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Hellscream - Hate Machine

Hate Machine
by Sean McGuirk at 16 July 2019, 11:05 PM

California’s HELLSCREAM is a collaboration between CAGE guitarist Dave “Conan” Garcia and Norman Skinner, a talented vocalist who has a varied slate of past and present Metal projects. They are back with their second LP, “Hate Machine,” a by-the-numbers celebration of Traditional / Power Metal tropes with some unfortunate production issues that prevent it from truly ascending.  Garcia’s main band CAGE has been flying the flag for “Painkiller” Metal since the ‘90s and HELLSCREAM sounds like a simplified version that leans more on the dark emotion of a band like ICED EARTH.

As the press kit states, Skinner is versatile, with some impressive highs and lows, but the problem on this set is that he is barely audible.  Conan’s typical expert-level riff construction is top notch, and he’s backed by the rest of CAGE for the recording, so there’s already a chemistry there, but it sounds as if Skinner recorded his vocals on a separate planet and emailed them in.  They sit low in the mix with an added echo effect that makes it hard to make out anything but the song titles.

Opener “There Will Be Blood” hits that Tim OwensJUDAS PRIEST wheelhouse, with an industrial sounding backbeat and squealed guitar riffs, while adding in an emotive Power Metal chorus. It sets the tone for the rest of the disc. “Firestarter” skips to HALFORD’s underrated solo era for inspiration for its vocal melody, a trick that Garcia uses again in “Wake The Demon.”  “Weight of the World” changes the tempo up a bit and has some nice showcase moments for Skinner in its latter half.  The distant-sounding vocals may have been a nod to ICED EARTH’s classic “Burnt Offerings,” as there a number of songs that remind of the feel on that classic album, “Obliette” being among them. Skinner also hits some Barlow-esque lows in the verse of “Blood Rite.” “Slaves Of The Sand,” has an Egyptian feel, but retains a standard double-kick drive.  The song “Zero Recall” might be my favorite on the album, maybe because it sounds the most like CAGE in its “Painkiller”-inspired fervor.

It’s probably not a good sign when your favorite tracks on a solo record are those that sound most like the artist’s other band. Especially when that artist is someone as talented as Garcia, who I think could really nail a unique-sounding heavy record if he spread his (massive) wings a bit more.  That’s not to say it sounds terrible: for CAGE fans this is a must-listen, but ultimately you may forget that you did.

Songwriting: 6
Originality: 6
Memorability: 5
Production: 5

3 Star Rating

1. There Will Be Blood
2. Fire Starter
3. Weight Of The World
4. Oubliette
5. Zero Recall
6. Slaves Of The Sand
7. Hate Machine
8. Another Angel Down
9. Payback!
10. Blood Rite
11. Wake The Demon
12. Generation Kill
Dave Garcia – Guitars
Norman Skinner – Vocals
Casey Trask – Guitar
Sean Elg – Drums
Alex Pickard – Bass
Record Label: Pure Steel Records


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