Although the band Hell were formed back in 1982 during the time of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Humans Remains, which was released in 2011, stands as the group’s first full-length album. Back in the 80’s Hell never really got the break they needed and split up in 1987, and after that their singer/guitarist Dave G. Halliday sadly took his own life. Thanks to Hell fan and Sabbat guitarist Andy Sneap Hell is back with a new line-up and after all these years their debut album is finally released. So with the back-story out of the way and now set aside there comes the time to decide if it’s any good.
Who am I kidding, you can tell this is good right from the off. After the symphonic intro, Overture: Themes from Deathsquad, the first proper track is On Earth as it is in Hell, which is an absolute belter in traditional heavy metal style. A better question to ask when approaching Human Remains is just how good it is. For the most part the album is sheer quality 80’s style heavy metal. All these songs are old Hell songs re-recorded so before writing this review I decided to see what I could find online of the originals and let me tell you these songs sound a lot more powerful for benefit of a professional production, and the album is in no way dated. This is not a band trying to relive lost glories (because unfortunately they never really had them), but a band that sounds ready to claim a crown that was once deigned them.
I especially like that the album is not one dimensional. Traditional heavy metal can be all well as good as a standard affair, sometimes even being better for it, but when one bears in mind when these songs were written the music can be considered pretty forward-thinking. There are symphonic elements not just in the intro and also some progressive moments. They even go as far as to use bagpipes in the track Macbeth, which given the subject matter is very fitting.
When the songs get going there really isn’t anything to complain about, however I haven’t really found Human Remains to be a completely perfect experience. I dislike much of the use of sampled sound effects and voice over/spoken words (delivered sometimes as if this were a stage production, though note that the new singer David Bower is also a stage/TV actor, so maybe that’s to be expected) on the album and there seems to be a lot of those, which often makes the intro’s to the songs seem really drawn out and unnecessarily so as far as I’m concerned. Fortunately Human Remains has enough good qualities that my enjoyment of the album isn’t diminished much by their presence, because when these songs get going my God do they do it in style.
Naturally there are some songs that stand out as highlights over the others. For me Human Remain’s highlights are On Earth as it is in Hell, Plague and Fyre, and Save Us From Those Who Would Save Us (even though it has one of those drawn out intros, lasting about two of the track’s five minute duration), with the first of those being the finest thing on the album. Actually it’s easily among the finest trad metal songs I ever heard.
Human Remains is a great heavy metal album. While I wouldn’t call it perfect by any means (though it does come really really close!) it certainly is highly recommended listening, no matter if you were among the generation that first took note of Hell in the 80’s or a complete newcomer. Albums such as Human Remains prove that metal really is timeless and will never die and Hell prove that they can sound just as powerful in 2011 as they did in the early 80’s. In fact a lot of the younger bands of the moment ought to pay close attention to Human Remains, and maybe then they’ll learn a thing or three about how to make heavy music properly. My advice to anyone with even a passing interest in classic heavy metal? Get this one as soon as you possibly can.
(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven, scoring 9.3/10)