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Sweden has had quite a notable history for being the hotbed of bands that successfully marry the snarling black metal vocal aesthetic with raw, roots thrash which captures the best of both the European and US markets of the 80s. Witchery is probably the most obvious flag waver in this movement, if only for their killer debut Restless & Dead, but a great many other bands have contributed: Bewitched, Swordmaster, Maze of Torment, are but a few. In 2000, having decided to ditch the endless blasting and 'infernal vs. divine' war motif of their debut Holy Target, Raise Hell would proudly join these ranks, with one of the very best albums offered in the entire movement (to date). Not Dead Yet is a chunky beast of massive, simple thrash riffing that is woven through with numerous, creepy guitar melodies that completely kick ass.
What's more, the album is decidedly hilarious, with smutty, evil lyrics that had one of my hands grasping at a crucifix for protection, the other grasping for a handkerchief to clean up the beer I just vomited out of my nostrils. Yes, my friends, this album is FUN. Extremely entertaining! Like having a deck of nude nun playing cards. Because, unlike the hordes of lamer wannabe thrash bands springing up more commonly than leaves of grass in the 21st century, Raise Hell actually plays it straight! Despite the cheesy, 80s rock & roll lyrics, the cover that belonged on a Lizzy Borden album in 1985, there is something adequately menacing about Not Dead Yet. It's extremely hostile, regard of the lyrical output, and if you cannot bang your head to this then you should be exiting the hall with DUE HASTE. Take a little of Mille Petrozza's torn open sneer, huge riffs that would make Cronos or Quorthon proud, add some black metal background aesthetic and mesmerizing, creepy little melodies, and crank it up louder than hell!
Like most of the better thrash albums, Not Dead Yet does not tarry with your hard earned time. It goes for the kill immediately (like Witchery did with "The Reaper"), putting its best foot so far forward up your ass that you'll be choking to death before you hit the chorus. "Dance With the Devil" features an unforgettable, massive momentum to its mid-paced, frothing thrash, with perfectly pedestrian alpha male lyrics that both inspire and terrify!
I know what I want to do and I don't care what they say
I do what I want 'cause I'm the hunter and you are the prey
Come with me, come with us be a rebel
"Come with me and dance with the devil"
I'm the goddamned devil..this job pleases me
Be a goddamned devil...this job will please you to
No beating around the bush, just come out and say it already! All this would be enough for a good laugh and ensuing hiccups, but Raise Hell had to go and write the rest of a kickass song too. The breakdown at 1:30 is monstrous, but there's an even huger one after 2:00, and the solo is both morbid and lethal. "Babes" continues the trend, a lusty love letter to the ladies of the night, delivered in a bombastic, marching bottom end with fragments of shining melody and Jonas Nilsson's most endearing and memorable vocals, especially when his 'that's what I like, that's what I like' shriek shatters in the middle of the chorus. "Back Attack" is strike three, you're out, with its pulsing, heavy bass-line and the charging onslaught of barbaric, apocalyptic thrashing. Rather than visit this pace yet again, the band wisely moves into "Devilyn", set to some clean guitars and an eerie melody that soon bristle with a hellish, bright but slowed slaughter of the band's black metal backlog, with Nilsson using a slightly more harmonic vocal tone.
"Not Dead Yet" picks up the pace considerably, a faster paced thrashing which fully entertains due to the disgusting vocals and the almost 'cheering section' bridge riff/lyrics. "No Pulse" does suffer from a few, generic rhythms, but hearing them played in such a crushing tone certainly increases their value considerably, and "User of Poison" is another fiendish plague of fist pounding, dense thrash with amazing vocals. Rounding out the effort is the strange little interlude "He is Coming", sort of a chant over some swank, martial guitars, marching drums and heavily effected axe fuckery. And lastly, "Soulcollector" is a violent, reckless and swift kick to the groin like Sentenced of Death-era Destruction meets old Kreator or Bulldozer, with some gentle segues of sparkling, clean guitars that creep back into the moshing force. It's pretty long, but never boring, and the desperate, echoing vocals near the finale are a decent surprise if you can make it through.
