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Pure Adrenaline - 90%

LickMyOrangeBallsHalfling, August 9th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2017, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

After a few years of split singles and EPs, Scotland's Hellripper came storming out of the gates with its debut LP, "Coagulating Darkness." Hellripper is the brainchild of James McBain, a wickedly talented songwriter and instrumentalist, and his talents are perfectly showcased on this record's 25 minutes.

The album comes storming out of the gates with opener "Bastard Of Hades." The first reaction you may have upon hearing the opening riff is "Wait, isn't this just Hit The Lights?" Yes, that's definitely the first thing I thought of, but the song develops a personality of its own, with razor-sharp guitars and grinding basslines. From then on, the album does not let off, continuing at a breakneck speed. The following track, "Anneliese," takes a darker tone, with eerie tremolo picked riffs and arguably the best guitar solo on the album, provided by guest guitaist Mark Lerche.

McBain makes his influences clear on this record, showing his love of early thrash metal such as Metallica and Slayer (the verse riff on the title track is suspiciously similar to "Black Magic") and first wave black metal bands such as Venom and Bathory, mixed in with some of the D-Beat/Crust influences that were more apparent on his earlier work. Despite this, there is none of the sloppiness associated with black metal and punk; every riff and drumbeat is played with surgical precision and McBain makes every note count. Along with his shredding skills, McBain is no slouch as a drummer either, capable of providing tight fills, pounding double bass runs, and even some blast beats in the black metal-esque chorus of the title track.

What "Coagulating Darkness" may lack in originality, it more than makes up for in songwriting skills and pure fun. For anyone interested in bands dabbling in Black/Speed, this is a must listen.

Coagulating Darkness - 90%

Sengion, June 23rd, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, Cassette, Granite Factory Records

After releasing an EP, compilation and a series of splits since its formation in 2014, this one man band from Scotland released its first full-length in April. All of Hellripper’s music and lyrics are written by the ambitious James McBain, who also started the one man death metal project, Lord Rot, back in 2015. Besides having written all the music McBain was also responsible for the recording of all the instruments and vocals, other than various guest appearances mainly as additional vocals.

Coagulating Darkness is everything black/speed needs to be in my opinion; fast and filthy, without taking itself too seriously. The style was popularized by Midnight in the early 2000's and blends the fast energy of speed metal with rawer black metal elements. Hellripper takes the concept of black/speed and drips an extra layer of black metal filth over it. The result? Fast, distorted, Motörhead inspired riffs, accompanied by raw, high-pitched growls. When listening to Coagulating Darkness I was immediatly reminded of Bewitcher, who released their self-titled debut in late 2016. This album never slows down and doesn’t give you a moment of calmness, resulting in 26 minutes of uninterrupted mayhem, perfect for caffeine fueled, late night study sessions, when you just need that extra kick in the balls.

And the song writing isn’t where this album stops shining, the production is also superb. The guitars are coated with heavy distortion and supported by the thundering sound of the double bass, but not to the extent where the actual riffs get drowned out by white noise. The vocals are higher-pitched than the average death growl and manage to penetrate the cacophony of riffs and blast beats brilliantly.

Finally, one of my favourite aspects of this album is the guest appearance of guitarist Mark Lerche, who provided the solos for the songs Anneliese and Demdike (in League with the Devil). These long and fast solos match beautifully with the rest of the music and thanks to the stellar production rise above the rest of the music as the pinnacle of mayhem and chaos. This favourite aspect is also somewhat of a dissapointment, as Mark only appears on 2 of the 8 tracks, while I would have loved to hear more of him. The other solos on Coagulating Darkness don’t nearly jump out as much and pale in comparison to the expertise of Lerche.

I definitely have a weakness for dirty black/speed like this, so it didn’t really come has a surprise when this turned out to be one of my favourite releases of 2017 thus far. Hellripper finally scratched the itch I’ve had after listening Bewitcher’s 2016 release to death. A combination of stellar songwriting and great production result in a little over 25 minutes of complete and total fucking mayhem.

