20 Apr 2018

Robespierre: "Garden of Hell"

Where's the excitement?
Ancient, overlooked gems of pristine heavy metal is worth more than any measure of gold, and when stories like that of UK's Hell, who returned after 20 years with the phenomenal debut album that never was, surface every so often, there's definitely something enticing about the whole rags-to-riches aspect of the mythos. Perhaps inspired by their success - and/or stories like theirs - Robespierre has been vomited forth from the bowels of the underworld with their first album since they started out back in 1983.

Robespierre's Garden of Hell compares best to Witchfinder General, Pagan Altar, Witchfynde, and similar artists in the part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal that leans closest to the doomy funerary dirges of precursors such as Black Sabbath. Fans of the grainy sound of vintage heavy metal should love this record, and to the credit of guitarist/vocalist David Cooke and drummer Gordon Logan - joined here by Roger Clegg on the bass - sound like they would have in the early 80s when they first began. Garden of Hell sounds a lot more like the actual 80s than the vast majority of regressionist retro-revival bands of today.

Noting the best aspects early on, Cooke's dry voice finds a favourable vessel on the wings of the oddly enticing choruses that hallmark each track. Likewise, the guitar solos he wrenches from the strings are world class; They're both memorable, well paced and masterfully performed with just the right amount of grit. These trademarks of Robespierre's sound, however, feel out of place among the remainder of the layers that make up Garden of Hell. The songs, while well written generally speaking, are so infuriatingly tediously performed, in no small part thanks to Cooke's own dull chord progressions and drummer Gordon Logan's lacklustre performance behind the kit.

"...Mare of Steel simply drags on in the same style."

Starting out with the most basic hard rock/metal riff possible - the classic up-tempo bluesy rock n roll two-tone - I half expected the first track to be a gag of sorts. Perhaps an old demo track from the band's humble beginnings in the early 80s, only for the album to explode into a flurry of epic, power-laden heavy metal. But where the opener, Punish Oppressors, disappoints, Mare of Steel simply drags on in the same style. At this point, Garden of Hell feels like the definition of underwhelming - A tedious mix of early punk chords, rock n roll-turned vintage metal riffs, and ill-fitting melodies.

For a band born from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, their music is much too basic. Bands like Angel Witch, Diamond Head, Witchfinder General and the like took the simplistic heaviness of their precursors and amped up the volume, turned up the speed, went overboard with occultism and evil, and added a decadent excessiveness to create the next big thing in heavy music. Most of these bands had their beginnings in the late 70s, and by 1983 I find it hard to see where a band like Robespierre would fit in, let alone in 2018. Their music is none of the things described above, and by the time when their music could've hit the shelves, Angel Witch, Court in the Act, Lightning to the Nations, Friends of Hell and several classic Iron Maiden records had already outperformed by several orders of magnitude what Robespierre put forth on Garden of Hell. Perhaps time should've buried this precious rock.


Released in 2018 by Shadow Kingdom Records


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