Music Review: From Hell, Ascent from Hell

Published on April 11th, 2014 in: Current Faves, Music, Music Reviews, Reviews |

By Jeffery X Martin


There was a time, not too long ago, when rock and roll was the Devil’s music. Heavy metal was Lucifer’s tool of destruction and damnation, and if you even touched a Hamer Scarab electric guitar, that was enough to send your soul screaming out of your body into the abyss, where demons would torture your eternal soul with free-form jazz and Zydeco gospel music.

Those were the halcyon days. Black magic and pentacles, hailing Satan on a regular basis (not just on holidays, like we do now), and rock loud enough to cause internal bleeding were normal things. Good times, man, good times.

Thank god for From Hell, a metal supergroup, bound and determined to bring horror-metal back to the forefront. Name-checking the immortal King Diamond, From Hell’s debut album, Ascent From Hell, is part metal album, part radio play. It’s a concept album about . . . well, here. Let me just quote the press release.

A corpse wakes up in Hell and finds out he cannot rest and must return to the land of the living to find his soul that still lives on inside the body of a priest and drag it back to Hell. When the moon turns red, you must walk with The Walking Dead.”

Tommy, it ain’t.

The story doesn’t work quite as well as one would like, simply because there’s only one singer. This is a story with six characters and one man, George Anderson, providing the voice. To the project’s credit, there are interstitial moments, spoken segues that help to move the tale along. However, without a lyric sheet, it’s difficult to tell who is telling which part of the story and at what time.

The story itself is fairly well trodden stuff, too, which leads to some awkwardly amateurish lyrics. “There is pain/And now it rains/What’s become of me?/I’m insane!” It’s an unexpectedly My Fair Lady moment, for an album about the glory and terror of Hell, and it’s not the only one.

Ascent From Hell never gets as joyfully weird as a King Diamond album, but Diamond’s stuff went flying off the rails more often than not. It may be a predictable plotline, but no one has ever told that story like this before, as a veritable metal opera, and From Hell deserves kudos for that.

Musically, this is one solid record. Anderson screams and sings with equal gusto as he barrels through the tale of ghostly vengeance. Paul Bostaph, current drummer for Slayer, is a beast on the drums. Steve Smyth shreds appropriately on the guitar and Damien Sisson keeps everything grounded with some fine bass work. These are all excellent, seasoned musicians, and we should expect fine work from them. They do not disappoint.

Three songs on Ascent From Hell come close to hitting the ten-minute mark, and it’s obvious that the band was aiming for epic scope and grand execution. Songs like “Nun with a Gun” and “Eyes of My Dead” come the closest to fulfilling that vision, and give the listener a glimpse of what From Hell could achieve next time out.

It’s about time we got some great metal concept albums again. The two ideas are perfect for each other. From Hell is the band to do it, too. There’s enough talent among these guys to burn the roof off of a Baptist convention. Ascent From Hell isn’t great, but it is good. Damned good.

Ascent From Hell was released on April 8 from Scourge Records.

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