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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.