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Steel Bearing Hand - Slay In Hell

Steel Bearing Hand
Slay In Hell
by Matt Bozenda at 08 June 2021, 10:23 PM

War metaphors and Metal music go hand in hand, and sometimes they feel handcuffed together. It can be inescapable that the drums sound like a march, or the guitar parts are described with the words ‘machine gun’, and while that can be a bit overdone sometimes, on occasion it is simply the closest fit. When an album sounds like it was geared up for battle, you’ll have to be prepared for some kind of fighting.

And they say every Texan loves a fight, don’t they? Well wherever you’re from you might also find yourself raising fists for the Dallas-based STEEL BEARING HAND and their sophomore album, “Slay In Hell”. Playing a great hybrid of Death and Thrash, they’ve put together a formidable army but at the expense of a unique arsenal; they aren’t firing anything that the veterans of METAL TEMPLE can’t handle.

The first shot is far from a warning, as “Command Of The Infernal Exarch” gets right to the point in their dual Thrash/Death style, focusing on the former over the latter, substantively speaking. The next track, “Lich Gate”, goes the other direction, presenting a more Death-oriented Thrash kind of sound. Together they make for an impressive opener, and both earn spots in the All-2021 Playlist.

After that comes “Tombspawn”, a song that feels like it overstays its welcome; if it had been split in two it is possible no one would have noticed. This track and the next, “Per Tenebras Ad Lucem”, just seem to lack a certain flair present in the first two tracks, and that’s mighty odd given their durations. Yet, there are parts of both songs which could have served as the nuclei of other tracks, that’s how good they are.

The back end of the album takes up half the time, but that doesn’t undo the front-loading. “‘Til Death And Beyond” feels a few bars too long in some parts, but near flawless in others. Closing it down is “Ensanguined”, a twelve-and-a-half minute monster which suffers the same faults as the others while also sharing most of the same strengths. The actual outro takes about two minutes as it very gradually comes to a fade out.

For a band called STEEL BEARING HAND, it is perhaps genuinely fitting that they seem to currently walk the edge of a knife. They’ve got enough talent coming from each participant, but if playing the instruments is half the battle, it feels like they’ll need to win the war in the studio. The longer tracks tend to wander, not off the beaten path but rather into each other’s way. For this sort of Metal, the strength is in leaving the listener shell-shocked, not waiting for the end to come.

Ultimately, if “Slay In Hell” were attacking a city, the first two tracks slaughter the sortie which sallies through the gate, the two middle tracks slap at the wall’s defenders, and the last two tracks start digging latrines for the siege. It’s not a terrible effort by any means; even for its faults this is still far better than the average output of today. That is still a crowded rung on the ladder, however, and if STEEL BEARING HAND wants to continue climbing, they’ll need to take a big step up with the songwriting for album three.

Musicianship: 8
Songwriting: 6
Memorability: 8
Production: 6

3 Star Rating

1. Command Of The Infernal Exarch
2. Lich Gate
3. Tombspawn
4. Per Tenebras Ad Lucem
5. ‘Til Death And Beyond
6. Ensanguined
Chris Bonner - bass
Wyatt Burton  - guitars, vocals
Anthony Vallejo - drums
Parker Turney - guitars
Record Label: Carbonized Records


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