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From Hell – Rats & Ravens

From Hell
Rats & Ravens
by Joseph Brewer at 04 June 2020, 12:05 AM

I’ll be honest, when I fired up “Rats and Ravens” by veteran metalheads FROM HELL, I don’t think I was ready for what was to come. Distorted terrifying skulls and an ominous black raven are centered on the cover of their album, an early indication that the contents inside are anything but pleasant. Hailing from Oakland, California, FROM HELL considers themselves a heavy metal horror concept band, each album in their discography comprising of a wholly contained story from the beginning track to the end. The follow-up to their debut album, “Ascent From Hell”, “Rats and Ravens” continues their anthology and delivers on the horror, utilizing multiple elements of metal together in an ultimately diabolic way.

The story of “Rats and Ravens” takes place in the Mid-13th Century. As described by the band: “… somewhere in Eastern Europe a father disturbs an evil in the east. A witch comes to steal his son and the children of the village to make them her own. She sacrifices them and reanimates the dead with the blessings from the god of vermin. With rats, she brings them back to life and calls them Lilium.”

After a short instrumental opening song, “Dark Heart,” FROM HELL rips onto the scene with one of their best songs, “They Come At Night.” Heavy metal and thrash collide together on this track to pummel the listener with deep, creepy tones and quick spastic guitar fingering. Frontman Aleister Sinn wastes no time establishing the final component of this horror album: his screechy, raspy, borderline black metal vocals. If you listen closely you can definitely understand each word as it is delivered, but it is sung in a screechy wail that will set off your nerves. The combination of heavy thrash metal with Sinn’s unique delivery is the foundation for the majority of the songs on the album.

The Witch” is another song worth highlighting from the album as it combines so many great elements of what FROM HELL stands for in one song. The intro sucks you in from the moment it starts: warbly, guitar trembling accented with tight, quick cymbal tapping. Repeated multiple times with different finishes. It is the essence of horror sound, that unnerving, creepy melody that makes goosebumps spread over your body. It then kicks off into a classic thrashy verse, similar to early TESTAMENT. The chorus is simple, catchy, and creepy as hell. Establishing the witch as the enemy and pronouncing her evil intent. This song also gives Sinn a moment to show off his clean singing. Around the halfway point in the song, the music turns dreamy and Sinn serenades the listener, a distant voice sailing on sustained, lullaby notes. That is before the song wakes up and slams back into the expected FROM HELL heavy thrash.

Rats and Ravens” is not necessarily concerned with establishing hooks or catchy choruses that get stuck in your head. While snippets of songs might satisfy that musical need, overall, the choruses are straightforward affairs that bring the song to a climax, peaking the horror. Behind Sinn, Steve Smyth on guitar, Wes Anderson on drums, and Stephen Paul Goodwin on bass provide the musical force that is non-stop on attack mode. I really enjoyed the mixture of influences, particularly the thrashy breakdowns. It enhances the overall atmosphere of the album, turning up the aggression which makes each song sound all that more intense.

After spinning the album a few times, I can say without reservation that FROM HELL succeeds in their aim of delivering horror and unease. Listening to the album is a very visceral experience as they manipulate their sound to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Within minutes you feel as though you’ve entered a Rob Zombie horror film filled with ugly, terrifying villains and nightmarish situations. While on the more niche side of metal, FROM HELL delivered a killer sophomore album that only the brave will listen to alone in the dark.

Favorite Songs: “They Come at Night”, “The Witch”, “Don’t Cry for Help”

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 7
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Dark Heart
2. They Come At Night
3. Lilium
4. The Witch
5. Don’t Cry For Help
6. Three And Nine
7. Forest Of The Screaming Trees
8. Room For One
9. Body Rats
10. Am I Dead
Aleister Sinn – Vocals and Guitar
Steve Smyth – Lead Guitar
Wes Anderson – Drums
Stephen Paul Goodwin – Bass
Record Label: Fastball Music


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