There’s a thing that happens when you hear an album that strikes hard and fast on the first spin. But even better is when somewhere along the double digit spin it still does the same. This is precisely what Hellkeeper‘s savage debut World Within Flesh has done and continues to do no matter the playcount. Blackened hardcore is indeed just a tag or identifier but this time out it actually nails the sound and attitude of this debut. It’s caustic, vitriolic, loud and in your face with barely a minutes rest to collect yourself throughout its half hour runtime but this is generally why we listen in the first place and Hellkeeper make it easy to return.
What was mentioned earlier about an album hitting you in the sweet spot is something that their two previous EP’s shared. The way “Divinity” teased noise rock but “Architect” went full on grindcore made Dead City an easy and fast favorite. The same can be said of the blast zone sound in “I Hear Death Calling” and the somewhat soothing groove of “Dirt Nap” from I Hear Death Calling. So there’s two quick hitting slam dunks and finally here we are with their debut and it’s the best amalgamation of the band’s many styles wrapped up tight and neat in nine tracks.
The album itself is based on the need to live in a dream world because reality is just too painful to deal with — very much a product of current times. And honestly if history tells us anything about how music follows current events then we are in for some of the most hateful music ever. And with the grinding hardcore stomp of “Henbane” this particular band is on the leading edge of this round in time. Opener “Obscure” teases with a slow dredge but quickly explodes just like Kowalski did when he made the ultimate sacrifice in Vanishing Point.
As if the grinding velocity isn’t enough, “Cycle” gives up another reason this album is so hard to put down: d-beat with a rollicking groove. Even likeminded bands such as Trap Them and Cursed know there’s got to be something to grab onto besides just violence for an entire album and Hellkeeper do it with style and grace here. Follow up track “Threadbare” may throw you a bit on first blush but stay with me here. Who knew Paul Butler could freaking sing? His clean vocals work surprisingly well particularly when revisiting the depressive theme of wanting to regress into an altered state. This vocal choice perfectly conveys the layers of despair and anguish needed to amplify the emotional content, listen for yourself here.
It seems there’s a new band cropping up daily taking on this particular branch of the more extreme side of metal but on World Within Flesh Hellkeeper not only separate themselves from the pack but show us just how multifaceted and flexible they are. This is an excellent debut by a band that sounds like they’ve been at it for ages. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up on release day — trust that it will satisfy so many of your metal itches and will quickly become an album you can’t live without.