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Your Lips Are Venomous Poison - 84%

Sweetie, January 16th, 2021

Infamous Hellripper! The black/speed band that was probably my first exposure to this style in today's climate four years ago has finally returned after a couple years with the full-length The Affair Of Poisons. Though Coagulating Darkness was a bit of a grower for my green ears, time to settle into more extreme genres has benefited greatly and allowed this to step in as the ideal sophomore to follow the debut and an EP.

Considering this style, it's really tough to throw in much variance to set itself apart. Naturally, this is thirty-minutes of speed-packed blackened riffwork covered in blasting drums and raspy vocals that allow some clarity. So to avoid stagnating, it's gonna need to lay some weight on the songwriting, which it very much did. Vampire's Grave stood out to me in particular because of how hooky the bridge-grooves are as well as the interspersed solo work keeping up the velocity. "Hexennacht" has the strongest chorus for a similar reason; the drastic drop in pace for just a second or two made all the difference.

More clarity in this also allows other aspects to shine brighter. The vocals in particular jump out more than they did previously, which is a solid touch. The higher wails that trail in "Savage Blasphemy" are super fun, and the way this one hooks into a warmer sounding solo slaps hard. You can get hints of this as early on as the title track opener, but the way that The Affair Of Poisons takes it and runs with it later on neutralizes everything just right. On the opposite end, closer "The Hanging Tree" drops to a deeper crawl than anything done previously, fading perfectly into an extremely aggressive outing.

Like I said, there isn't a crazy amount you can do here without stepping into less-than-safe territory, and Hellripper have so far have delivered exactly what I was expecting. Since it's a formula that works, I don't have too many complaints. For the next album though, it may be time to take a risk and step (ever so) slightly into an experimental realm. James McBain has some magical ears for tunes, but I truly believe he can take this even further.

A punch in the face of speed metal mania - 95%

TheWhiteWitch, December 2nd, 2020

Surprisingly enough I had not heard of Hellripper before, even though they've seem to have made quite a name for themselves in he underground metal community. Going in to this, I thought it would be your average blackened speed metal record, lots of satan worship and cool riffs but nothing out of the ordinary. But after about a minute into the first song, I was comlpetely blown away. With riffing on par with some of the great metal legends like Metallica and Motörhead, combined with the occult themes of black metal, and an energy I have not heard in a new release for a long time, I think it's pretty safe to say that this might be the best record released this year.

Hellripper takes a step away from the traditional black-speed metal by adding influences of NWOBHM and does it to great effect. The riffing and solos scream Motörhead all the way through, and that's definitely not a bad thing. The title track is probably the most solid one on the record, with a surprisingly interesting song structure that creeps up to the 5-minute mark, which is surprisingly long for a black-speed metal track. Aside from a few slower sections in the title track and in "The Hanging Tree", the entire record is just pure speed metal energy with riffs that will melt your face off. Some other highlights on the record are "Vampire's Grave", with a main riff that's so incredibly good you'll want to sing it loud, and "Hexennacht" with a very catchy chorus. I really enjoyed all the songs on the record, they all feel like they belong on it and none of them feel like filler.

Black-speed metal solos often feel bland in my opinion, as if they're just there to fill out the space between the second and third chorus, but this is certainly not the case here. James manages to put out some really tasty, blues-tinged solos, that leave little to be desired. The solo in "Savage Blasphemy" adds flavor to what would probably be the most bland song on the record otherwise.

Satanic and occult themes can often feel cheesy if not implemented properly. However, Hellripper does it so incredibly well that, with the help of the fantastic production, authentic songwriting and vocals that sound like Lucifer himself is behind the microphone, you can almost vision yourself sinking into the depths of hell while listening. The cover art is hellishly beautiful and perfectly captures the essence of the record. Drawn by Icelandic artist Skaðvaldur, it pictured witches being burned alive with an enormous goat-like head seen in the background.

It's surprising to find out that James is only 25 years old, as his riffs and songwriting are on par with the veterans within the genre. I really look forward to following Hellrippers journey in the future. It puts a smile on my face to know that there are still bands out there making this kind of music.

One of the two highlights of 2020 - 99%

Nuclear5641, October 18th, 2020

What do you get if you artificially inseminated Zeus’ semen into Durga’s ovaries, bred the ensuing demon-child in captivity for 25 years, filled his heart and mind with rabid thoughts of raw destruction, trained him in every form of cataclysmic weaponry, and unleashed him upon the world to do as he pleased? You get this album, of course.

