26 Aug 2016

Hobbs' Angel of Death: "Heaven Bled"

Hobbs' Angel of Death makes a return, but not so much a return to form
What year is it!? The Stranger Things series inspired by classic Spielberg and the like is a huge hit, while synthwave artists are spreading their neon glow all over the world, and Hobbs' Angel of Death - Australia's prodigal thrash metal son - has returned with the first album in over 20 years!

Though the relentless debut from 1988 is something of an underground gem, the self-titled album to this day holds quite a cult following, having allowed Peter Hobbs and his revolving-door company to play a few notable shows away from good ol' Down Under. While the original incarnation, like the name would suggest, does share a few traits with the Slayer albums of that time (and a whole bunch of traits with extreme thrash acts like Dark Angel!!), the same cannot be said for 2016's Heaven Bled.

"Some tremolos combined with blast beats are carried almost like a black metal band playing old thrash tunes,"

Heaven Bled is, indeed, something entirely different. Hobbs' past shines through in rock solid, rolling thrash riffs, but - as the man also said himself regarding the new album - it also sounds like he's trying to aim wider with his thrashing broadsides. Some tremolos combined with blast beats are carried almost like a black metal band playing old thrash tunes, and the overall straight forwardness of the album means it does sound rather far removed from what you would expect.

The ferocity of the debut is present, but in a different way. Heaven Bled isn't particularly varied, and while the guitar leads go right for the throat, the constant switch between machinegun drumming and blast beats set to fast tremolo rhythm guitars gets stale over the course of the hour that the 12 tracks take up. Only a few times does Hobbs and his henchmen leave their comfort zone for something a bit more daunting, and definitely for the better! Depopulation, one of the album's later songs, starts out slow and churning before erupting like a volcano of riffs, and it is all the better for it, making it one of the album's absolute high points.

Heaven Bled leaves some variety and zeal to be desired, especially when held up against the now-classic debut. But it doesn't feel forced - Even 20 years on after the last album! The axeman ages with more grace than most of his thrash metal contemporaries, and he could have most definitely just called it a day some twenty years ago with no shame. It is, at the very least, much better than what Metallica recently regurgitated from their dried up inspiration-glands.


Released in 2016 by Hells Headbangers Records (USA) and High Roller Records (EU)


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