Album Review :: This is Hell – Black Mass

Hell hath no fury like Thrash metal hardocirts!

Started in 2004, thrash metal and hardcore crossover artists This is Hell produce their latest album, 2011’s Black Mass. With a growing fan base across the globe and steady, if somewhat frustratingly stagnant rise in popularity, the question has to be asked, is there still room for this genre of music in the modern market or is it simply an overbearing, loud, throwback to decades gone by.

This is Hell are a Long Island, NY based band who are stretching their burning, hell infused, black nail polished fingers across the states and globally having played gigs in the US and Canada as recently as October of this year. With a refreshingly upbeat and enthusiastic attitude, something that can sadly be a amiss in artists following this genre of music, the work ethic and effort of This is Hell can not be questioned.

The album itself, Black Mass, released via Rise Records, is the first since 2010’s Past Present is as furious and ear drum blasting as could ever be expected from a band and album title such as this. With competent guitar work from Rick Jiminez and his accompanying percussion section of Pieter van den Berg on bass and Mike Sciulara, the musical composition on tracks such as “Acid Rain”, “Black History” and the less than creative, every cliché in the book thrown in at once if that’s at all possible titles “Black Mass,” are fine examples of the musicians at their best. Vocals by Travis Reilly again are more than competent and is more than in keeping with the traditions of the past thrash masters of old, from James Hetfield to Joey Belladonna.

But there is something amiss as an overall sound. It is perhaps not fair to lay the blame at the foot of This is Hell as they are merely the catalyst for this thought provocation. There is something distinctly old fashioned and out of date about this type of music. Where as at the beginning of the 21st century, when Nu Metal was at its peak, Green Day were on the cusp of selling out and it seemed like every youth the country over was skateboarding, wearing baggy jeans and Nirvana hoodies, as sad as it is to admit for certain circles of society, those days are long gone now.

And with their departure it seems that the market has vanished too. This of course is no great surprise, in the music industry, demand and popularity translate into pounds and dollars easier than “et tu Brute?” It is a results driven industry and it would seem that Thrash metal, hardcore crossover bands have missed the boat by about ten years.
This is not to say that there is not a scene available for those who are just coming into this music or those who remember the glory days and wish to relive their youth. There are plenty of bands, This is Hell being one of them, who still produce good music, albeit aimed at such a tight, close knit market it hardly seems to register on any big scale, even in the seemingly tireless world of endless social media. Is it fair that a band such as This is Hell have just over 12,000 likes on Facebook when “Saying ‘okay’ a million times just to get you parents to stop talking” has more than ten times that many. Maybe or maybe not but it is still the reality.
It would seem now that in the advent of pop music’s domination, bedroom DJs and producers, Thrash metal and all of its subsidiaries have been left behind in the dark, cold, 2000s with only their lengthening, greying hair and sharp edged guitars for company. But with a little enthusiasm and dedication to their cause, success and its varying degrees can still be found for bands like This is Hell and their kin.
Jonathan Whitelaw

Check out This is Hell’s MySpace page for details of their upcoming 2012 UK tour.

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