My biggest gripe in music today is the lack of emotion. Emotion can mean different things to different people but for me it is that moment, where minutes into a song, you get that spine-tingling sensation, shivers and then the goose bumps… Emotion can translate into a number of feelings be it anger, love, fear, or in the case of FROM HELL, sheer terror.
Within the first 30 seconds of ‘Standing At The Mouth of Hell’ you really do get the feeling that you are truly standing at the mouth of hell itself. The intensity, chaos, the snarls; you can almost smell brimstone and ash whilst flames engulf your screaming body. That’s certainly not an emotion that’s easy to convey but trust me when I tell you, FROM HELL do it, and boy, do they do it well!
So what differentiates a group that’s able to convey emotion so succinctly?
Well, cue in George Anderson. Anderson had a successful stint as the frontman of Down Factor, a California-based band with a strong socio-political message. He soon grew tired of the ideologies the band was portraying and wanted to seek alternative sources of creativity. And so he came up with the concept of FROM HELL.
FROM HELL means a lot of things for Anderson. It’s a homage to his all time hero King Diamond, a nod towards the likes of Aleister Crowley, while at the same time he also credits an old black and white version of the movie ‘A Christmas Carol’ as his inspiration. In this version, Ebenezer Scrooge who was portrayed by actor Aleister Sims. A quick play on words and Aleister Sinn was born, Anderson’s alter-ego and the narrator of this dark and broody tale.
Aleister Sinn is not the only character of this story. Anderson, having mustered some trusted and experienced (to say the least) talent from reputed sources, has a force to be reckoned with; Paul Bostaph on drums (Slayer, Forbidden, Exodus, Systematic, and Testament), Steve Smyth on guitar (Forbidden, One Machine, The Esseness Project, Nevermore, Testament, Dragonlord, Vicious Rumors, Ariah) and by no means least, Damien Sisson on bass (Death Angel). This is by its own virtue a supergroup, an all-star cast that cannot be easily dismissed.
So what is the story behind ‘Ascent From Hell’?
It is a horror concept album which was originally titled “Eyes Of My Dead”. It tells the story of a corpse which wakes up in hell and needs to find its way back to earth in order to reclaim its soul, which (rather inconveniently) is in another body. It was later, and rather appropriately so if you ask me, that the band renamed it “Ascent From Hell” to fit in with the overall theme.
At 70 minutes long this is by no means a short album, with the average song ranging at 6.5 minutes and some up to 10 minutes in duration. Did I at any point get the feeling that the album was stagnating? To be honest at an average of 6.5 minutes I was expecting it to be, but just when you think things are sounding a little stale, bang!, a riff, a break, a bass/drum solo, reminds you that this is anything but a predictable journey as our corpse battles it’s way out of hell.
What I like about FROM HELL is that they refuse to be type-casted. This album is all over the place stylistically with echoes of trash, death, doom and black metal all thrown into the mix. Even the vocal delivery changes from time to time. During the ‘The Walking Dead’, Anderson sounds almost Jeff Walker-like while in ‘Nuns with Guns’ there’s more than a few Rob Zombie undertones. And that’s not a bad thing in my opinion. Too often I’ve seen bands try to do too much; they showcase what they can and try to cram as much into 60 minutes as humanly possible as a measure of diversification. It’s a risky strategy and has been known to fail miserably. But FROM HELL really do pull it off. It’s almost as though the album takes you on an evil journey and like any good story there are twists, turns and a few pleasant surprises for good measure. It is for this reason that I thoroughly recommend you enjoy this album from beginning to end. Each song has a way of linking into the next; clearly a lot of thought has gone into the sequencing of the album. Moreover, the album in its theatrical release comes complete with segues in between each song, providing the listener with additional details to this horror story.
Yes, But Is it any good?
Absolutely! Many supergroups have tried and failed with their first release. For a debut, FROM HELL have certainly captured my imagination and tapped deep into my head banging subconscious. Have they raised the bar too high for a debut…? I guess we’ll have to wait for the next chapter to decide, but I have a good feeling about these guys.
‘Ascent From Hell’ is expected to be released physically and digitally worldwide on April 8th, 2014
Ahead of the album’s release here’s the title track ‘Ascent From Hell’, enjoy!