ALBUM REVIEW: HELLRIPPER - WARLOCKS GRIM & WITHERED HAGS
SET YOUR FLUX CAPACITOR TO THE ERA OF CUT OFF DENIMS OVER LEATHER
Set your flux capacitor for the era of denim cut-offs over leather jackets circa 1987 when badly produced thrash bands fretted (literally) over an imminent nuclear fall out. Prima facie, Hellripper might have been a novelty nostalgia act so embedded is this in the vintage golden heavy metal era. While there is arguably a tongue-in-cheek element with some unapologetically silly metal subject matter, this is clearly too well put together to be cabaret. One crucial aspect of Hellripper is that it's the work, almost exclusively, of one person James McBain from Scotland; and when you hear Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags you’ll appreciate the enormity of what he has pulled off.
One might justifiably surmise that McBain owns an exhaustive and lovingly curated album collection from the heavy metal glory days and probably adores every single one. This record reeks of unvarnished affection of all that was loud from the 80s thrash / speed heyday and it sounds like McBain genuinely lives and breathes it. Here he throws himself into galloping charges of NWOBHM, beer-stains of Venom (Goat Vomit Nightmare), unabashed careering Motörhead worship (The Hissing Marshes) along with German thrash and Big Four riffing (The Cursed Carrion Crown – which even has an Angel of Death-esque Tom Araya-on-helium scream) and a soupcon of blackened vibes like Darkthrone. At times (actually very often) there is an amalgamation of all of these.
The obvious corollary of all this is that Warlocks Grim and Withered Hags is not innovative or novel. It is, essentially, every style of classic heavy metal put in a metal blender along with bullet belts, beer, goat parts and sew-on patches while playing Tank and Bathory in the background and all seasoned with hissed death metal vocals. Yet, somehow, McBain sounds enthused rather than derivative. The various influences are thoughtfully wedded thus avoiding the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach. The sheer flair, energy and vim make the riffs, creative bridges and solos all bubbling and alive. How this is all knitted together is impressive and you have to remind yourself it is one musician at the heart of it all. Some of the tracks are on the longer side but get away with it as they have enough activity going on within to hold attention. You could venture as far to say that McBain actually out-performs some of those who influenced him. He is certainly an accomplished metal musician and songwriter. If you are someone who head bangs in your sleep or at the bus stop this will thrill you. If you hanker after the thrash and metal high-tide mark when being unironic was perfectly acceptable and when things seemed simpler then this will get your goat skin seal of approval.
Warlocks Grim & Weathered Hags is released via Peaceville and here is a link to Hellripper's bandcamp: https://hellripper.bandcamp.com/music