Three members of New York City quartet Black Anvil used to play in the hardcore band Kill Your Idols Hell. When they left in 2007 to form Black Anvil, they quickly developed a sound that merged their hunger for noise with their growing love for black metal. They quickly became torchbearers of a sound that attacked as much with thuggish torrents of attitude as they did with gales of hellfire, and with their third release, Hail Death, they haven’t just raised the bar, they’ve blown it to pieces, doubling the lengths of their songs and incorporating previously unexplored elements into their sound.
Many extreme bands have capably merged black metal, death metal, thrash and hardcore, but the results have rarely been this jaw-dropping. Hail Death isn’t merely eclectic, it’s epic — a coherent assemblage of songs that provide unanticipated rewards around every corner. “Still Reborn” opens the album with classical acoustic guitar that sounds like Master of Puppets-era Metallica before a crunching thrash riff takes over and blackened filth starts to infect: shrieking vocals, minor-key guitar and blast beats. At the same time, Black Anvil are open to anything they like, which explains why they end the album with a melancholy cover of KISS’s “Under the Rose.”
Between the (bi)polar extremes is an immaculately crafted collection that incorporates whatever it takes to smoothly progress the band’s heterogeneous songs from one passage to the next. The album’s centerpiece, “Until the End” is, perhaps, Black Anvil at their finest, or at least their most mature. Driven by gloomy, undistorted arpeggios, scalpel slashes of Celtic Frost-style guitar, chanted harmonies, otherworldly leads and an off-time, almost-ethereal bass line, the band proves convincingly that the gap between King Crimson and Mayhem isn’t as far as many might have thought.