Friday, September 28, 2012

Hellcrawler - Wastelands (2011)

Slovenians Hellcrawler perform a brand of hi octane death 'n' roll that I don't experience all that often anymore, which they interestingly balance with a lot of purer death aggression, tapered off with sequences of almost pure punk/hardcore revulsion. Though they'll draw obvious comparisons to groups like Entombed and Disfear that pioneered the possibilities of such a match made in hell, I wouldn't say that they follow those footsteps too closely. There's something duly primitive, dirty and even understated about Wastelands which I found rather enjoyable. It's as if the music itself were dowsed in the same gloom and obscurity of the debut's cover image, and they manage to go really raw in the production without ever sacrificing the listener's ability to comprehend the simplistic, battering riffs.

The D-beat is of course employed pretty often through the album, as in tunes like "The Molten Faces Tribe", but thankfully it's not used to the exclusion of anything else. They'll burst into some double bass driven brick wall breakdowns, swarthy black rock & roll grooves, even riffs that border more along the thrash genre due to their choppy, muted picking; but I actually found it best when they were just barraging along through the minimalistic but effective hooks in pieces like "Firefly Powerplant". The guitars have a very downtrodden feel to them which evokes images of damaged automotive equipment strewn about an apocalyptic landscape, and I love the little hints of feedback and noise that creep through everywhere (like the intro to "Yet Again the Greed of Man"). The Slovenians aren't afraid to use atmosphere amidst the rocking sections, and this is most evident in shorter pieces like "Demons Within" or "Wastelands" itself. Bass is repulsive, loud as the intake valve at a sewage treatment plant, and the drums keep a good balance of manic fills and steady hammering beats. Vocals are a hoarse, broad growl not entirely unlike the Swedish forefathers of an Entombed or Disfear, though they're not penned out in the most interesting of patterns.

Certainly this style is popular in particular circles, with bands like Tragedy and Trap Them seeing success worldwide through a combination of metal, hardcore, crust, punk and grind fans. Hellcrawler doesn't have as much of a dissonant hardcore spin on what they perform, nor vocals that seem quite so crazy, but they still sound like a pent up, blunt bulldozer rolling over your kneecaps at a moderate speed, and the varied flavors that comprise their foundation are handled well enough. It's a dark, almost opaque record even despite the veritable accessibility of its riffs, which are honestly about 50% great and 50% too familiar, but in the end it wraps things up tightly in about 30 minutes of solid pacing and filthy atmosphere that makes you wanna crash your truck into something living. Decent for a debut, even if the songwriting isn't entirely memorable, and the lyrics help enforce its consistent apocalyptic themes.

Verdict: Win [7/10]

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