Rather than hopping on the pizza-thrash bandwagon beside bands like Havok, Municipal Waste, and Warbringer, Deathhammer is currently making a name for themselves via pure musicianship, instrumental skill, and by pushing their numerous strengths. For only being a two-man band from such an isolated region as Norway, the group’s wide presence within the current metal sphere comes as a result of pure effort and hard work, and their newest full-length certainly does not deviate from this citation.
Mentioned in the blurb above is a highly-cheesy remark regarding general comments of “hard work” and “pushing their numerous strengths”. While my driven mind as a writer irks me to come up with at least seemingly-not half-assed synonyms for such past content, the vibe of my opened discussion emanates Deathhammer themselves, as they are cheesy and general as well, on purpose. Such has been hinted at within minor strays of direction within their past work, but the duo has clearly turned their cheesy commentary all the way up with Chained to Hell, and such is evident even at surface level with their album title.
While perhaps indistinguishable from contemporary names like “Inferno Deathpassion” or “Malefic Humiliation”, Chained to Hell is clearly a satirical comment on the lack of title innovation from current metal acts. Other than picking another word out of the medical dictionary, or finding another synonym for mutilation, we tend to see forgettable and predictable titles when looking through our favourite metal websites on release day. Although adding to this collection, Deathhammer’s addition serves to mock those caught within such a bubble. While the album title alone wouldn’t warrant such a comment on its own, there are a number of evident facts displayed throughout Chained to Hell that backup my claim.
Alongside the nonsensical album title, the very important album art is foolish, generic in content, and best of all, absolutely legendary. The pixelated mess pushed between the oh-so-popular Old English font (popularized by Bathory’s logo and subsequently beaten to death) puts the proverbial nail in the occupied coffin for Deathhammer’s statement. Furthermore, the various track titles poke fun at common metal subject matter.
The album opener “Rabid Maniac Force” is clearly an homage to the common metal song archetype which serves as an anthem that denotes fans to be some sort of edged brotherhood. Metallica’s “Metal Militia”, Exodus’ “Toxic Waltz”, and many more offend this popularity of writing fan anthems. While Deathhammer isn’t necessarily making fun of anthems themselves, as those songs are loved by many and offer fans a sense of identity, the group is more-so prodding at the current state of metal releases which still entertain songs such as the ones written above. Furthermore, “Into the Burning Pentagram” is clearly a satirical commentary of traditional metal themes such as an individual’s immolation in hell or the sacred worship of Satan.
The album’s attempt to make fun of metal’s stereotypes is not its only redeemable factor, however. Vocalist/bassist Daniel Salsten unleashes another absolutely astonishing vocal performance on this record, proving that he is still one of the most diverse and unique vocalists of all time. Not only does his standard raspy black/thrash style prove to be one of the best, he has this iconic ability to change the pitch and intensity of his various screams and cries at will. All throughout this album you hear the man dominate a wide vocal range which is undoubtedly the highlight of the release. Although his unique style is nothing new, you can’t help but be blown away following a listen. While prominent throughout Chained to Hell, such is increasingly evident during “Black Speed Inferno”, especially during the song’s chorus.
On an instrumental note, the music on this album is also top-notch. Sounding to the likes of Dark Angel and Morbid Saint in terms of speed and intensity, Deathhammer unleash a full-frontal assault that emphasizes lean edged riffage played over steady drum beats. One of the standout qualities of the album’s production actually lies behind the main drum sound, which plays to the ear more prominently than everything else and the widespread general production (not a bad thing!). You can frequently hear the backing drum sound as the main snare resonates more fully than on most albums. Such sounds off at first in comparison to the rest of the mix, but following a few listens I came to enjoy the production choice as it added a little flavour to Deathhammer’s established sound.
My one and only complaint lies behind the record’s length. Although “Evil” slows down during its second half and breaks down into a crawling yet catchy sing-able guitar anthem which closes the release off nicely, I couldn’t help but feel as if Chained to Hell could have benefitted from the addition of one or two more tracks. However, judging by the satirical and nonsensical nature of the release, perhaps the group felt that a more traditional runtime wouldn’t play as nicely with the less-serious vibe they put out.
While this album stands firmly alongside their entire discography, if you’re new to the band and you’re looking for an album to listen to, I’d recommend any of their past three full-lengths (my favourite is 2015’s Evil Power). Chained to Hell serves more as a humorous yet enjoyable listen for established fans of the band. I thoroughly enjoyed this release, especially since I’m knowledgeable within the scene and thus can appreciate its satirical content. Chained to Hell also isn’t just a novelty, as the musicianship displayed maintains the quality of their past releases.
Buy the album from Hell’s Headbangers!