Review Summary: 'Human Remains' is a monster of an album, and it's a shame that it has gone largely unnoticed, as it rivals some of the all-time best in the genre. A perfect blend of classic NWOBHM mixed with a darker Mercyful Fate style, it is sure to please any fan o
This is the album that was never supposed to be. Without giving too much of a history lesson, Hell formed in England in the early 80s and were lumped into the NWOBHM scene. They put out a few demos in their short career but went mostly unnoticed. They scored a record deal, but just days before they were supposed to record their debut album, THIS album, the company collapsed to bankruptcy. This led to turmoil within the band, resulting in their disbanding -- and eventually the suicide of singer Dave Halliday. Fast forward to 2008; Hell reforms to record their debut album with a new vocalist, original guitarist Kev Bower’s brother, David Bower. Also recruited was former Sabbat member and heavy metal mega-producer Andy Sneap, who would play guitars and produce the album. I won’t go into Sneap’s credits here, but he has produced a ton of great metal albums over the years. Ok, on to the music….
On Human Remains, Hell plays with such a passion and energy that most bands half their age can’t even come close to. This is a very dark album, not only the music but also the lyrical content, which focuses largely on anti-religion and occult themes. Musically, it is within the boundaries of traditional heavy metal but they have forged a sound of their own. If I had to compare them to another band it would be Mercyful Fate, for their “turn on a dime” riffing, and dark themes. Keyboards and effects are used throughout that really add to the depth and dark atmosphere, and there are a ton of riffs packed into here. The album is very complex musically, with lots of time changes, and the axemanship is very intricate; that being said, it never loses focus with its strong sense of melody. The album has a great flow and pace as many of the sings run into each other, and each song explores different tempos and territories. It is the type of record where you discover and hear new things every time you listen.
There are great performances all around, but perhaps the greatest performance of all comes from their new vocalist, David Bower, who is also a stage and TV actor. He brings a very unique delivery, and has a certain confidence and swagger in his voice that just draws you in. His experience in acting comes across here as he brings a very theatrical flair to his performance, it’s a little corny in places but it totally works.
There are lots of highlights to be had, and each track is unique. 'On Earth as it is in Hell' stands out; if it were released back in 1982 when it was written it would be regarded as a classic for sure and a staple of the genre. 'Blasphemy and the Master' is a personal favorite. It has a long intro, but when those guitars kick in at 1:50 I challenge you not to bang your head. Save Us From Those Who Would Save Us has great some great, speedy riffing and a catchy chorus, and the 10 minute epic The Devils Deadly Weapon is an atmospheric journey of riffs and melody.
You really have to take your hat off to Andy Sneap, he really did a great job making this album sound the way it does. The production is crisp, and every instrument shines through. Hopefully this won’t be the last we will hear from Hell. These songs were all written 30 years ago so who knows if they would have another great original album in them. Regardless of that, every heavy metal fan should own this album. Everything comes together on Human Remains, and I would describe it as a very complete listening experience.