It's a forceful and unrefined effort which succeeds not only for its innocent debauchery and the witch-like charming of both riffs and melody, but also the very straight, loud, dirty mix it was given at Studio Fredmen. Yes, Not Dead Yet is a crude affair even held up against its predecessor Holy Target, and thought it might not have been the most conscious decisions, it was the right one in the end. This is pretty much what I want to hear when I pick up a more primal thrash effort: good hooks you just can't shake, unforgettable vocals, and even silly lyrics that can stick in the head. Technical, Raise Hell is not. Polished? Who the hell cares. Not Dead Yet is pure, head banging testosterone guaranteed to rock you and your friends into a drunken coma.
Highlights: everything with a pulse.
Raise Hell is a Swedish thrash metal band, and, while better than most of what comes out of there (about 80% is bad melodeath or Gothenburg), it still isn't very remarkable. There are some decent riffs here and there, but they decided to go the 'modern' way of metal, and instead of having crushing thrash riffs everywhere, they down-tune the guitars several steps down and play watered down riffs, believing it sounds 'heavier'. Although, actually, it's kinda good, since we're talking a 2000 release, when bands like Corn and Limp Bizkit were at the top of the scene. But, is it really good? Fuck no, it's a third-rate thrash album, with really silly hardcore vocals; and it's not very catchy at all.
This band had potential, at least with this album. But it's lacking plenty of kickass'ness, such as a fast number; everything here doesn't go over 180bpms, and there are no guitar solos anywhere to be found, save for some melodies, which always come at the end. There's some good stuff to be found here, like the opener riff to "Dance With the Devil", which is pretty much Slayer with more down-tuning. But those hardcor-ish vocals aren't very good. Not only they are really monotonous, but they tend to be waaay to hard in the mix, which drowns the riffs behind. The production is really modern; with the drums and guitars very fucking loud in the instrumental passages, and then, the drums get louder and the guitars quiet down during the verses, so the vocals can get to maximum volume. Obviously, this drowns whatever riffs the verses had in the back; and if you're gonna screw up the riffs when the vocalist is singing...Why have verse riffs at all? So, during the verses, you just hear the vocals, and the drums, which are also really loud in the back. Sadly, there are no guitar solos to save the day, sometimes, they'll put some 15 seconds shred passage, but it's not really connected to anything; and the rest, they're just random melodies thrown there for no apparent reason.
"No Pulse" also begins with a cool riff, but then they put some weird melody over everything, that just sounds too out of place. However, the riff behind the vocals during the verses is pretty good. And near the middle there's a really catchy bridge, but they don't carry on with it, and it leaves you with a weird feeling that they just included it there for the sake of having a longer song. There seems to be this thing with Swedish bands, of including a hundred different ideas in a song, but just develop them until the middle. Instead, they should focus on one single thing, like a very good riff, or a catchy chorus, and doing that well.
Then, think about this: There are no awesome riffs, no "wow where the fuck did that just came from!" moments of glory, no over the top vocals, and no shreddy solos anywhere. That gives you a very boring experience, and while not bad in itself, it's not very enjoyable. All of Not Dead Yet is full of that; underdeveloped ideas that sound like they could have made really good songs, like that little solo in "User of Poison", but it never goes anywhere, and then the song goes back to where it was before the solo.
At the end though, we have an 8 minutes long song called "Soulcollector". It's pretty standard for this album, but near the mid there's a really cool acoustic interlude, which gives it a very progressive feel. It also has these Anthrax-like shouted backing vocals, but then the song starts dragging on; with a very mid-paced riff. And the last seconds are clean vocals saying "I am the soul collector!", well, that part at least, is really good! In fact, the singer should have used that style much more, instead of reserving it for the last seconds of the last track!
So, it's a very average album. Not bad, not really good; and it has really boring moments in which you just want to press the 'skip' button. But, there are hardly any moments that make it worth it; and you can get lost near the mid and stop paying attention to the album. Get it, if just for about 4 or 5 worthy songs out of 9.