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Black Arts & Alchemy - 90%

LickMyOrangeBallsHalfling, April 9th, 2019

Never one to stay idle for long, Scottish musician James McBain returns with "Black Arts & Alchemy," the latest EP by his primary project, the one man black/speed project known as Hellripper. After hearing their full length debut, 2017's "Coagulating Darkness," I was eager to see what he had in store, and I didn't find myself disappointed at all.

Stylistically, "Black Arts & Alchemy" more or less picks up where "Coagulating Darkness" left off: a healthy blend of razor sharp speed metal riffs, raspy shrieks and low grunts for the vocals, and some d-beats for good measure. Opening track "All Hail The Goat" wastes no time in launching into a full speed monster of a song, complete with the biting, trebly riffs that call to mind early Kreator, except McBain can actually play in time. His soloing is very fluid and surprisingly melodic compared to the sloppy, punkish style of similar bands like Midnight. He even shows some versatility in his vocals, switching from his traditional shriek to a low, Cronos-style rasp for the pre-chorus.

Elsewhere, McBain even displays a bit of hardcore influence, particularly on "Decrepit Christ," with its brutish riffs and d-beats that wouldn't be out of place on "Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing." But the real crown jewel is the ambitious title track. Here McBain incorporates some neoclassical sounding guitar work to great effect, conjuring up some of the eeriest, most infectious melodies he's ever written. This song tends to lean more towards black metal than speed metal, with a chaotic, dissonant atmosphere.

Needless to say, "Black Arts & Alchemy" more than met the expectations set for me after "Coagulating Darkness," and it's clear that McBain hasn't lost any of his touch.