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The Affair of the Poisons Dean Brown , October 12th, 2020 08:32

One man Scottish metal machine James McBain returns with a second album of righteous manic energy and forbidden enticement with thrilling effect, finds Dean Brown

Metalheads – When was the last time you felt alive? Really alive? Like when you first heard Metallica careening with youthful abandon on the headbang-instigating Kill ‘Em All. Or earlier, when the double-bass-propelling intro to Motörhead’s Overkill tore its way through your soon-to-whimper speakers... Or when Venom’s Welcome to Hell entered you in league with Satan... Or Bathory’s self-titled debut LP burnt a goat-adorned black mark forever upon your soul…

Hellripper, the one-man black-thrash metal extravaganza, instantaneously encapsulates all of those first-hit feelings and memories in one fell swoop on riotous second album The Affair of the Poisons. Like his solo speed metal contemporaries in Midnight or Rebel Wizard (both of whom have great 2020 LPs in their respective arsenals), Hellripper’s Scottish highlander, James McBain, is a studious disciple of all things fist-pumpin’ and extreme and he keenly hones his classic metal and punk influences to a sharpened point.

Concerned with metal-centric themes of witchcraft and the occult, McBain’s infernal anthems, while in no way interested in stylistic evolution, cut straight to the core and righteously engage the reptilian (metalhead) brain in the same way his groundbreaking forebears once did. This new record is all about manic energy and forbidden enticement, and McBain as Hellripper nails it from the off, kicking open the gates of Hades on the opening title track. After a sleight-of-hand doomy intro, the guitars and drums conspire frantically and the track gallops forth on gilded hooves with gusto, as McBain’s coarse screams ride side-saddle. It’s really spirit-raising, just like some of the songs on the band’s 2017 debut, and there’s no let up as the album progresses.

‘Spectre of the Full Moon Sabbath’ bucks like Metallica’s ‘Whiplash’ if the Bay Area legends had worshipped Black Metal more than Diamond Head’s Lightning to the Nations. You can almost picture Lemmy seated at the right hand of the Dark Lord, tipping his Jack and Coke in approval of the marauding Motörhead-bangin’ anthem ‘Vampire’s Grave’, an early career highlight for this young songwriter. The more reality-steeped horror of “Beyond the Convent Halls”, meanwhile, recalls classic Teutonic thrash and Slayer before sliding straight into another effective section which brings to mind the signature sound of Carcass' melodic death metal opus, Heartwork, just in time for a serrated solo to cut through.

Such stylistic signposts are evident throughout this album for any metal lifer, but instead of turning into a game of name the influence, Hellripper subsume and unleash hellfire in such incandescent ways that the listener can barely hold on with bare hands. ‘Savage Blasphemy’, ‘Hexennacht’ and the brilliantly-titled ‘Blood Orgy of the She-Devils’ keep tempos in thrilling high range, yet never sacrifice songwriting sensibilities. These three tracks are packed to the tits with musical and vocal hooks, and this appears a paramount consideration for Hellripper throughout the album.

Closing with ‘The Hanging Tree’, its mid-paced beginnings rivalling the stomp of Satyricon circa Now, Diabolical as its split from neck to navel in raucous blackened punk fashion as it progresses, there’s an impression that McBain has laboured over each song, making sure only the most vital components remain, culling the fat without remorse. What’s left is a record worthy of cult-like devotion, and the fact that it’s all borne from the talented hand of one man instead of a legion, makes it all the more impressive.