Lace up your combat boots.
Just five seconds into This is Hell’s Black Mass, you cannot sit still as vocalist Travis Reilly screams, “It burns like acid rain”(go ahead and try, but you won’t make it). It is so loud, so aggressive, and the necessity to thrash around is so high that one will welcome the crossover movement with open arms.
For a band that has mostly been known as hardcore, Reilly is growling on “Black History” like he’s Metallica’s James Hetfield. Actually, Reilly frequently has some beautifully sung one-liners like, “It’s time to settle the score/ Let the blood pour.” But a true masterpiece is “Salt the Earth,” where you’ve got to wonder why drummer Mike Sciulara’s hands aren’t bloody or haven’t fallen off yet. If that song doesn’t make you a convert to the crossover of metal and hardcore, there is nothing that will.
While “Black Mass” is the cohesive glue to this record, “The Wars: Part One” ushers back the Weight of the World era with several mini-breakdowns. Filling up every part of your speakers is “Mi Nombre,” where the lyrical content of this record is clear: “They laugh right in my face/ No justice, what a fucking disgrace/ I’ll know I’ll never be treated the same based on my name.” It’s a record about the battle between those who want justice in an unjust world. Rick Jimenez said in our interview, “I hope people, if they take anything from this record, I hope it’s the lyrics because I think we say a couple of things that are very important that could be eye-opening.” The artwork (as a reflection of the lyrics) is mentioned by the statues and snakes in the slowest (but that doesn’t say much)/Motörhead like-song, “The Last Outlaw.”
Let’s talk about “Demons” and “The Reckoning.” Pieter van den Berg’s bass and Jimenez’s guitar riffs can only be described as a unique blend of thrash, hardcore, and old-school metal that doesn’t have a comparison. Black Mass’ song order is so seamless that you must listen to it in its entirety; do not sample. It is not only the best record of This is Hell’s career, but one of the best metal/hardcore records produced in a long ass time.
When metal is a genre so steeped in the past, it’s hard to move forward. Face it: for a while, true true metal was dying off (or just dying of alcohol poisoning). On top of that you have label-ready-made Clear Channel bands, jaded arrogant hardcore straightedge dudes, and pop “metal” boys. It became a joke.
Nobody’s laughing. Where’s the spot for relentlessly hardworking bands? Metal has a new name to deal with: they are called This is Hell and they’re from New York. Black Mass makes you wonder why people say metal’s best days were the past: screw the heyday and play this as loud as possible.
Sung in the closer (“The Wars: Part Two”) is the line: “This is life and this is what we chose.” If this song was played live, it would become a full-scale riot. Like their soldiers we’ll chant the ending lines: “We pledge the cause/ We fight the wars.”