I’ve been tripping on Hellripper’s high-wire, fever-inducing, cymbals-annihilating, irrationally violent brand of speed-black metal since I first heard it a couple of years ago, and I’ve been truly impressed with how he has been consistently outperforming himself with every release since his debut full-length, Coagulating Darkness. The influence of Kill ‘Em All was obvious, but what I had not fully appreciated back then was just how much deeper James McBain would advance Kill ‘Em All’s style of old-school thrash riffage and tone. The Affair of the Poisons is the latest milestone in this journey of his, and all signs indicate that he has a lot more mileage left in him. His drumming did sound a bit monotonous in his early EPs/splits, but that shortcoming has all but disappeared in this new album.

I’m usually turned off by black metal’s moronic Satan worship—lyrically, that is—but Hellripper’s songs have a kind of authenticity to them that almost makes me wonder if McBain is a Satan worshipper himself. (I hope not!) His fiery screeching vocals add another layer of authenticity to this already-dark-as-fuck record, dialing the knob on intensity all the way up to 11.

McBain’s technical command of all-things-guitar is jealousy-inducingly, jaw-droppingly inspiring. It’s hard to believe at times that he is only 25. I wish him well on all his future releases, and I look forward to his non-Hellripper projects, hoping he works on his death-metal band Lord Rot in the foreseeable future.

My absolute favorite track from the album is Hexennacht. If this song had been written by Metallica in their early career, it would’ve been a stone-cold classic today. And the shredding in the opening riff on Savage Blasphemy has got to be one of the fastest riffs I've heard in metal!

(The other highlight of this year from the title of this review, which isn’t released yet but I’m hoping lives up to the anticipation the way The Affair of the Poisons did, is Eternal Champion’s Ravening Iron.)

Sad regress - 58%

Tony Blackthrasher, October 17th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, Peaceville Records

I think that I can name myself a Hellripper fan. Since listening to his music for the first time, I've been considering him as one of the freshest musicians in this underground black thrash/speed metal scene. I was really delighted by the first full-length Coagulating Darkness and the EP Black Arts & Alchemy that consisted of a perfect combination between black metal mysticism and speed metal fun. I was looking forward to the new, second LP to be released and I was expecting another outstanding release. The first single and the cover didn't change my expectations very much, but still... I was really wrong.

Strange thing about The Affair of the Poisons is that it starts outstandingly, but it's getting worse after. The opening, title track is an interesting song. It's intriguing as it's catchy on one hand, but mystical and un-obvious on the other. I love the creative riff and an uncommon chorus. But despite being the title track, this one says nothing about how the rest of the album is. After it, the listener experiences two more songs that were chosen for the singles. Spectres of the Blood Moon Sabbath is the second bright side of the album, but it isn't even half as good as the one before it. As almost every song here, it's driven by a few riffs and a catchy chorus. It's very entertaining, but... actually nothing more. Sadly, I can say it about the whole album. It's good if you simply want to bang your head, but for a large part it doesn't consist of ambitious songwriting that James made us used to on the previous releases.

On one hand, the album marks a pretty huge regress, but on the other it means McBain keeping creating in the same style, but in a less inspiring way. The style that is characteristic to current Hellripper can become boring pretty quickly. Especially when he has similar inspirations all the time. Just listen to Vampire's Grave. This one could easily be a Motorhead song, if we erased a bit of darkness from it. One or two songs like that would be okay as tributes, but we've had it all on the previous albums! Now it's only uninspiring and nothing more. Even the "alright" in the beginning sounds like it was done by Lemmy and I'm definitely not satisfied with such a tribute, because when I want to listen to Motorhead, I listen to Motorhead. Here I wanted Hellripper that I was expecting knowing his previous work.

Alright, I already wrote about the first three songs on The Affair of the Poisons and criticized two of them, but I sadly have to admit that they still make the better part of the record. Spectres of the Blood Moon Sabbath and Vampire's Grave are a bit uninspiring and repetitive, but are at least really memorable at some parts. I can't tell it about any of the other songs. It's hard to write about them separately, because they are written in the exact same vein for a large part. They are all built basing on catchy, but sometimes kind of cheesy riffs and they have choruses that lack on creativity. For almost all of them it's just the phrases from the titles, sang with addition of some words. They are all mostly generic black speed metal songs and I can't believe that I'm telling it about Hellripper's music. Also, the tempo is almost always the same, no serious slower parts for any variety. Same with the lyrics, I feel like I’ve heard similar ones in music of a lot of other bands before. So, the album consists of: three only a bit outstanding songs and then five generic and repetitive ones.

I have to admit that almost every song out of the last five do have some more inspiring moments, like a solo and last riff in Beyond the Convent Walls, or the acoustic parts combined with heaviness in The Hanging Tree, but those are only very short parts, that only made me feel that some good ideas were wasted. Also, these good parts are faded not only by the overall structures of the songs, but also by some really bad parts, in turn. The worst one are the pathetic squeals/screams that James does at the beginning of Savage Blasphemy. This song is in general the worst one on The Affair of the Poisons. When you combine the weird vocals, uninspiring structure and a chorus that is only "Savage fucking Blasphemy" (almost spoken, not sung) and one of the most generic titles for a black speed metal song, you have the biggest disappointment from Hellripper to date.

