Hellripper - Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags: Is It Worth 43 Minutes of Your Life?
Updated: Jul 2
Hellripper, the creator of beloved family classics like "Nekroslut," "Decrepit Christ," and "Vomit on the Cross," celebrates debauchery once more with his new full-length album, Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags (for the sake of brevity henceforth called Wargrimeredhags). It's a good effort, any student of the dark metal arts will acknowledge as much, but good doesn't cut it in these virtual pages. We're here today to answer the question: is Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags worth 43 minutes of your life?
To reach absolute, indisputable objectivity around this topic, we will be building on the already long and celebrated tradition established in my sole other album review, Air Raid's Fatal Encounter, by bringing the three-headed goat of scrutiny to the table to berate, lament, and otherwise ridicule the recording through the lenses of Songwriting, Musicianship, and Production.
Let's jump in.
The songwriting section of these reviews poses the eternal question, "exactly how much do these songs suck?" And the eight-song tracklist of Wargrimeredhags confidently responds, "Fuck off, Hellripper is the shit." To which I would strongly agree. Hellripper is, in fact, the blackened thrash metal shit. This is arguably the one-man band's strongest collection of tunes to date (more on that one-man thing in a minute), and it wastes no time disemboweling your prefrontal cortex with the well-chosen opener, "The Nuckalavee."
Now, I'm no student of mythology or folklore, but I'd never heard of a Nuckalavee. I assume it has something to do with insanely fast, lo-fi thrash designed to get your dopamine levels as high as possible, and it truly lives up to its name here.
Other brutally quick, melt-your-ass-into-your-combat-boots songs include "Goat Vomit Nightmare," "The Cursed Carrion Crown," and, well, pretty much the whole album. Sex sells, and Hellripper knows that blisteringly fast, old-school-inspired black-thrash songs are like sex to our ears.
Keeping with this completely arbitrary analogy, it's easy to say that Wargrimeredhags is basically 43 minutes of XXX porn. But Hellripper has expanded his arsenal of sex toys a bit on this album with a finely nuanced and not-so-mind-bogglingly-fast track that helps confirm what a great writer the dude actually is, and that's the title track.
"Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags" is a fitting marquee piece, and despite it falling outside standard protocol for Hellripper, its seven-minute running time is deeply satisfying and offers one of the recording's most memorable entries. Numerous passes at the song are necessary to fully appreciate the many patient twists and turns it holds, giving it immense replay value beyond some of the other, more immediate pieces.
Other tracks hold up similarly well, including the eight-and-a-half minute closer, "Mester Stoor Worm," which features some respectably progressive songwriting partnered with plenty of blast beats and general this-is-Hellripper-ripping-your-face-off vibes.
So, to summarize my thoughts on songwriting: "Yes."
Okay, so what in the actual fuck? I used to play guitar and I fucking sucked at it, even after nine years of consistent effort. So I'm always blown away by how anyone could shred the way the dudes in thrash bands do. But to be awesome at guitar...and drums...and bass...and put it all together and lay perfectly haunting, atmospheric vocals over the top of it all like James McBain does with Hellripper. Incredible.
One-man metal bands like Hellripper or the European power metal of Rocka Rollas or the progressive melodeath of Buried Realm deserve serious praise for their dedication to the craft. I therefore give Hellripper's new album 14 out of 10 bloody rabbit heads for musicianship.
It's funny, because Hellripper's music kinda sounds like shit. And not THE shit like the shit mentioned earlier, but actual shit if that would make any sense whatsoever when talking about sounds made with instruments. And it's not alone. All the music being made in this surprisingly massive and thriving pocket of old school, lo-fi, blackened thrash music is paper thin and just a wee bit cacaphonous. And in the grand tradition of black metal in general, when the albums are deliberately, carefully calculated to sound like a really bad old recording, but not actually like a really bad old recording, then it's awesome. And Wargrimeredhags sounds fucking awesome.
At least, that's my highly informed, technical appraisal of it. I'm sure that folks who live for the fully-rounded punch of modern metal production are likely to disagree with me. But they'd be wrong.
One thing worth noting is that Wargrimeredhags definitely has a fatter low end than past Hellripper recordings, which I personally appreciate. It doesn't lose that raw, underground style, but it's slightly less thin than the music equivalent of packing paper, so for me it's the best-sounding Hellripper release to date.
There's probably more I could say but my fingers are tired of talking and your eyes are probably tired of listening, so let's wrap this up. If I took all my thoughts from these four sections and put them together into a clear, concise conclusion, I'd say with total confidence that you'll be super glad to stuff Wargrimeredhags in your earholes for 43 minutes. Of course, I'd only tell you that that if I knew you liked extremely well-made, lo-fi blackened thrash that deliberately sounds like it was recorded on a tape cassette. In a bathtub.
In that case, yes, highest praise, many good things to say. Support Hellripper so he can make more blackened thrash shit that actually is THE shit. Like this shit.
And subscribe to these rantings so we can have this quality time together again soon, like when I travel back in time to tell you random and totally unnecessary thoughts about Accept's 1979 debut self-titled album.