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Hospital of Death made some serious ripples last year with their excellent debut ‘Beer, bitches, blood’ (probably my own pick for best of 2008), their rather ballsy move of giving the music away free of charge resulting in download totals racing into 5-figure territory. While they definitely made a name for themselves on the home front at least with their invigorating combo of 80s power, speed and thrash metal and gleefully tongue-in-cheek lyrics, they doubtlessly ran at a loss from the exercise and have made a laudably a swift return with ‘Surge kill steal’.
The purists out there will be pleased to hear that this time around there is a properly printed version of the CD with a full booklet (at a very modest price), and the cheapskates can rejoice that the free MP3s and ‘band bootlegs’ are still available too. Musically, there is some development without any squandering of the charm of the debut, with the power metal influence possibly reaching a little further than the thrash this time. “Helm’s deep”, a rare venture into completely straight lyric writing, carries a bit of the Helstar stamp of epic power/thrash, while “Stormbringers” is another excellent blending of the genres, with some heavy riffs building to a hooky, melodic gem of a chorus.
The lyrics continue along the path beaten on the first CD, from the esoteric themes of getting loaded with your friends before a gig and ‘Big Trouble in Little China’, all the way down to the everyday obstacles of man-eating barbeque grills and what to do if your girlfriend gets bitten during a zombie apocalypse. Dave Livett delivers them brilliantly, like a slightly glammier Joey Belladonna, but the band still don’t shy away from gleefully throwing in snippets of British slang into the categorically American-sounding songs, and the mental image of old Joey and his massive barnet mincing around singing about getting sunburned at a festival is worth the price of admission itself.
The guitar playing of Stuart Pendergast and Stephen Bratt was bloody impressive on the debut, and if anything has become even more refined and extravagant in the short time since. The pirouetting neo-classical solo on “The iron matron”, 3rd song in, comes as a total surprise and sets the tone a little for what is to come, and if the piss-funny lyrics to “The king of Sweden” don’t give away who the song is a fun-poking tribute to, the jaw-dropping arpeggiated lead playing just might.
Thrash fans need not despair though, as they haven’t forgotten to write some mean staccato riffs. The opener “Enter titanus” is one of the most overtly thrashy, and shares Anthrax-style gang vocals with, among a few others, “Deadly wheels of steel”, which features punchy thrash-punk riffs typical of he NY veterans’ glory days.
And by way of a cracking parting shot there is “Second opinion” - just as the ‘Casualty’ theme opened the debut, to keep the medical theme going they close this time with a freewheeling cover of the ‘Quincy’ opening music that sums the good humour of the CD up perfectly in 68 widdly seconds. One can only hope for ‘Diagnosis Murder’ to be given the H.O.D. treatment next time.
‘Surge kill steal’ is another roaring success for Hospital of Death, and while it doesn’t quite match the impact of the debut, that may just be because it doesn’t have the surprise factor on its side. Certainly as far as melodic power/thrash goes I haven’t heard another contemporary band anywhere near as inspired. 2 CDs this good in 18 months is a good show for anyone, and for a band in it just for the love of the game is even more heartening.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)