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This Is Hell - "Black Mass" (CD)

This Is Hell - "Black Mass" CD cover image

"Black Mass" track listing:

1. Acid Rain (3:32)
2. Black History (3:53)
3. Salt The Earth (3:43)
4. Black Mass (3:59)
5. The Wars: Part One (4:21)
6. Mi Nombre (2:30)
7. The Last Outlaw (3:37)
8. Demons (1:28)
9. The Reckoning (4:25)
10. The Wars: Part Two (3:20)

Reviewed by on November 11, 2011

"As comfortable with crossover thrash as they are slinging hardcore to the youth, This Is Hell embraces the interesting twist on their sound with 'Black Mass.'"

This Is Hell began as a hardcore band, but over the course of a short period, assimilated to a thrash metal climate. Last year’s “Weight Of The World” teetered on the edge of thrash, but “Black Mass” does a belly-flop right into the area occupied by bands like Municipal Waste and SSS. The band hasn’t completely neglected their hardcore beginnings, and a few songs should appease fans of their first two outputs, “Sundowning” and “Misfortunes.” However, this is a more ferocious and resourceful group than the one that recorded their self-titled EP back in 2005.

When bands transition from one style of music to another, there can be repercussions with awkward songwriting and an uneasiness with the new sound the band is looking to express. This Is Hell displays none of these issues, and digs into thrash with open fangs. The solos fly freely, the riffs induce head-banging for minutes on end, and the fast pace of most of these songs will make a novice to the circle pit jump in with no hesitation. The main holdover from past albums is the shouting vocals of Travis Reilly, and the occasional gang choruses screamed out.

“Demons” is the true hardcore tune on “Black Mass,” taking its 90 seconds to chug and stomp its way through extinction. It’s a pleasant boost of adrenaline from what is sucked out of the plodding “The Last Outlaw.” Out of the ten tracks, “The Last Outlaw” is the only down-and-out stinker. The first half of “Black Mass” is a touch more ruthless than the second half. There’s something to be said for a band that can make thrash, a genre that has creatively been lying in its own grave for years, still exciting, and that’s what songs like “Acid Rain” and “Salt The Earth” do.

The record has very few swerves to it, as the band has a secure hold on its sound, with no ambition to deviate away from thrashy hardcore. The title track has a solid acoustic intro that is repeated later on, and while the acoustics are never heard from again, they give off a bit of gravitas. The two-part “The Wars” is inspired by the infamous WCW/WWF ratings war that erupted in the late ‘90s. Both songs stand out for their anthemic, fist-pumping rhythms.

As comfortable with crossover thrash as they are slinging hardcore to the youth, This Is Hell embraces the interesting twist on their sound with “Black Mass.” The band doesn’t come off as posers, or changing things to appeal to a larger audience. It’s a well-crafted, venom-rich fury that has the type of reach to receive favor from music listeners of many genres. Older fans may be disappointed that the band has moved away from traditional hardcore, but for 35 minutes, “Black Mass” rips up the scenery like it was the mid ‘80s again.

Highs: Band embraces thrash metal in a tasteful manner, plenty of ripping guitar solos, good pacing that makes the album go by quickly

Lows: Lags a bit in the middle, first half is much more potent than the second half, fans of their earlier sound may be disappointed with the crossover to thrash metal

Bottom line: Another step away from traditional hardcore into thrash metal, This Is Hell continues to evolve with ease on "Black Mass."

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 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)