Black Anvil

Hail Death

Written by: EW on 26/05/2014 19:27:44

For sheer impression I have hardly reviewed an album with a better opening riff and song than that found on Black Anvil’s "Triumvirate" in 2010, and while the album faded away a bit after that it has still remained one I've returned to with fair frequency since. After four years of silence we now have the follow-up, the New Yorkers third LP, "Hail Death". On first listen I was a little disappointed with the lack of immediacy and memorability of what is on offer here but this has turned out to be a partial false dawn as with each subsequent listen the variety of riffs and tempos at work have revealed themselves to be a patchwork of seething spite and restrained comedown, all sufficiently of their own to suggest the Black Anvil name is presently an under-rated one.

My initial problem stemmed from the fact that most of the tracks start on a slow, and sometimes, laid back note before gradually segueing into the multitude of punchy riffs that take the songs through to their often above-average length conclusions. Laid back is fine in the right circumstances, although less so when it confounds expectations, however to make it further through is to bear witness to the volume of riffs that would make far more established bands proud. Nine minute opener "Still Reborn" brings repute not only for its clever construction, whereby the track is effectively split into three distinct sections with a red line running throughout, but for the excellent soloing which relies a lot less on the standard caustic dissonance normally found in the black/death genre and instead takes a far more considered approach. "Eventide" fizzes along on a body of fine Dissection and Marduk riffing and displays some really nice subtle changes in tempo to transition from each section within the song while further along the band display an ability to build tension with the steady increase in power in "Seven Stars Unseen" and "My Hate Is Pure". The occasional usage of clean vocals to contrast the piercing howl works reasonably well done in the quantities heard here although in the context of Black Anvil's shredding riffage I wouldn’t want to have much more lest the power of their music be diminished. "Until the End" and "N" are examples of where the new found patient attitude does not pay off so well as both drift off into outer waters without a lifejacket, before last track "Next Level Black" threatens to follow a similar course. At 11 minutes it is the strongest reason for why the album outstays it's welcome at a bulky 71 minutes, and while it does offer some hefty rhythms via a wailing blackened lead and a nice transition into an Eastern-tinged breakdown it ultimately doesn't offer enough to fully justify its timespan.

Finishing with a cover of Kiss' "Under the Rose" is a very peculiar choice and doesn’t aid the aforementioned consistency issues - the early clean vocals are too weak to hold their notes as the song sadly ends the album on a real downer, undoing some of the good work done before it. As with my review of "Triumvirate" Goatwhore are the band I hear most in Black Anvil, moreso than the widely touted similarities to Dissection, and like their American brothers BA pack a mighty pissed off punch when they choose to let looser. A combination of the best material from these two albums would make for one hell of a fearsome LP, but "Hail Death" as it is hosts some scintillating riffing in a clear production but tempers this with too much padding to trouble the top scores. Like "Triumvirate” however I have plenty to make frequent forays back to "Hail Death" when I need a quick dose of something nasty.

Download: Still Reborn, Eventide, My Hate is Pure
For The Fans Of: Goatwhore, Dissection
Listen: Facebook

Release date 24.05.2014
Relapse Records

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