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All Hell - The Witch’s Grail

All Hell
The Witch’s Grail
by Max Elias at 12 August 2019, 10:57 PM

ALL HELL have been a fixture in Blackened / Deathened Thrash Metal for some time now, and on "The Witch’s Grail", it’s easy to see why. The band is adept at melding melodies and aggression similarly to SKELETONWITCH. The album opens with a beautiful minute and a half of acoustic work before the first song, the riff-littered “Sorcery and Sanctity”, bludgeons listeners with galloping drums and chugging chord work. The thrash influence is obvious by the 1:15 mark, with the syncopated old-school riff used as a pre-chorus, although the growling vocals scream death metal. The song has a few different moods to it; it starts off blazing, gets more groove-laden, and after the short solo, shifts to a Death / Doom Metal feel.

“Tonight We Ride” is nonstop energetic, almost like ENTOMBED-style Death-n’Roll. The drumming is still galloping and unafraid of flourishes, but the riffs are simple and more rhythmic than anything. The band offers songs from every aspect of blackened thrash, from raging to more mid-tempo. “Black Blood” starts out subdued and grows to a furious charge, prominently featuring bass, which is rare for Thrash. There are some nice old-school riffs tossed in over the last minute of the song. “Into the Trees” also bursts forth with Speed Metal energy. The constant factor in all of it, however, is the low Death Metal bark of the vocals.

Unlike a lot of Death-Thrash bands, there are no blast beats found on this record. The drumming is impressive and at times frenetic, but always has that old-school vibe to it. This means there are more dynamics at work and allow for shifts in feel like at the end of “Into the Trees”.  If you like classic Thrash Metal tinged with more extreme subgenres, then there is a lot here that would be appealing. “Where Devils Once Danced” is another onslaught of riffing, plus an addictive gang-chanted chorus (it’s just the title). It’s a bit more mid-tempo, but the intensity picks right back up with “Fleurs Du Mal”, which is full of tremolo-picked Speed Metal riffs, but also tosses in lots of syncopated rhythms, goading the listener into violent stop-start headbanging. The earlier comparison to SKELETONWITCH is apt on this song especially, with the way that the intensity of Black Metal melds with the clarity of Thrash.

“Marble Embrace” doesn’t change the formula and again has ALL HELL sounding (instrumentally) like 80s Speed Metal, but faster. Throw in some cleaner (not Bruce Dickinson clean, but James Hetfield clean) vocals, and the style would shift completely. The title track starts with a sparser riff—that later comes back as a verse—before exploding. Though most of the songs here don’t feature leads, I get the sense that if there were leads, the last minute of “The Witch’s Grail” would have been a perfect place for one to shine. Instead the band just vamps on the established groove.

“The Invisible World” is the longest song here by about 4 minutes, and though it is not as fast, the character remains the same. Still thrashy, stomping riffs under low growls more typical of Death Metal than Thrash. Halfway through, the song picks its pace up to where the rest of the album was, and after a brief breakdown, the punishing but crystal-clear riffing ALL HELL clearly specializes in rears its head. An 8-minute song seems to be the only thing that brings lead guitar out to play, as a mournful melodic break precedes the gradual Doom Metal fadeaway ending.

All in all, a good album. A homage to classic riff-based Metal with its own touches. A few more standout lead moments would have improved it, I feel, as many of these riffs edge towards needing a climax.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 10

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. La-Bas (Ràve Noir)
2. Sorcery and Sanctity
3. Tonight We Ride
4. Black Blood
5. Into the Trees
6. Where Devils Once Danced
7. Fleurs du Mal
8. Marble Embrace
9. The Witch’s Grail
10. The Invisible World
Lineup:
Jacob Curwen – Vocals / Guitar
Kurt Henderson - Drums
Erik Ballantyne - Bass
Record Label: Prosthetic Records
     


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