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Bastard of Hades - 95%

mjollnir, May 16th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

There seems to be a new movement in metal seeing that there are a lot of blackened speed metal bands popping up all over the place and it's actually quite an interesting movement. One of those bands is Aberdeen, Scotland's Hellripper. This one man project by James McBain reared it's ugly head in 2014 and after a few EPs and demos, Mr. McBain has finally released his debut full length, Coagulating Darkness. With a title like that you know that this is going to be evil, nasty heavy metal. Well, let me tell you that this guy delivers...and then some.

Kicking things off in great form is "Bastard of Hades." This song is the perfect album opener. Just over two and a half minutes, the riffs just pummel you with their power and intensity. Being that this is a one man project, the sheer talent of this guy is amazing. The guitar work is great with the riffing kicking your teeth in and the solos have a true old school vibe to them. You're not even recovered from that ass whoopin' when "Anneliese" comes along and kicks your ass even harder. Once again, the riffs do the talking here. The vocals on this, as well as all of the songs, are black metal rasps. This song is based on a true story about Anneliese Michel whose family believed she was possessed and had a priest perform an exorcism on her. This is one of my favorites on this album

The rest of the album is more of the same....ass kicking speed metal with monster riffs and killer solos. The album is not that long being just over twenty six and a half minutes but each moment is just sheer metal greatness. "Within the Everlasting Hellfire" is another song that needs mention here because it just shreds. The riffs are infectious and the solo is an absolute shredder. One thing that really sticks with me about this album is that this album makes your skip button obsolete. There is not a bad song on this album. Each song kicks your ass as much, if not more, than the last one. "Conduit Closing" ranks up there as a favorite of mine just because of the sheer speed and intensity. The riffs are fast and dirty and the solo is just godly as fuck.

The title track closes out this monster of an album. This song is over five minutes and adds a bit of an epic feel to this album. Beginning slow and doomy it picks it up to go beyond light speed to ludicrous speed! This song will have the pictures coming off your walls and is an amazing way to end this brilliant album. My only complaint about this album is that there isn't more of it. This album is fast, evil, mean, and dirty....and it's essential!


The Elitist Metalhead

Darkness bleeds from the rips of Hell - 98%

slayrrr666, May 16th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Barbarian Wrath (Limited edition)

Storming out of the underground in 2014, Scottish one-man black/speed metal project Hellripper is a part of the vast catelog of quality projects created by James McBain to spread his strong musical voice to the masses through the variety of these projects. After numerous highly-praised splits and EP releases, the full-length debut was initially released April 14, 2017 on Barbarian Wrath.

Much like previous efforts, once again this one offers a full-scale assault of their previous assault of blackened fiery speed metal in a more professional setting. Built around even more of the fiery riff-work, the stylish leads and frantic outbursts that were apparent on their previous outings only taken to a more glossy sheen, it brings out even more dynamic intricacies in the bombastic riffing as the relentless energy continually pouring out. The volley of tight riffing featured here creates such a whirlwind of vicious, high-energy speeds that bounce along at truly engaging speeds that it makes for a far more engaging experience with the remainder of the instrumentation following suit on the thrashing within each of the tracks. That each of the tracks here feature such a ferocious energy and fiery performances is all the more impressive due to the project being a solo endeavor, and that all helps to create an engaging and exciting experience. The fact that the album is just so brief and could use a little more to enhance the experience is about the only downfall here, making this one seem to be over before it’s really getting started and contains so much quality material within that a little more time and exposure to this kind of quality would’ve been appreciated. Otherwise, this is truly an engaging and explosive offering.

Really, the fact that we need more tracks here as the experience is so much fun and really over before it really should’ve been being the only flaw found here is what makes this one a no-doubt purchase for fans of dark, ravenous thrash, black/thrash metal in general or fans of his other projects.

