Principality of Hell
Fire & Brimstone

Amidst the always evolving and mutating landscape of modern metal there will always be room for retro minded bands that eschew the notion of breaking new ground and instead cast their blackened eyes back to the roots of any given genre to unleash their own fresh interpretation. Of course any band aping a particular sound or classic style from metal’s golden age treads a fine line between shameless mimicry and bringing a fresh edge to a timeless sound or formula. So many bands have fallen into the pitfalls of retro worship, sounding like dodgy rip-offs or derivative and uninspired clones.

Luckily for fans of bands in the vein of the excellent Midnight and Joel Grind’s solid Yellowgoat Sessions project, Principality of Hell’s heart is in the right place as they inject a dose of freshness and catchy songwriting into a thrashy old school black metal formula that channels the sizable influences of 80s-era Venom, Celtic Frost and Bathory. There’s certainly nothing profound or emotionally impactful about what Greece’s Principality of Hell offer throughout their debut album, the aptly titled Fire & Brimstone, but the seasoned trio of The Magus (Necromantia, Thou Art Lord), El (Soulskinner, Thou Art Lord) and Maelstorm (Ravencult, Thou Art Lord) deliver a thrashing old school black metal experience that rocks with youthful swagger and gritty attitude.

Keeping things relatively basic across the albums slightly stretched out 42-minute running time, Principality of Hell thrives off their shared passion for the style and the influences they proudly adorn upon their ragged sleeves.  Despite a relatively straightforward approach, the band’s knack for delivering potently catchy old school anthems and infectious riffs lovingly culled from the punkish roots of the first wave of black metal makes for a simple but engaging collection of raucously energetic, fist-pumping metal tunes. There’s a loose garage jam vibe emanating from the trio’s playing which doesn’t undermine their undoubtedly tight chops and chemistry.

Blazing a trail of scorched bones and leather from the galloping opening salvo of the infectious title track, Principality of Hell don’t fuck around with time wasting intros, jamming into top gear from the outset and maintaining a relentless pace.  Follow-up track “Codex Inferno” continues the strong start to the album, kicking off with a short but killer bass intro before launching into a triumphant blackened thrash riff and speedy tempo as The Magus’ decipherable raspy croaks slice through the mix.  For an album that lays down its intentions so transparently there’s a surprisingly well rounded dynamic range in the songwriting that breaks up the monotony that can easily settle into this throwback style of simplistic thrashing.  Sinister injections of melody, tasteful soloing and well placed tempo shifts breaks up the predominantly thrashy assault, lending the album greater depth and variety than expected.  The blazing hellfire of “We Ride at Night” brings a speedier more aggressive contemporary black metal element into their rawer sound, without sacrificing that old-school vibe.  In contrast the lively stomp of “Witches’ Coven” is reminiscent of a more evil sounding Motorhead spiced with blast beats, while the foreboding, dirge-like opening of “the 9th Seal” eventually explodes into a furious speedfest that doesn’t let up.

Fire & Brimstone’s solid production job befits their no-frills formula perfectly, delivering a clean bare bones punch to the instruments without dulling the trio’s rough edges. Despite the undeniable retro charm on display, there are a couple of quibbles to be had. With the majority of songs averaging over four minutes in length there are certainly a few tracks that could have been cut down for a punchier impact, while some of the riffs and melodies become a touch interchangeable at various points throughout the album.

Overall, Principality of Hell delivers an above average example of the style that looks affectionately backwards to the raw embryonic stages of old school black metal whilst trudging ahead into the here and now with solid results.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Luke Saunders
August 20th, 2014

Comments

  1. Commented by: gordeth

    Great writeup! There can never be too much of this style.


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