HELL FIRE - Mania

April 5, 2019, 14 days ago

(Riding Easy)

Mark Gromen

Rating: 8.0

review heavy metal hard rock hell fire

HELL FIRE - Mania

Heard the debut too late to qualify for my Best Of 2016 list, so now comes the third ride from the SF Bay Area outfit who meld NWOBHM sensibilities to the musical legacy of their hometown. Take, for example, the opening “Born To Burn” which begins with heads down, gargle throated thrash, but the mid-section offers a tasty/subtle (reduced aggro) guitar break. Then “Isolator” kicks off with the rumble of bass and early-‘80s Euro guitars: no hints of thrash intensity, although blistering twin leads, come the break. Structurally/sonically (vocals atop restrained guitar, gradually building to crescendo) “Knights Of The Holy” recalls an Iced Earth outtake, with a nod to Iron Maiden (which is sort of redundant, just look at Schaffer's choice of lettering for his moniker!). 

As the name implies, “Lashing Out” jumps back on the bullet train, full speed ahead, for just 3:18. The title track,  tied for longest with two others (all clocking in at precisely 5:51, how's that?) has a little bit of everything, from Sabbathy sludge opening to high pitched vocals, six-strings inhabiting both a thrashy and lock-step, twin lead precision. Good stuff! It takes a little while for “Masochist” to get up to speed, literally: aimlessly wandering during the initial half, it's blazing riffs to the end. Big gang choruses for “On The Loose”, essentially a rollicking, sing-along 70s guitar workout. Staccato begun “The Dreamer” has more to do with later ‘70s Britain than early-‘80s Frisco, almost a blues jam. Creating an epic, “Transcending Evil” sees acoustic guitar introduce actual singing from Jake Nunn. A great song, the masterpiece herein. Screaming/blazing “Warpath” finale is a fitting parting blast, leaving the listener with a good feeling, walking away from the disc. Not purely for the burgeoning neo-traditionalist, nor the out-and-out thrash fan. Hopefully this “tweener” will find a home in the collections of both camps.


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