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From Hell: Rats & Ravens

The Ascent from Hell by the similarly named From Hell was, if you’ll pardon the pun, one hell of an album. Unashamedly conceptual horror metal, it saw the coming together of Paul Bostaph of Slayer, Testament and Exodus, Damien Sisson of Death Angel and Steve Smith of Nevermore and Forbidden alongside the band’s mainman, guitarist and singer George Anderson, or as he’s known here, Aleister Sinn. For the follow up effort Rats & Ravens, the ‘band’ finds Sinn flanked by the returning Smith, while Wes Anderson (Blind Illusion/Les Claypool) handles drums and Stephen Paul Goodwin (Vicious Rumors/Diablo Dukes) brings the bass.

What hasn’t changed is the From Hell propensity for bringing a King Diamond like horror story into being. Musically things are much less theatric than the ex-King of Mercyful Fate would provide, for while there are strings and choirs augmenting the story, the main thrust of R&R is a far grittier, aggressive thrash attack that harks back to days long gone. Admittedly that approach is built up by a cutting edge sound courtesy of producer Greg Wilkinson and presented with an extremely forceful thrust but this is old school metal and all the better for it.

This time round the story centres round “A father who disturbs an evil in the east. A witch comes to steal his son and the children of the village to make them her own. She sacrifices them and reanimates the dead with the blessings from the god of vermin. With rats, she brings them back to life and calls them Lilium…” And across ten tracks and 55 minutes this well realised and gory tale plays out. Sinn lays down an idiosyncratic vocal full of bite and bile, with something akin to a grating razor slash being his weapon of choice. At certain points - “Room For One” being a prime example - there can be the feeling that a killer scream or two isn’t quite hit with the pinpoint ferocity intended but if a throaty howl fits your vocal bill, then he’ll do the job.

Combined with the guitar work from Smith the twin axe assault convinces massively as it cuts a swathe through the hugely memorable “Body Rats”, while some of Smith’s solos truly are a bloody weapon. That all said, other than that cut, if there’s one thing lacking on Rats & Ravens it’s a true centre point where everything falls perfectly into place to hammer home this album’s intentions. Don’t get me wrong, this is ferocious and well crafted fare and yet, even with the convincing blend of bludgeon and attention to detail, it often feels like the results land just ever so slightly short of the target. I mean “They Come At Night”, “Am I Dead” and “Don’t Cry For Help” are all massive metal set-plays but somehow they never quite take their strongest elements and wrap them up into the attention grabbing expulsions they should.

Rats & Ravens is a fiery and fierce album and one that I can heartily recommend. It never quite reaches either the heights that it often hints at, or that its predecessor often did, but it remains a confident blast of horror metal nonetheless.


Track Listing
1. Dark Heart
2. They Come At Night
3. Lilium
4. The Witch
5. Don’t Cry For Help
6. Three And Nine
7. Forest Of The Screaming Trees
8. Room For One
9. Body Rats
10. Am I Dead

Added: June 21st 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: From Hell on facebook
Hits: 120
Language: english

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