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Hellsword – Cold is the Grave

Cold is the Grave
by Gary Hernandez at 30 October 2021, 9:00 PM

The marketing slogan for Slovenia is “I FEEL sLOVEnia.” After scouring the country’s official travel guide website, I was indeed surprised to find mention of, yes, Metal. I’m not saying they promoted shamanistic black metal rites being held in cemeteries in the dead of night, but amongst much boasting of opera and ballet theaters as well as folk and jazz festivals, the site did actually acknowledge the existence of a Slovenian Metal scene. Now, they didn’t go so far as to mention specific band names, but if they ever reconsider perhaps they can do some pro bono marketing for Ljubljana’s own HELLSWORD.

HELLSWORD is a Black Metal trio out of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Yeah, I know, way too many “L and J” combos going on there. They formed in 2009 and have one demo, one EP, and as of September 24, 2021, one full-length album to their credit. This most recent album, “Cold is the Grave,” comprises nine tracks spanning 42 minutes of runtime. Musically, their style hearkens back to FWBM. It’s a raw but catchy Blackened Speed Metal featuring equal measures of contagious hooks and visceral riffs. Lyrically, it’s more about seizing life than idolizing death—so, yeah, maybe Slovenia could use some HELLSWORD as background music to their site—although there are probably more references to Satan, darkness, and evil than the average tourist board would be comfortable with. I mean one song is literally titled “Satan, Death and Fear.”

This isn’t terribly sophisticated Metal. There are no twelve-minute Prog explorations of “Atlas Shrugged” or novellas folded into spoken word narratives. It’s straight-forward, furious riffage backed by a strong rhythm section and killer vocals. Ironfist’s vocals are raspy, raw, and powerful with surprisingly clear enunciation. You won’t need to reference a lyric sheet with this album. Part of that comes down to the engineering values, which I have to say are exceptionally well executed. There’s clear separation without the lo-fi greyscape. This trio doesn’t hide behind a wall of distortion. I also love the economy of this band. Just three guys belting out heavy tunage with a guitarist who doubles on vocals and no superfluous keyboards.

With nine tracks, there are plenty of standouts. My personal favorites were “Cursed Blood” for its closing solo, “Unholy Reich” for its breakneck tempo and chainsaw riffs, “Baphomet’s Shrine” for its killer breaks that will test your neck muscles, and “Evil’s Rebirth” which is the perfect track to end the album. When Ironfist demands “one more fucking time,” the retort can be nothing else but hell yeah. “Cold is the Grave” seems shorter than the time tracker indicates. It hits hard and is over much sooner than you want it to be. Good stuff, this one.

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

3 Star Rating

1. Cold is the Grave
2. Call of the Sepulchre
3. Satan, Death and Fear
4. Riders of Wrath
5. Cursed Blood
6. Unholy Reich
7. Baphomet's Shrine
8. Chains of Mortality
9. Evil's Rebirth
Mike Manslaughter – bass
Mark Massakre – drums
Ironfist – guitars, vocals
Record Label: Emanzipation Productions


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Edited 05 February 2023

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