Hell : Human Remains

They Say :- Cited as a huge indirect influence, and as one of the true founding fathers of occult metal, the band formed in 1982 from the carcasses of UK metal bands RACE AGAINST TIME and PARALEX, whose ‘White Lightning’ EP was listed by Metallica as a favourite, and which was subsequently included on the Lars Ulrich, Geoff Barton  ‘NWOBHM ’79 Revisited’ sampler album.

Despite over five years of constant touring, the band were cruelly overlooked by the ’80’s music press, who just didn’t get it. HELL were too different, too extreme, too musically intelligent and far too thought-provoking for all but the most enlightened to understand them. The final crushing blow came when their long-awaited 1986 album deal with Mausoleum collapsed as the label went bankrupt, followed by the tragic suicide of singer/guitarist, Dave Halliday in 1987. The remaining members drew a line in the sand and stopped playing overnight.

A teenage Andy Sneap was a permanent fixture on the front row of almost every show HELL played and was also taught to play guitar by Halliday. He then went on to form Sabbat and become a renowned metal producer. Upon meeting again, the remaining members of HELL – Kev Bower (guitar/keys), Tony Speakman (bass) and Tim Bowler (drums) talked with Andy about re-recording the old material to release in conjunction with the old demos. With Sneap replacing Halliday on guitar and David Bower on vocals, the band has recorded 10 HELL classics from the 80’s.

We say :- It seems that producer / guitarist / musical polymath Andy Sneap is on a mission to return “proper” heavy metal to it’s rightful place in the musical landscape. Hailed by Accept vocalist Mark Tornillo as “one of the biggest ingredients in this band” after producing Blood Of The Nations Sneap was also instrumental in the recent Sabbat reunion tour which saw them roll back the years with some stunning shows.

For his next project Sneap has turned his attention to relatively obscure 1980s NWOBHM band Hell. Although they had all the ingredients for success it never came their way and the band called it a day in 1987 after the collapse of their record company and suicide of founding member Dave Halliday. And that was that… Hell were little more than a footnote in the history of Heavy Metal, just another band who never made it.

Now almost 25 years after calling it a day in a reunion which few would have predicted, or indeed even cared about, the surviving members of the bad got together with Sneap on guitar and vocalist Dave Bower to re-record some of their 80s tracks for a 21st century audience.

The first indication of what was to come slipped out almost un-noticed a couple of months ago when the video for On Earth As It Is In Hell was released on YouTube. This is a proper old fashioned Metal video with Skulls, flames, guitars and the band doing their thing in the ruins of a stately home. Nothing special, nothing that hasn’t been done a million times before, but with one major difference…

The song itself is brilliant. See for yourself…

OK, so the theatrics may be a bit over the top for some and cliches abound but there is no denying that On Earth As It Is In Hell is a stunning example of what a modern take on the classic NWOBHM can be. My interest was well and truly piqued by the release of the video and I was genuinely excited when the first promotional copies of the album were released, could it really deliver on the promise shown by the video ??

Oh Yes…

And soooooo much more…

This is an album which transported me back in time, back to a day in the early 80s when I first got into heavy metal music. Everything that I loved then, and still love now, distilled and blended into 66 and a bit perfect minutes. The riffs, the lyrics, the vocals, the theatrical little intros, everything is just, erm, perfect. I honestly can’t remember the last time that a mere album release had such an impact on me, it’s certainly up there with the first time I heard Powerslave or Master Of Puppets, and just as those two were on my record player (ask your parents kids) for ages so has Human Remains been on repeat on my iPod for the past couple of months, to the almost total exclusion of anything else.

Oh, and “your faith would be the spade with which you dig your own grave” has to be one of the best lyrics ever.

In an age where proper songwriting is a dying art, Hell hark back to a time when songs were written which even managed to be educational. Now like many a metalhead of a certain generation I was first introduced to Elisabeth Bathory by Venom, learned who Aleister Crowley was thanks to Ozzy Osbourne, know where Alexander The Great died thanks to Maiden and the fact I can tell you where and at what time Kennedy was shot is down to Saxon. Surely no genre was more educational ?

So, what did Hell teach us then ? Well I now know the black death hit London in 1665 and the great fire was in 1666. So there you go. I also know more about Macbeth than I ever thought I’d want to 🙂

Music is always a subjective thing, and everyone’s opinion will vary but for me not only is Human Remains the best thing I have heard in the past 12 months, it may just be the best British heavy metal album this century. The fates may have conspired against Hell first time around, but if there is any justice then the second decade of the 21st century will be theirs.