"Beyond the Boundaries of Sin"

By Dr. Abner Mality

If you love epic, atmospheric, HEAVY music, you have absolutely GOT to get this release! I didn't know a damn thing about Hellwell when I first heard this disc, but within five minutes, I was blown away and forty minutes after that, I was just about completely horizontal. Hellwell is a collaboration between Mark "The Shark" Shelton of Manilla Road fame and horror writer/keyboardist E.C. Hellwell and what a completely successful result this has turned out to be. Honestly, as much as I love Manilla Road, this blows their recent albums off the map and ranks with their very best 80's material. Shelton's trademark vocals and guitarwork are all over this thing and nobody who loves Manilla Road could resist "Beyond the Boundaries of Sin". Where the difference comes in is the astonishing keyboard work of E.C. Hellwell. Forget modern poppy or twinkly synths...this is roaring Hammond organ work worthy of Jon Lord, combined with purely analog synths. The keys blend seamlessly with Shelton's heavy riffs and add spine-tingling horror movie atmosphere to all the songs.

"The Strange Case of Dr. Henry Howard Holmes" kicks off with some reedy, ancient sounding keys before Shark's guitars come smashing in. They are really LOUD on this record and sound much better than the last Manilla Road album "Playground of the Damned". In fact, this record in total is much better than that one. The riffs are super catchy and stick in the brain while Mark's vocals are his usual nasal croon mixed up with the occasional growl. He cuts loose with a solo in the last half of this song that will have your sphincter losing control. "Eaters of the Dead" is aggressive metal in the Manilla mode but again mixed with Hellwell's marvelous organ work. I must also mention the manic drumming, which is thin sounding but extremely active.

With the third track "Keepers of the Devil's Inn", this album leaves the world of the excellent and enters that rarefied zone where true classics reside. It's a masterpiece of horror metal with brilliant riffing...there is one particular epic and magnificent riff two thirds of the way through that is just indescribably powerful. The synergy between Shelton's guitar and Hellwell's keyboards brings to mind another legendary combo...Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore. It is that good. "Deadly Nightshade" is a potent and power packed cut that was left off the "Playground of the Damned" sessions and which fits perfectly here. As great as this song is, it is the least of the 7 on offer here.

The album ends with a massive three part epic called the "Acheronomicon". This is timeless metal majesty that has to be heard to be appreciated. A Middle Eastern flavor is present throughout and the riffs and hooks are amazing. The final part "End of Days" features what might be Shelton's best guitar jamming ever and leads to a monolithic climax of heaviness that fades into an atmospheric wash of synthesizer sound and ambience. Magnificent!

I can say without reservation this is the album of the year for me. Ten million copies sold wouldn't be enough. Get it!