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Hell – Human Remains: Review

On (Friday) May 13, a band arose from the ashes after being dead for almost thirty years! And although coming out of retirement is always iffy, in this case it is as impressive as the time the band took to do so. In fact, if someone had told me that this album has thirty years of work put into it, I sure as Hell would believe them. The band is Hell and the album is Human Remains (Nuclear Blast Records), and it is a killer comeback!

The Music (rating: A+)

  1. Overture Themes from Deathsquad
  2. On Earth as It is in Hell
  3. Plague and Fyre
  4. The Oppressors
  5. Blasphemy and the Master
  6. Let Battle Commence
  7. The Devil’s Deadly Weapon
  8. The Quest
  9. Macbeth
  10. Save Us from Those who Would Save Us
  11. No Martyr’s Cage

Human Remains has a distinct heavy metal style with noticeable influences from genres such as power metal and NWOBHM, especially with the power and harmonizing of dual guitars. Many have said that the sound, particularly referring to the vocalist, shows resemblance to Mercyful Fate. I, having only listened to the odd Mercyful Fate song, am unable to confirm this. The vocals are harsh, highly eccentric, and vast in range. There are heavy instrumentals with a large tempo range as well as many softer musical breakdowns. Also, there are some keyboard parts and symphonic touches, but not to the extent boisterously utilized in symphonic metal. And the album as a whole, thematically revolving around hell and the devil and such, is interlaced with creepy narrative segues that most certainly add to the darkness of the record’s atmosphere.

There are so many wonderful things to say about Human Remains. Starting with the most obvious: the vocalist is mind-blowing! After listening to this album, I did some internet searching to see how many others agree and it seems basically unanimous. His energy, uniqueness, phrasing, tone, intonation, range, power, etc… Everything is beyond stellar. I may be getting ahead of myself, but it may very well be the vocal performance of the year.

Moving onto the less upfront greatness of Human Remains, it should be noted that although less openly acclaimed, these aspects are equally respectable to the vocals. The guitar riffs are absolutely amazing. Not only are they hard-hitting and instantly loveable, they also are excellent in transition and in creating memorable moments. The solos are also great and not at all overwhelming (as is the case with a lot of heavy metal). And with the bass, there are not a lot of spotlight grooves. But when they come out, they are dangerous and destructive (one of them being on “No Martyr’s Cage”). The drums are too mostly supportive, but give great variation and are extremely well worked with transitioning. Although the keyboards are not as dominant a presence in this album, they are given moments in the spotlight; they definitely capitalize on these. They are never too technical, but they do standout when they are meant to with their beautiful melodies.

And on the even more subtle side of things, it should be made clear how tight and polished the production is. The sound balancing is excellent and all the instruments sound spectacular. The use of strings and choirs and horns, though rare and subtle, is perfect. Song and section sequencing are also more than commendable. Everything in the album flows flawlessly due to both the stellar songwriting and the fine production quality.

All in all, it is impossible to find any significant faults with Human Remains (if any at all). Everything simply works! The production, the songwriting, the instrumentals, the natural flow… it’s all perfect. It is a true miracle that after almost 30 years, a band can come together and put forth what is basically a masterpiece. Well done, Hell!

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