Another bad thing about the record are the drums. I think that it's obvious that they are programmed, even though James has never made it clear. They just sound like... knocking, without any feelings or power. I'm aware of the fact that it's a case on every Hellripper release, but on the previous ones I wasn't focusing on them, because I was delighted by the great guitar and bass playing and song structures. I have to admit that guitar and bass playing is still on a high level, but I can't enjoy it because of how the songs are written.

James McBain aka Hellripper is a very promising instrumentalist that created good debut album in 2017 and great EP in 2019, but his second full-length The Affair of the Poisons isn't even half as good as those records. Its opening track is very interesting, second track very entertaining... and that's it. 75% of the album for a large part consists of repetitive, generic, or uninspiring motives. The formula that worked well on previous Hellripper's works, now became boring. If he wants to move forward with this project, he definitely needs to find some new inspirations and take his time to work on the next albums, if he doesn't want to become the AC/DC of black speed metal.

Originally written for Tony Blackthrasher on Instagram and Facebook and The Metal Observer.

Nothing new. - 50%

_Life_Eternal_, October 10th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, Peaceville Records

It seems there's no stopping James McBain of Hellripper and his output of dependable, retro-hearkening blackened thrash. His catalogue speaks for itself, however brief it may be insofar, with each release of his being met with such high praise that Hellripper has become a household name for the metal community in just six years. His esteemed consistency has granted him the status of trailblazer within the scene, despite bringing absolutely nothing new to the table whatsoever. Affair of the Poisons continues this samey trend of rehashing the bands of yore which inspired the scene so many years ago, with only little musical maturity to be gleamed.

The album art is outright fantastic, having been worked up by long-time collaborator Skaðvaldur. It perfectly captures the lyrical themes of witchery and black magic on the record, with the barbaric scenery of burning witches, holy men, and a huge God damn baphomet head watching over the carnage. It's sickeningly tasteful, something that really ought to be in an art exhibit. I'm not a painter by any stretch of the imagination so I can't tell you what style of paint it is without coming off as a fool, but I can absolutely tell you about the music.

Ever so slightly scraping under the half-hour mark, Affair of the Poisons delivers nothing more than a palatable eight-track dose of blistering speed metal. There's definitely no slow songs here, no long songs, and you bet your ass nothing daring or progressive is attempted. Strong influences of Motorhead and Slayer are simultaneously invoked through the equal use of sexy, bluesy guitar riffs balanced out with cheesy-evil 80s riffs and a platitude of downpicking on par with Show No Mercy. Of particular note are two tracks; "Vampire's Grave" is so in the vein of Motorhead that McBain even begins the song by yelping "Alright!" as if Lemmy had possessed him, and "Beyond the Convent Walls" is so close to the melody of Slayer's "Aggressive Perfector" that it makes me uncomfortable. As a whole the few slow sections are highly reminiscent of Slayer with the chugging guitars.

It's evidently clear by now that Hellripper's formula is to keep guitar as the main focus here, as per speed metal tradition, since the drums do nothing amazing (unless using 4/4 for the entire album qualifies as such) and the bass is non-existent save for the odd rumbling. The overabundance of downpicking in each song started to get a little grating awhile ago though, and Affair of the Poisons doesn't do anything to remedy this. The hotter-than-thermite guitar solos of McBain are highly original however, lending themselves to be a high point with each appearance. Their melodious nature offers significant respite from the otherwise samey songwriting.

Vocals are not utilized to their fullest potential. Previous works occasionally used clean vocals which made just enough of a difference in spicing the songs up. Here, they're entirely absent, which is highly disappointing. McBain's death growl doesn't reach many wailing highs or ghoulish lows, leaving the end result again unvaried in performance.

It is genuinely hard to talk about the songs with brevity here, as there is nothing clever enough that differentiates them from one another. Unless you want to drool over the stereotypical guitar licks found on "Savage Blasphemy" and "Hexennacht", or the windy, acoustic-addled outro of "The Hanging Tree", there's little distinction. I was also highly disappointed to find that the album's closer "The Hanging Tree" begins moderately slow, only to accelerate and forget the doomy mood it had's OK to put a slow song on a fast record, you know.

I'm really torn on this as a once-fierce Hellripper fan. It's all good and fun if you want non-stop headbanging, but the schtick is getting quite old by now. McBain is an amazing musician, yet he cannot progress. The 50 points is simple; half for the downright terrifying artwork, and half for the electrifying and obviously skilled musicianship. I can't give anything more than 50 though, this is all too similar to McBain's other works with no expansion or progression on it. If you're looking for absolutely more of the same with no deviation, you'll be hooked. If not, tough luck.