Hellripper – Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags (Peaceville)
Built a massive underground following, DIY-style? Check.
Signed to a revered extreme metal label? Tick.
Written a song called Nunfucking Armageddon 666? Of course.
Made goat-themed retro shorts a fashion essential? Done.
So where did Hellripper’s James McBain go from there?
Where was there to go?
Well, he sat down in the Scottish Highlands and wrote one of the finest speed/black thrash/metal punk/whatever records you’ll hear this year.
Or maybe ever.
And if 2020’s The Affair Of The Poisons propelled McBain onto festival bills, Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags should see the ‘ripper clan conquer those headline slots.
On Hellripper’s third album, the multi-instrumentalist has stretched himself, both as a guitarist and a songwriter.
The progression has seemed organic, as he’s journeyed from The Manifestation Of Evil EP, across debut album Coagulating Darkness, and through numerous splits.
Even so, the eight minute plus Mester Stoor Worm – a song akin to Satyricon’s Mother North or Watain’s Waters Of Ain in its majesty – will startle some fans. It’s a long way from Black Mass Sacrifice, Total Mayhem and the other bursts of Motörvenom from McBain’s past. But it’s a firestorm of a tune. And it boasts the thrilling riffs, jaw-dropping tempo shifts and scintillating flourishes that many a veteran act would kill for.
Indeed, that’s a common theme throughout Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags.
McBain in an alchemist. He transmutes Bay Area thrash, Swedish black metal and the works of Lemmy, Cronos and Algy into something glorious, hopelessly addictive and uniquely his.
Other bands might mix those styles, crank out some decent tunes and work their way around the squats and dive bars. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
But McBain has the magic touch.
Heavy metal is bonded to the guy’s DNA.
Hellripper’s music is soaked in it.
Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags keeps the blood pumping…
For all Hellripper’s ambition, Warlocks Grim… doesn’t completely break with the past.
McBain’s acidic rasp is ever present, this time bringing us tales of Orcadian demons and cave-dwelling cannibals. The untameable spirit of rock ‘n’ roll blazes out of Goat Vomit Nightmare, just as it did in the Coagulating days.
But with incendiary songs such as The Cursed Carrion Crown, the Scot has let his talents fly free.
And heavy metal is a better place for it.
Photo by MM Photography.