer some extremely fast parts, but don’t focus on them entirely. And while “Apostle of Plague” may sound almost like Krisiun, then they avoid Krisiun’s main sins from their early period and vary the song with some slower bits also, mainly in the ending fragment. “Red Limitations” also has been finished with slower part and I must say that the riffs, which are closing this song, are some of the best parts of the whole album. It really sounds fuckin killer there. They’re quite simple, but effect is great and only pushes the listener to erupt with energy. “In Odore Sanctitatis” is also one of those songs, which stand above the rest of the material, crushing with unbelievably fast tempos and blasphemous aura.
But as I said earlier, the whole “Aura Damage” is just great and there’s no song, which would seem to be out of place or which would be filler. The whole material is just great and I have no doubts that there will be many maniacs, who’ll enjoy the level of devastation and extermination of it. Personally I think this album is superior to many already well established bands and their albums, just to mention the likes of Stillborn and Throneum, even if I liked the recent albums of both these bands also a lot. So, if you’re into the Polish death (blackened) metal scene, then “Aura Damage” is a must to have in collection. And let me just remind you that this is yet another fantastic release from Hellthrasher! Well done guys.
Standout tracks: “Deathlike Cold”, “Totality of I”, “Red Limitations”, “In Odore Sanctitatis”
Hell United's 2008 debut HornoKracy was a total surprise for me when I first experienced it. I had never heard the band prior to that, but here was this visceral, bloodcurdling burst of black metal so fierce that it seemed to ignite your eardrums, burning you long after the music had passed. Along with several other acts in this scene, like Thunderbolt, Infernal War, Azarath or Stillborn (the last of which shares some members with this very band), there was this relentless punishment inherent in that album which embraced both its accelerated, flesh shearing outbreaks and slower, crushing sequences, and I've found myself going back to it numerous times in ensuing years when in a fix for unadulterated aggression, though I regret that I missed out on the band's intermittent EPs.
With Aura Damage, Hell United retain a lot of the core characteristics of the debut, but they've fleshed them out into a more prominent death metal aesthetic. Blasting and intense tremolo riff patterns are still prevalent in the composition, but there's this more charnel, grinding edge to the guitar tone that feels like they're rapidly tilling graveyard dirt and all the festered scraps of flesh buried within. The vocals here skew a bit more towards a guttural timbre than a rasp (though both styles have manifest on both albums). The riffs seem to run the gamut from a unswerving old school death hostility ("Apostle of Plague") to a convocation of gnarled, blackened thrash guitars as in "Aura Damage" itself which twist into sporadic bursts of lead or unnerving melodies that seem to shiver up the listener's spine. Like the latest Stillborn record, you get this constant hint of atonality, a slight stream of dissonance bled along the axis of the meatier guitar rhythms. Aura Damage is as fresh as a ripe corpse, its bones not yet stale beneath the earth; where HornoKracy had a more airy atmosphere about it due in part to the vocals.
Still, though this is an evolution, it's not such a huge departure as 1349's Revelation of the Black Flame, or Emptiness's Error, two albums that abandoned a more complex and structured extreme metal sound for a more atmospheric, but less appealing direction/aesthetic. Aura Damage is first and foremost brutal. Simpler atmospheric tints, like the intro to "Hinterland" or the drudging pacing of closer "Totality of I" always seem to go somewhere more important. In terms of the riffing involved, I believe I retain a slight preference for the first album's feral ferocity, but this is unquestionably a darker and moodier outlet which functions on several levels, both in its unbridled, churning force and ability to leave haunting scars upon the listener through eerier, sparse strikes on the higher strings. Never extremely catchy, but solid and dynamic, the 35 minute run time ensuring that there is no room for a listener to become bored. Despite the slight transformation in technique, Hell United still takes no prisoners, and Aura Damage still represents unsafe, volatile expression.