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Steelpreacher - Back From Hell Award winner

Back From Hell
by Kira Schlechter at 11 May 2021, 2:30 AM

Perhaps now we need yet another sub-subgenre – beer metal, booze metal, alcometal, maybe – considering nearly half of STEELPREACHER’S latest, “Back From Hell,” has to do with imbibing. They’ve done songs like “Beerminator,” “Drinking With The Devil,” and “Hell Bent For Beer” – not to mention, “We Don’t Get Drunk (We Just Get Awesome)” – in the past, so yeah, there’s a theme here. This is just the German traditional metal band’s fifth album since forming in 2002; their last one was “Devilution” in 2015, so it’s been a while. But the break has only benefitted them, as this current effort is chock full of piss and vinegar.

The band praises producer Rolf Munkes for mixing the album “really nicely dirty,” and that’s apparent from the opener, “Here For The Beer” – it ain’t pretty, but it suits the music well, since no one wants something like this to be super polished. Its very AC/DC bluesy feel is loud and raucous and slamming, with a great sense of humor and a typical blues structure in the verses, with their lyric rhyming and blasts of guitar commentary after each couplet. The chorus is super catchy, punchy, direct, and full of fun – it’s cliched at times but who cares, it’s a blast. Jens’ vocals are snarling, growling, full of irony, almost like little asides in a way. A bright brilliant solo, then a nice breakdown, full of Muskel’s soulful bass and Hendrik’s cymbal crashes, then a whispered take on the title that builds into a fuller chorus, then a full-out last one.

“Back From Hell” has a similar groove but is a bit darker as befits the title, with a wonderful chug in that opening riff and a fabulous core melody that sticks around throughout. That dark lead into the chorus shifts to a minor key and does a good job emphasizing the defiance in the chorus. It’s a similar chorus to the first track, a real sing-along, although the mix in it is a little muddy, maybe needing a bit more clarity to get that punch across since the drums are a little overwhelming. The solo section takes that base melody to start and then goes off on its dual guitar tangent – there’s great suspense with the low-end drums (and the undermixed riffs in the background) and the pauses into the last chorus, and that fade-out guitar melody is very MAIDEN sonically.

A lowdown dirty grind, tons of bass and a stuttering hitching groove, sharp and swinging and sexy, make “Da Damn Booze” an early standout. Short, sweet, and self-explanatory, about those things we do when we’ve had too much, it features Muskel’s terrific bass, a razor-sharp solo, and a finger-snapping breakdown led by cymbals and the ringing strings of the bass. Jens’ squeals and scat singing are a real treat, just loose and silly, and it ends with a distinct nod to the blues.

Huge debts to MOTORHEAD in that main riff and groove of “Wish You Were Beer,” all appealing and mindless fun. He’s had it with his woman and her non-responsiveness – smirking and snide, he snarls, “When I’m lonely there’s no bar in sight, how I wish, I wish you were beer” (how do you really feel? You can’t help but sing along to that!). The bridge further details how beer is the perfect companion – it isn’t “capricious,” it “doesn’t breed,” “isn’t vicious,” and “doesn’t bleed.” The solo is a blistering blast, as they all are, with a great bass lead-in – they know their strength is in quick, ear-candy-type songs that beat you over the head and get out – and it hurtles to a bass-laden, cymbal-flourishing finish.

“When The Iron Calls” is stately and majestic to start before a walloping groove sets in. There’s plenty of drama and layers of interest as the bass pounds things along, like that hollow guitar that undercuts the verses, for instance. The verses are about battle; the chorus is a call to arms (“death awaits when the iron calls/every man was born to die”), and the double kick drumming adds urgency. The harmonies in the solo section are stirring and inspiring as they should be, the melodies solid and memorable, everything well constructed and confident with no awkwardness. The slower end of the solo leads really well into the final prechorus and choruses – the last one modulates and Jens goes for that high note fearlessly (and the lone guitar melody matches him very nicely).

