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Ambassador Gun - "When In Hell" (CD)

Ambassador Gun - "When In Hell" CD cover image

"When In Hell" track listing:

1. Killed Hooker's Money (1:19)
2. Serpent Stampede (1:44)
3. Ignorance (:10)
4. Ignorance Is This (2:56)
5. When In Hell (2:03)
6. Hurricane (1:10)
7. So Pristine (1:43)
8. Organization Of An Anthill (1:35)
9. Steady Diet (2:24)
10. Taylor Reign (2:15)
11. Animal Fight (1:52)
12. Death Nail (1:35)
13. Reprisal (2:01)
14. Population Control (1:54)
15. Bottom Feeder (2:27)
16. Delorean (1:49)

Reviewed by on September 2, 2009

"“When In Hell” has a few positive traits going for it, but Ambassador Gun’s debut has limited replay value, except for die-hard grind/hardcore fans."

The cover art of any album can serve as a gateway to gaining the attention of those browsing the shelves of record stores in search for the next exciting band. Some covers are a collage of weird and fascinating images (e.g., Agoraphobic Nosebleed) and others just come across as cheesy and low quality (pretty much anything by Yngwie Malmsteen). In the case of Ambassador Gun, using a simple ocean backdrop harbors perceptions of tranquility, even with the less-than-peaceful title of “When In Hell.”

Those who purchase “When In Hell” based solely on the cover art are in for quite a shock. Those expecting a collection of uplifting songs will have their skulls crushed and brains smeared on the wall with 16 tracks of punishing grind. Ambassador Gun is razor sharp in their onslaught, displaying an intensity and hunger that can only come from a young band with nothing to lose. The album flies by at a break-neck pace, a ferocious mindset that becomes both a blessing and a hindrance, especially as the album gets into the latter half.

Ambassador Gun uses psychotic dual vocalists that scream and bark their heads off, akin to a line of rough-house sergeants yelling the charge into an endless battle. Both of them compliment each other well, adding a sense of urgency to the proceedings. Splitting the vocals duties 50-50 helps “When In Hell” to maintain a sense of unpredictability, at least from a vocals perspective.

“When In Hell” is no-frills grind, with a smattering of death and hardcore elements skewed about. The majority of the songs are under the two minute mark, leaving a deep imprint before moving on to the next chaotic realm. “Ignorance Is This,” “Steady Diet,” and “Bottom Feeder” use their longer lengths to implement a melodic sound, slowing things down just enough for the listener to sense a catchy and groove-infused side to the Minneapolis trio.

The musicianship is average; nothing that will raise an eyebrow or get people foaming at the mouth in excitement. The guitar work is standard for the genre, but there are hints of thinking outside the box on the closing, mid-paced stomp of “Delorean.” The rhythm section keeps time and holds everything together, as a good rhythm section should do, but lacks any defining presence, letting the guitar lines do all the heavy lifting.

For a debut album, there is a lot on the surface to like about “When In Hell.” The youthful energy and outright aggression will floor listeners, but once someone is back to a standing position and the dust is wiped off, there isn’t much substance to keep attention in a long-term manner. The songs blend together, and by the end, there is very little retained. Even after a few more listens, there is very little in terms of memorable moments, especially in the bland second half.

The album also suffers from an unbalanced tone. Movie samples and answering machine messages about getting a certain male reproductive organ cut off are interjected into the music at random in the early portions, only to be dropped completely by the halfway point. The band takes a humorous approach with their opinions of our society, but none of the lyrics are that witty or even charming in a grim manner. A sharper focus would have made the lyrical content more biting.

“When In Hell” has a few positive traits going for it, but Ambassador Gun’s debut has limited replay value, except for die-hard grind/hardcore fans. In a year full of phenomenal albums seemingly coming off of a conveyor belt moving at top speed, “When In Hell” is destined to fade into the background, an underground hit that will struggle to receive wide-spread acclaim.

Highs: Sharp songwriting in the first half, potent energy, duel vocalists add a fresh sound.

Lows: Pointless use of samples, lack of replayability, bland second half.

Bottom line: An average debut that has its share of potential, but lacks that one defining characteristic to stand out.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)