Never Turn Your Back, On The Hellripper - 70%

SweetLeaf95, April 21st, 2017

This is easily one of those records that falls into the "it needs a few listens" category, seeing that the first time through, it may come off as generic and somewhat bland. Upon revisiting a few days later (and a third time), it becomes easier to recognize some of the gold buried deep within the grooves of this album.

Obvious signs of early thrash worship and '80s metal influence are pretty evident right away, and it ceases to drift away from that at any point in this album. Within ten seconds of the opening track "Bastard Of Hades", the opening riff sounds dangerously close to the thrash classic "Hit The Lights". While one of the issues that Coagulating Darkness possesses is that some points remain too stagnant and dry, it's typically revived with something a tad more outside the box. The use of tremolo picking in "Demdike" is a fine example of this for sure. Excellent finger tapped solos precipitated all over the fret board display much of James McBain's potential, helping to keep the songs interesting. Slow moments are rare, but a few are dispersed within this to break up the wall of noise as well, such as the intro to "Conduit Closing". Thankfully, it's not an overly long record either, clocking in around a half hour in length, barring it from becoming too drawn out.

Vocal work here seems to be very black metal influenced. Coming from a listener who doesn't dig black metal, it's still very fitting for the music, and has a great delivery, done in a similar manner of Toxic Holocaust, or really early, Endless Pain era Kreator. Although talented, it certainly can get old after a while, due to the lack of variation and range. No sign of clean vocals, yet somewhat comprehensive, and some lyrics can be understood, making it more appealing to listeners who aren't into really harsh vocals as much.

The bass and drums both are brought out in the forefront at subtle times, and when they are, it's pretty insane. Sadly, the bass gets lost within the mix fairly quickly the more you advance into the record. You've gotta give the guy credit though, because while lacking substance or variation at certain points, Coagulating Darkness is a pretty outstanding record for being done by only one dude, with the help of a few others in small parts. Room for improvement is there, but more importantly, great quality is still present.

I Am Bound to the Fire and I Will Not Be Released - 90%

TheStormIRide, April 15th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

Coagulating Darkness is the debut full length album from Aberdeen's black/speed metal machine Hellripper. After releasing a handful of splits and an EP, the one man wrecking ball was picked up by the infamous Barbarian Wrath, who is handling the CD release. The album will also be released on tape by Granite Factory and is slated for a vinyl version through Diabolic Might Records later in the year; the same labels that handled the physical versions of the Complete and Total Fucking Mayhem compilation last year.

Those following Hellripper's trajectory should already know what's in store, as Coagulating Darkness offers exactly what we've come to expect from the project. James McBain has certainly kept himself busy with an armload of projects (Rats of Reality, Lord Rot, Lock Howl, etc.), but it has not affected his ability to write catchy as hell blackened speed metal riffs, as is evidenced throughout the entire album. While the production sounds slightly cleaner than previous works, none of the acerbic aesthetic is lost.

Rangy speed metal riffs summon the days of first wave black metal, calling to mind the early works of Bathory and Sabbat, yet McBain keeps things from sounding derivative. While blackened speed metal is clearly the most prominent factor, Hellripper's sound also borrows from thrash, especially with the percussion; double kicks and frenetic bursts of speed abound. The riffing also delves into rampant thrashing, like the Aura Noir-esque tinge of “Demdike (In League with the Devil)” or the ravenous pacing of “With Everlasting Hellfire”. McBain's growling snarl sounds as vicious as ever, summoning images of evil and darkness with the best of them. The bass lines cut through strongly, bringing a salubriously thick back end. Despite these all around improvements to production in all areas of the band's sound, the riffing remains at center stage.

Fast paced, biting thrash riffing and energetic, almost rocking speed metal riffing run wild, while a handful of guests provide fantastic solos and lead licks. Coagulating Darkness shows Hellripper at their strongest, which, with a high quality back catalog, is quite the feat. Old school metal as it was meant to be, Hellrpper has crafted the album to beat this year. Fans of everything from Sabbat to Venom to Toxic Holocaust should be looking into this now, as this is authentic black/speed metal with all of the trimmings that make this style so great.

Written for The Metal Observer.