Hellman
Born, Suffering, Death

I gotta say, so far I have not been real impressed with 2024. I started the year with a real good case of covid (I’m still not 100%), the Buffalo Bills simultaneously found new, creative ways to break my heart AND  dig in to the “Best of” drawer of misery by once again kicking wide-right (if you’re unfamiliar with American football or sports in general, I apologize, but also you’re probably a much healthier person than I), and just last week found out my car is gonna need a new transmission. And Apollo Creed is dead. So no, not a great start!

HOWEVER, music so far this year really is doing everything is can to keep a smile on my face. Aside from the genuinely fantastic albums I’ve already reviewed from this year, it seems like every day I’ve checked in to see what my colleagues at Teeth of the Divine have been listening to, and been greeted with banger after banger to add to my rotation. And it’s not just that the albums have been of high quality, they’ve also been, dare I say, FUN – albums you can appreciate not just for their artistic merit, but for bringing a genuine sense of joy and energy that has been severely needed in my life. To that end, and despite the bleak outlook of this album’s title – Born, Suffering, Death from Chile’s Hellman is practically Gorilla gluing a big, dumb grin on my face. This album is a goddamn blast.

I say all this knowing that, to a fairly wide audience, Hellman‘s brand of punky, shameless Wolverine Blues-worshipping Death ‘n Roll ain’t gonna hit with everybody, and that’s fine… but I just don’t care. For those of you out there like me who think back fondly on that sort of swaggering, endlessly upbeat sound of Sweden in the mid 90s, get the hell on board and lets rage. Led by renowned producer, engineer and international booking agent Filipe Ferrada on bass and vocals, he’s serving up a seriously authentic performance along with Pedro (drums) and Sabastian Puente (guitar), Hellman is to Wolverine Blues Entombed what Gruesome is to Death, or Warmarshal to Bolt Thrower – essentially tribute acts that happen to write their own material (this album even features a cover of the Entombed classic, ” Out of Hand”). So if that’s not your bag, I guess go ahead and just stop reading now cuz that pretty much sums up what you’re getting out of this.

Like Wolverine Blues, “The 4th Power” gets Born, Suffering, Death off to a super fast start, opting for a more straight-up thrashy death attack right up until the bridge kicks in closer to the 3 minute mark when the album’s true colors really start to seep through. Still, it all seems straightforward enough until “Desktop Activist” kicks the “n’ roll” party off proper, with a super simple, upbeat riff that certainly has the potency to kickstart a good circle pit in short order, riding the link between punk simplicity and death metal aggression beautifully. It’s a no-frills barn burner that does its damage through pure, unbridled tenacity – a palpable energy that mainlines its way from your ears to your bloodstream until you’re hopelessly hooked.

Speaking of circle pits, the appropriately named “The Cycle” is practically purpose-built for putting any crowd into a human maelstrom, diving headlong into neck-snapping paces before scaling back to a super fun 2-stepping bridge that should play well in any live setting. Similar quick-hitters like “Unnecessary Consuming” and “Sacrifice Zone” display a confident self-awareness, putting no-nonsense punk aesthetics at the forefront to get in, pack a punch, and get out before anyone has time to grow bored with it (not that they necessary would, given this level of energy).

In fact, the band seem at their best when at their most urgent – with longer tracks like “Silent Genocide” and “Where Was God” seeming to linger longer than truly necessary, particularly on the former when the band breaks into an extended doom break that just feels a bit out-of-place and brings the frenetic energy of the album down to a crawl. That said, the D-Beat drumming and speedier riffing on the tail of the track saves it from being a complete throwaway – I just wish they’d gotten to the point sooner.

This isn’t to say the band only hits when it’s at maximum speed – “A Waste of Human Being” plays like a mutant hybrid of groovy, Chaos A.D. era Sepultura (Ferrada’s vocals could certainly be mistaken for Max Cavalera’s distinct bark on several occasions) and early 90’s Unleashed, creating the sort of international concoction you’d expect to find at a fusion joint slinging Bahn Mi tacos. Sounds just as weird on paper but in practice, it actually works really well. The mid-paced “Bringer of Death” may be down on tempo, but certainly does not lack vibrance, led by more of  Sabastian Puede’s apparent knack for a good, simple punk/death n’ roll riff. I know to some metal fans it’s a bit of a foreign concept, but it’s just dang fun! It should also be noted that the band pulls off a great cover with “Out of Hand,” staying true and capturing the rumbling, raucous vibes of the original, albeit with a cleaner, non-chainsaw-drenched guitar tone (I know some purists will probably say there needs to be more buzz, but Hellman seems to be doing just fine doing it their own way).

Born, Suffering, Death ain’t pushing the needle or setting the world on fire, but if you’re a fan of this particular sound, you won’t find a much better modern example than what Hellman has thrown down here – and that’s more than enough to get a big ol’ thumbs up from me. Quick, to-the-point, and thoroughly satisfying, and absolutely worth the brief commitment asked to check it out in full.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
February 14th, 2024

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