Despite releasing one of the best modern thrash/hardcore/crossover albums with 2011’s Black Mass, things have been very quiet in the This Is Hell camp. Following this album the band took a brief hiatus, and most of the members (except vocalist Travis Reilly) explored new and thrashier territories as Extinction AD. Although this new group continued what This Is Hell started by blending hardcore with thrash’s precise riffs, questions still remained about the future of This Is Hell. Now, on the 10th anniversary of their debut album Sundowning, the band surprised fans by streaming a new album on to their Bandcamp site (https://thisishell.bandcamp.com/album/bastards-still-remain).
First things first, its worth mentioning now that the band have changed their style somewhat on this release. Whereas Black Mass was essentially a thrash album by a hardcore band, Bastards Still Remain feels more like a hardcore album played by a thrash band. By far the biggest impact of this stylistic shift is that the songs are incredibly short (no song is more than a minute and a half long, and the whole album clocks in just under fourteen and a half minutes) and are played at breakneck tempos. Suffice to say, this album is short but sweet.
This more punk approach definitely suits the band as it indicates a return to their roots. The band handles the fast catchy chords, relentless drumming and breathless vocal delivery with ease- but this isn’t a hardcore-album-by-numbers by any means. This Is Hell have an excellent guitarist in Rick Jimenez, a man who is highly adept at writing a mean riff or two. Whether it’s the bouncy bridge in “Excuses Pile Up”, or the mid-paced grooves of “In The Name Of…”, Jimenez adds an extra energy and dynamism to the band’s compositions. His solos (when he gets to throw them in) are top-notch, and are more than just a nod to the previous album’s thrash musings- they add some much-needed melody and style to proceedings (check out tracks such as the aforementioned “Excuses Pile Up” and “Retaliate”). When he lends his deeper and harsher vocals along with Travis Reilly’s higher shouts, it gives the songs a little more colour and livens up songs like the blasts and breakdowns of “You Think I Don’t Know”.
Whilst this does sound exciting for any This Is Hell fan, there is one obvious elephant in the room- the album length. It’s just too short. Once you start getting into a song and really enjoying it, it ends abruptly. I think if each song was expanded a little more with either extra riffs, verses, solos and choruses (nothing too drastic, just bumping each song up from a minute to two minutes), then you’d have substantial body of work to really sink your teeth into. However, the album was apparently recorded, mixed and mastered all in one day, so it would be understandable if the material was kept concise for such a tight deadline. And whose to say that maybe this was the intention? Perhaps this album is meant to be a nice, little stop-gap release to tide fans over until a full length album? Either way, its great to hear This Is Hell creating superb hardcore/thrash that will surely incite furious moshing.
This Is Hell are back, long live This Is Hell.
Fun Fact: I saw This Is Hell for the first time at Reading Festival 2012, and they managed to get a circle pit going around a group of fans doing push-ups. I was a fan from that moment.
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