“Beer, Meat’n Metal” has a very, very AC/DC feel in the start. Like very. Did I say very? Like creepily so, like they kidnapped Angus and made him play it. That main guitar melody is irresistible, as is the perfectly-paced drumming. These are the three food groups of the summer, indeed, and there’s double entendre up the wazoo too in the second verse, with lots of winks and nudges. The chorus is so stupidly basic but the biggest blast, as is the prechorus: ”You kill it, I’ll grill it,” and “you feed it, I’ll eat it.” Even I’m not above dirty frat-boy humor, especially when it’s done this well.

“Rock For Your Life” is another bluesy slam, from the opening riff to the solo to the chorus – it’s old school to the max. There’s no new ground here, but it’s full of cockiness and attitude and swagger. Jens has the perfect voice for it too, not a ton of variation or range (I mean, this stuff doesn’t need a DIO-type singer, after all) but plenty of phlegm and rasp. The lyrics are simple and catchy (with moments of laugh-out-loud raunchiness), an ode to the salvation of rock ‘n’ roll.

“Bad Things Never Last” starts with another great riff melody, then quiets as lots of bass leads into the verse. Jens is almost contemplative in the first part before he lets loose; there’s a nice surf groove and atmospheric vocal overdubbing in the prechorus and into the chorus. The drums are a little ragged in the mix, though, not delineated enough and with too much treble, which makes the vocals in the chorus get kind of lost. It’s about being haunted by negative thoughts, how they pop up at any time and pleading for relief, but knowing that in the end, they will go away. Hendrik’s double kick in the solo and end sections is well played, and his toms that bring it to a close are muscular and effective.

It might be the longest track, 6 minutes, in this tad-over-41-minute album, but “Titanfall” is well arranged and paced. Again, Hendrik’s pummeling toms and Jens’ and Andi’s PRIEST-like riffing keep things organized and tight. This is a little nod to Greek myth, the tale of how the Titans were defeated by the gods of Olympus, showing they have range beyond the booze. The chorus lengthens out and slows midway for emphasis before the groove tightens up again, which emphasizes the violent transition between the two groups of immortals – the plays with rhythm really help tell the story. The sober bridge, with Jens’ undermixed voice and the wordless vocals, is well done, serving as mourning as “The Titan Falls.” The solo is a variation of the main riff/chorus melody at first, then gets faster – it’s longer but precise and doesn’t meander. One last chorus is followed by a richly melodic end section that doesn’t last long but sticks in your head – a perfect ending.

Speaking of great endings, the closer “Masters Of The Underground” features guest vocals from Dennis Ohler of DRAGONSFIRE and Peter Custers from SECUTOR. They are great additions – each does a verse in their distinctive style and you can’t use guest singers any better. The start, with an awesome big booming tom groove added to by a crunching riff and more fabulous bass (love how they use that to its greatest potential), leads the way into the verse. That chorus is the bomb, the groove is just so excellent – it sounds so good, you don't even care what it’s about, but it may refer to them being indie bands and the inherent power in that (“the stage is small” line might hint at that). The riff and bass having it out as the transition into verse two is wonderful; in verse three, they punch it out in unison. The last verse is Jens to cap it off and his high end cuts through the penultimate chorus like a knife. And when they deconstruct the chorus on the fadeout to ringing riffs, insistent drums, the title, and shouts of “Masters!” it hits another level entirely.

This is actually the perfect summer album, a rousing bit of boozy cheer after a rough year, meant to be blasted out car windows, on the beach, or at the pool. And there’s nothing wrong with that – thanks, STEELPREACHER, we needed this.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Here For The Beer
2. Back From Hell
3. Da Damn Booze
4. With You Were Beer
5. The Iron Calls
6. Beer, Meat’n Metal
7. Rock For Your Life
8. Bad Things Never Last
9. Titanfall
10. Masters Of The Underground
Jens “Preacher” Hubinger - Lead Vocals, Guitar
Andi The Wicked - Guitar
Muskel - Bass
Hendrik Beerkiller - Drums
Record Label: ACFM Records


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Edited 18 June 2021

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