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All Hail the Goat - 91%

TheStormIRide, April 5th, 2019

Aptly named for the gaping hole this project has torn through the black/speed/thrash metal world since tearing into the scene in 2014, Hellripper is the brainchild of James McBain (Lord Rot, Lock Howl, Rats of Reality). The project’s 2015 Manifestation of Evil EP knocked me flat on my ass; and each subsequent release has managed to build on that gnarly Motörhead meets Venom meets Slayer conglomeration with a vicious aplomb. Their full length debut, Coagulating Darkness, released through the sorely missed Barbarian Wrath in 2017, saw Hellripper reaching a wider audience while nary a negative word was uttered by critics.

Black Arts & Alchemy is the band’s first non-split release since the full length dropped and is seeing the full treatment (CD/Vinyl/Digital) through Reaper Metal Productions (spearheaded by Crucified Mortals mainstay Reaper). The four (five if you get the bonus Running Wild cover) tracks were written, tweaked, perfected, and recorded in various stages between 2017 and 2018, as McBain doesn’t let Hellripper sit idle long. There is a bit of continuity between these four barnburners and the tracks on Coagulating Darkness, as they’re all born from the same dark pool of blackened thrashing speed metal, but there’s something about the songs on Black Arts & Alchemy that stands out.

Perhaps this is Hellripper finally stepping out from the shadows of modern titans like Midnight and Toxic Holocaust (as if Coagulating Darkness didn’t shine the spotlight enough). At twelve and a half minutes long, it’s a bold statement to say this is every bit as worthwhile as the full length, but it certainly is. From start to finish, Black Arts & Alchemy goes for throat, but in a way that will have you wanting the terror to last as long as possible. High octane thrash riffs steeped in blackness lead the way, while the rhythm section is inhumanely tight. The lead guitar work seems faster and more technical this go around, with early Metallica clearly a strong influence on the solos. McBain’s gruff bark sounds more controlled and varied this time around and be sure not to miss out on a deathgrunt during “Decrepit Christ” that would make Tom G. Warrior proud.

The EP moves through phases with a deft sleekness, from the riff-centric, Kill ’em All meets Satanic Royalty of “All Hail the Goat” to the heads down, punked-out, blackened thrash of “Decrepit Christ”, to the Aura Noir blackness of the title track, and the ripping thrash fest of “Headless Angels” complete with guest falsetto screams, Black Arts & Alchemy doesn’t waste a single second and makes every single note count. Despite a back catalog of top tier tracks, this latest offering is a fucking belter on every level. The production and recording are razor sharp, yet the Joel Grind mastering job leaves enough filth and grime to keep things honest. My only complaint is the length: it’s enough to whet my appetite but, holy shit, I want to hear more. Mark this one as mandatory.

Written for The Metal Observer.