Review Summary: Am I in riff paradise?
James McBain has come a very long way in only three years. Sitting in his room during a long cold winter in 2015, he released Hellripper's first album out in the world under the title of The Manifestation of Evil
. It was a blunt surge of black'n'roll at thrash speed with decent production and remarkable execution. In the same fashion, he probably ruined another Christmas family reunion in 2016 while preparing for a split with Fetid Zombie and a compilation of his best hits under the name of Complete and Total Fucking Mayhem
. Hellripper's first full-length came soon after. Coagulating Darkness
was ready and up just a few days into the new year, following the winter tradition of previous releases. 2018 saw McBain releasing a couple of splits with bands like Barbatos and Nightrider, but apart from that, not much Hellripper activity was detected. It was the kind of calm that would make you think something really tasty was brewing at his base in Aberdeen (Scotland).
Come spring of 2019 and here's the answer to that unprecedented silence: four brand new blackened thrash tunes that are among the best material McBain has ever recorded. Honestly, I was fooled when I first blasted them. I was puzzled, trying to figure out where the hell did this band come from or who were them. My surprise was monumental when I learned that this is, or at least it used to be, a bedroom project. But make no mistake, Black Arts and Alchemy
has better production, artwork and songwriting than many high-profile bands of the same fold. "All Hail the Goat" opens Hellripper's latest work like a locomotive about to derail. Remnants of frenzy NWOBHM blend with black metal shrieks in "Decrepit Christ" showing that this is a quick, non-stop ride to heavy metal purgatory. McBain displays some serious pick juggling in the gothic-tinged title track as soul-stirring solos overflow on its way to the closing track and ultimate banger, "Headless Angels" (high pitch scream included).
It seems that this is only the beginning for McBain's project, as Hellripper is a fully fleshed out live act now, taking on Roadburn Festival as I type all this nonsense. If the future of Hellripper is going to be written with such haste and vigor, sing me up for the ride. One-way ticket, please!