"Curse and Chapter"

By Dr. Abner Mality

HELL has returned! The British metal fiends only took a couple of years to follow up "Human Remains"...a relief, considering more than 20 years separated that from their previous effort. "Human Remains" was simply one of the best British metal albums of the new millenium, a truly special release on a number of levels. So "Curse and Chapter" has a lot to live up to. Does it?

I don't really think so, but this is not really off-key enough to deserve the title of "sophomore slump". The album absolutely stays true to the foundation layed down on "Human Remains", but it's not quite as instant. It takes a few listens to absorb. Hey, I don't think Iron Maiden ever had a record as good as "Piece of Mind" but that doesn't mean that their other stuff was mediocre. If you enjoyed "Human Remains", "Curse and Chapter" is a natural, it's just not the same album...there will probably never be a Hell album as meaningful as that one. But this has the same feeling of elegant aggression as "Human Remains", with great, quick guitar work from the team of Kev Bower and Andy Sneap. That very British feeling remains paramount with Hell. And of course we get the delighfully fruity and twisted vocal styling of Dave Bower, truly one of the most unique frontmen in metal and an admittedly acquired taste. His theatricality and long-windedness remain fully intact here on "Curse and Chapter".

How about the music? Well, it's a bit more concise and to the point than some of the "Human Remains" nine minute epics this time around. The longest  tune is "Darkhangel", clocking in at just over seven minutes. The material is a mixture of songs from the earliest days of Hell in the 80's and brand-new songs. The tunes are hard-charging but are not as "instant" as the "Human Remains" material. The band's predilection for the operatic remains, Opening track "Age of Nefarious" is good for a sinister chuckle but "Disposer Supreme" and "Darkhangel" don't seem to be on quite the level as "Plague and Fyre" and "The Oppressors". The instrumental "Deathsquad", which dates back to their earliest days, is a lot of fun and the second part of the album seems to pick up pace and intensity with some cracking tunes like "Land of hte Living Dead" and "Deliver Us From Evil". The album does require repeated listens for all of its effect to be felt, so those looking to be blown away instantly will be disappointed.

Final analysis is that "Curse and Chapter" is a very worthy second effort from Hell. I think it was virtually impossible that any record could surpass "Human Remains". I understand their next record will be the first to rely on all-new material and I look forward to that with interest. Hell is here to stay!