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Hellripper - Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags review

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Band: Hellripper
Album: Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags
Style: Blackened speed metal
Release date: February 2023

01. The Nuckelavee
02. I, The Deceiver
03. Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags
04. Goat Vomit Nightmare
05. The Cursed Carrion Crown
06. The Hissing Marshes
07. Poison Womb (The Curse Of The Witch)
08. Mester Stoor Worm

Raising hell. 

There is something blackened speed metal bands seem to have in common beyond their love of fast tempos and satanic themes, namely that they are often one-man bands; Hellripper is no different in this regard, with James McBain being the sole member here. Hellripper has been raising hell for nearly a decade now, going from strength to strength with each successive release. The third full release, Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags (an apt description for Glasgow City Centre on a Sunday morning), is the strongest effort to date, and a powerful way to see off a decade while also putting a strong case forward for the next one being an even more successful one. 

Blackened speed metal is often viewed as a musical cul-de-sac by some, a one-way street where the traffic moves at warp speed and fans live solely for the whiplash effect as songs fly past. Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags does have plenty of these moments for sure, but it ensures this is not the only direction of travel here with equally as impactful changes in direction across the album. From the bagpipes on the title track to the epic and shifting closer "Mester Stoor Worm", Warlocks Grim And Withered Hags isn't the one-trick pony you may initially assume. 

Perhaps the most powerful song is the title track, the mid-tempo track and riffs standing out in contrast with the rest of the album, making it more impactful as a result; the long outro with bagpipes ensure it will stick in your mind for weeks to come. "Goat Vomit Nightmare" is not only interesting for Freudian reasons, but for the sheer energy and guitar work that is put into the song; it's not solely Satan on speed (Methistopheles?), and that makes it so much more enjoyable as a result. 

Hellripper still wears his influences on his sleeve, with the music being all the better for it as a result. The little nod to "Angel Of Death" on "The Cursed Carrion Crown" (a track that somehow manages to find another gear when already riding the limit is awe-inspiring) is a bonus Easter Egg for metalheads that just adds to the listening experience. However, there is more than the usual Motörhead and Venom that is typical of the genre, with nods to other bands scattered across the album. McBain is an accomplished musician for sure; while the best work here is on the guitar ("I, The Deciver"), he is no slouch on the bass or the drums, being a dab hand at all that he puts his hands to. 

Finding a negative on Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags devolves into nitpicking rather than pointing out the obvious, as the album really doesn't have any real shortcomings that you could gesture at. It would add yet another layer to proceedings if the drums lent into the groove more often than they do, with "Mester Stoor Worm" being one of the few extended periods on the album; it's not something the album does wrong, just something that would have been a good inclusion. 

While I often find blackened speed metal albums often sit in an enjoyable, if not amazing, pocket of quality, Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags is the first in a while that has smashed expectations, doing so with such brazen self-confidence. Hellripper will hopefully find another level of fame and accomplishment on the back of this album; if he doesn't then something has clearly gone wrong in the metal world. The best compliment I can give the album? The last time I felt so confident and excited about a young artist was after I had listened to Nightmare Logic by Power Trip.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 6
Production: 9

Written on 25.02.2023 by Just because I don't care doesn't mean I'm not listening.


Comments: 3   Visited by: 176 users
25.02.2023 - 11:56
I'm glad I wasn't sensationalising this in my own head or failing to recognise a grandiose euphoria haha this shot to #1 for my 2023 toplist last week n it's only slipped to #2 since. first time for a speed metal band in my top 10, let alone 1st place!
No one can fend off 100 multi-colored Draculas
26.02.2023 - 11:57
Rating: 10
"he is no slouch on the bass or the drums, being a dab hand at all that he puts his hands to."
He's always used a drum machine in the past so I'm not sure if these are recorded drums either.

I still can't get enough of this awesome release. It's getting better with each spin as well. I'd already given it a 10 so think it deserves at 12 or 13 now.
08.05.2023 - 09:35
Rating: 8
Really great lyrical content as well. The man can actually write.
Leeches everywhere.

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