Curse & Chapter
25 November 2013
by Rob McAuslan
The slightly clumsy play on words in the title aside, there are few missteps in this second album to spring following the rebirth of NWOBHM legends Hell. Resurrecting a long-lost band is potentially fraught with issues around quality, but their last release laid those sort of fears to rest quite handily and lead to some truly excellent live shows over the last couple of years.
Following 2011’s Human Remains was never going to be all that tough, though. Where some commentators practically jizzed themselves to crackling withered husks over it, it was in truth merely “pretty good”, with some decent songs and fine playing marking a well-received return. Curse & Chapter smashes past every single issue with the previous record though.
As experienced a group of musicians you’ll be hard-pressed to find in any genre, much less heavy metal. Best-known of them is, of course, Sabbat man Andy Sneap who quotes this very band as one of his early influences and whose name can be found as producer of some of the greatest metal albums released in the last twenty-five years; the rest of them are no slouches though. Despite them calling time on their music careers after the tragic suicide of original vocalist Dave Halliday back in 1987, it seems they all woodshedded furiously in the intervening years as their chops are all more than up to scratch here.
It’s all in the confidence pouring out of every excursion of your speakers’ drivers. Where Human Remains felt restrained, almost unsure of itself, Curse & Chapter absolutely reeks of a band that KNOW they’re doing the right thing at every step. A large part of this is down to the massive leap that frontman David Bower’s vocals have taken, swivel-eyed lunacy and skyscraping highs combining with his already wildly-theatrical delivery to create a truly compelling oratory. This self-belief extends through all of the music our spittle-flecked narrator ably guides us through, with no two tracks sounding quite the same – the arrangements twist and turn through thrash savagery, prog expanse, NWOBHM classicism and more, taking in all facets of metal and hard rock throughout the ages.
It creates a backdrop that sounds at once familiar and unique, perfectly suited to the grand sweep and scope of the lyrics. The occult, myths and legends, and intolerance of many kinds are covered as was always Hell’s wont, delivered in Bower’s fascinating style – part King Diamond storyteller, part Rob Halford attack, full of power and blessed with the sharpness of diction you’d expect from a trained actor. That variety, both musically and vocally, makes Curse & Chapter one of the top metal releases of the late stages of this year.
Sounds Like: A thirty-year promise finally fulfilled
Standout Tracks: End Ov Days, Darkhangel, A Vespertine Legacy