Hellbutcher – Hellbutcher (Metal Blade)

Hellbutcher is music for real headbangers”. You can’t really argue with Per Gustavsson – aka Hellbutcher – over that point. In assembling the successor to Nifelheim, the band he formed with his brother, Erik, in 1990, Gustavsson has turned the metal dial up to 11.

Just check out the video to the Sword Of Wrath, in which the frontman, confusingly brandishing an axe, is covered in more spikes than a particularly well-endowed porcupine. The Hellbutcher logo boasts both bat wings and an inverted cross, for fuck’s sake.  

Let’s face it, the skulleted co-founder of Nifelheim wasn’t going to, in his words, play “wimpy stuff”.

You would never have expected the Swede, after decades on extreme metal’s frontlines, to cover his Bathory and King Diamond posters with photos of Oli Sykes. Collabs with Ed Sheeran aren’t on the agenda either.    

But in returning to the fray, five years after the release of Nifelheim’s final EP, he nevertheless has a point to prove.

Gustavsson believes this band has the potential to surpass Nifelheim, claiming that the quintet have a “common goal” and that he’s filled with “tremendous inspiration”.

So the stage has been set.

Butchery at birth

These are still early days for Hellbutcher (the group). And eclipsing Nifelheim’s blackened legacy will take some doing.

However, with this debut, Gustavsson and co. have made a decent, gauntleted fist of it.

Spitting lighting bolts of devastating black thrash and weaving charred guitar melodies into a nightmarish demonscape, Hellbutcher sound like they’re up for the fight. Perdition is snappy, snarling and urgent, Violent Destruction – powered by Destructor’s inhuman drumming – is total sonic annihilation, Hordes of the Horned God swirls with spectacular, spectral fretwork and crackles with infernal energy. It’s exhilarating and electrifying, and feels like mainlining molten iron. The musicianship certainly matches Gustavsson’s lofty ambitions.

Hellbutcher aren’t completely one dimensional either. Contrast the low slung, Venom meets Motörhead, gutter filth of Death’s Rider with Inferno’s Rage, a song written by guitarist Necrophiliac that gives BM cultists Watain a serious run for their money. Their roots are in different eras, but both songs sit comfortably under the Hellbutcher banner. Like the rest of this record, they’re part of a thrillride which if anything, is over a little too soon.

Hell awaits

If Gustavsson wanted a strong start to his post-Nifelheim career, he needed to make a statement. He needed to ensure his bandmates delivered the goods. And he needed songs that would turn the heads of a new generation of metalheads, those wearing Hellripper t-shirts and Midnight patches. It would be no mean feat, even for a guy with his pedigree. But with this beast of an album, he’s done it.