Black Mass

rating icon 7.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Acid Rain
02. Black History
03. Salt the Earth
04. Black Mass
05. The Wars: Part I
06. Mi Nombre
07. The Last Outlaw
08. Demons
09. The Reckoning
10. The Wars: Part II

My memory of the last THIS IS HELL CD I heard is not what I'm hearing on new album "Black Mass". As it turns out, that's a good thing. It is not that the more traditional hardcore — and to some extent crossover — played in the past was without merit. It is just that the fuel injection of thrash metal into this sucker will make anger management a condition of your probation for all the property you destroyed at the home of a neighbor who just happening to be playing the album when you walked by.

"Black Mass" is in general terms a crossover album, but once you take the plunge it is thrash metal in which your ears will delight first; hardcore second. For the most part, it is the vocals (and to some extent patterns) that keep the album hardcore-connected, though more like metallic hardcore, whether MOST PRECIOUS BLOOD or SICK OF IT ALL. Honestly though, genre hair-splitting will not be something with which you'll concern yourself; it's only those pesky critics that'll blather on about it. All you'll care about once THIS IS HELL brings the pain in SLAYER-esque fashion on opening track "Acid Rain" is making some room for all the moshing that's about to ensue. As well written and passionately performed as that opener may be, you may still harbor skeptical thoughts about the band's ability to keep it up for the remainder of the album without petering out somewhere along the way. It never happens. Track after track rips, wails, and scorches without become redundant, whilst the arrangements are wrapped in tight packages that come with some pretty darn memorable choruses. In addition to a general SLAYER vibe, you may hear nods to ANTHRAX ("The Wars" Part I", "The Reckoning") and DESTRUCTION ("The Wars: Part I") in addition to bands of a more metallically hardcore nature, like TERROR on "Mi Nombre". However, those influences are less overt as they are a product of collective influences delivered with a hardcore aesthetic. Finally, a solid bunch of guitar solos hit with true blue thrash metal fervor rather than sounding as though they were "dropped in" out of obligation.

Nobody is talking masterpiece here, but the Long Island crew delivers convincingly and sure as hell don't sound like a bunch of hardcore kids going through the motions. The music goes well with new themes of social injustice and recurring ones of persistence and empowerment. While the average thrash fan will still opt for the genuine article, THIS IS HELL offers a pleasant surprise in "Black Mass" that even most cynical metalhead will find difficult to ignore.

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