Sweden has had quite a notable history for being the hotbed of bands that successfully marry the snarling black metal vocal aesthetic with raw, roots thrash which captures the best of both the European and US markets of the 80s. Witchery is probably the most obvious flag waver in this movement, if only for their killer debut Restless & Dead, but a great many other bands have contributed: Bewitched, Swordmaster, Maze of Torment, are but a few. In 2000, having decided to ditch the endless blasting and 'infernal vs. divine' war motif of their debut Holy Target, Raise Hell would proudly join these ranks, with one of the very best albums offered in the entire movement (to date). Not Dead Yet is a chunky beast of massive, simple thrash riffing that is woven through with numerous, creepy guitar melodies that completely kick ass.
What's more, the album is decidedly hilarious, with smutty, evil lyrics that had one of my hands grasping at a crucifix for protection, the other grasping for a handkerchief to clean up the beer I just vomited out of my nostrils. Yes, my friends, this album is FUN. Extremely entertaining! Like having a deck of nude nun playing cards. Because, unlike the hordes of lamer wannabe thrash bands springing up more commonly than leaves of grass in the 21st century, Raise Hell actually plays it straight! Despite the cheesy, 80s rock & roll lyrics, the cover that belonged on a Lizzy Borden album in 1985, there is something adequately menacing about Not Dead Yet. It's extremely hostile, regard of the lyrical output, and if you cannot bang your head to this then you should be exiting the hall with DUE HASTE. Take a little of Mille Petrozza's torn open sneer, huge riffs that would make Cronos or Quorthon proud, add some black metal background aesthetic and mesmerizing, creepy little melodies, and crank it up louder than hell!
Like most of the better thrash albums, Not Dead Yet does not tarry with your hard earned time. It goes for the kill immediately (like Witchery did with "The Reaper"), putting its best foot so far forward up your ass that you'll be choking to death before you hit the chorus. "Dance With the Devil" features an unforgettable, massive momentum to its mid-paced, frothing thrash, with perfectly pedestrian alpha male lyrics that both inspire and terrify!
I know what I want to do and I don't care what they say
I do what I want 'cause I'm the hunter and you are the prey
Come with me, come with us be a rebel
"Come with me and dance with the devil"
I'm the goddamned devil..this job pleases me
Be a goddamned devil...this job will please you to
No beating around the bush, just come out and say it already! All this would be enough for a good laugh and ensuing hiccups, but Raise Hell had to go and write the rest of a kickass song too. The breakdown at 1:30 is monstrous, but there's an even huger one after 2:00, and the solo is both morbid and lethal. "Babes" continues the trend, a lusty love letter to the ladies of the night, delivered in a bombastic, marching bottom end with fragments of shining melody and Jonas Nilsson's most endearing and memorable vocals, especially when his 'that's what I like, that's what I like' shriek shatters in the middle of the chorus. "Back Attack" is strike three, you're out, with its pulsing, heavy bass-line and the charging onslaught of barbaric, apocalyptic thrashing. Rather than visit this pace yet again, the band wisely moves into "Devilyn", set to some clean guitars and an eerie melody that soon bristle with a hellish, bright but slowed slaughter of the band's black metal backlog, with Nilsson using a slightly more harmonic vocal tone.
"Not Dead Yet" picks up the pace considerably, a faster paced thrashing which fully entertains due to the disgusting vocals and the almost 'cheering section' bridge riff/lyrics. "No Pulse" does suffer from a few, generic rhythms, but hearing them played in such a crushing tone certainly increases their value considerably, and "User of Poison" is another fiendish plague of fist pounding, dense thrash with amazing vocals. Rounding out the effort is the strange little interlude "He is Coming", sort of a chant over some swank, martial guitars, marching drums and heavily effected axe fuckery. And lastly, "Soulcollector" is a violent, reckless and swift kick to the groin like Sentenced of Death-era Destruction meets old Kreator or Bulldozer, with some gentle segues of sparkling, clean guitars that creep back into the moshing force. It's pretty long, but never boring, and the desperate, echoing vocals near the finale are a decent surprise if you can make it through.
It's a forceful and unrefined effort which succeeds not only for its innocent debauchery and the witch-like charming of both riffs and melody, but also the very straight, loud, dirty mix it was given at Studio Fredmen. Yes, Not Dead Yet is a crude affair even held up against its predecessor Holy Target, and thought it might not have been the most conscious decisions, it was the right one in the end. This is pretty much what I want to hear when I pick up a more primal thrash effort: good hooks you just can't shake, unforgettable vocals, and even silly lyrics that can stick in the head. Technical, Raise Hell is not. Polished? Who the hell cares. Not Dead Yet is pure, head banging testosterone guaranteed to rock you and your friends into a drunken coma.
Highlights: everything with a pulse.
Verdict: Epic Win [9.5/10] (I like it when you light my fire)