Hellripper is a one-man Thrash-Speed-Black-Metal band that formed in 2014 by James McBain, who is also the mind behind Lord Rot. The band is based out of Scotland and has released a total of two full-length albums, two EP’s, and five split EPs. On February 17 of 2023, Hellripper is releasing their third full-length album titled Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags, following up to their 2020 release of ‘The Affair of the Poisons’, both through Peaceville Records. The album Artwork was created by Adam Burke and depicts a man wearing a shroud riding on the back of a goat with a full moon glowing with a green halo on a clear night sky, with three more figures in shrouds standing on the edge of a cliff behind the figure on the goat. Mastering of the album was done by Damian Herring at Subterranean Watchtower Studios.
Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags is eight tracks in total and opens with the song “The Nuckalavee”, a song that is lyrically based on the Orcadian folklore of a giant, skinless horse-like demon that brings plague and Death when it makes its way onto land. The song begins with a classic Speed Metal riff with interlacing of Black Metal riffs, making it feel as if you were being chased by this demonic entity. After about forty seconds, the Black Metal style vocals kick in for the first verse. During the second verse, you hear a tortured shriek echoing in the background. There is a very melodic Celtic-inspired melody the guitar is emulating before it rolls into a Thrash Metal style solo with a modern, melodic spin. After the next verse, we hear another melodic guitar solo that is perfect background Music to be running for your Life, as you’re about to be sentenced to Death by this demon. Toward the end of the song, the melody slows down and the vocals become deeper and more sinister sounding for a moment before kicking in into a Black Metal groove.
Track two is titled “I, The Deceiver” and it is more of a Thrash-oriented song. You do hear the riffs slow it down a notch from the previous song, with a melodic guitar melody overlapping. The vocals kick in and at around one and a half minutes, the song takes an evil turn with the vocals & instrumentals, all of a sudden you catch yourself imagining riding the back of a flying demon circling through the air above a haunted sea in the midnight hours. The guitar solo in this song is very Speed-driven and then splits off into a guitar duel. The end of the song finishes with a classic Rock ‘n Roll guitar noodle and a sudden halt of the Music.
The next song is the title track of Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags. This one begins on the more melodic-groove side of the spectrum, where you know when you’re at a live show and everyone headbangs in sync with the band, this has that feel to it. There are tribal elements from the drums before the vocals freeze-blast our faces and ears. This one, so far, has more of a Black Metal vibe. The guitar solos are very melodic and derived from Folk, as the groove kicks in and the cadence of the vocals flow perfectly with the instrumentals, and drums. There are moments when the vocals turn into aural Hellfire chaos, as the guitar solos & melodies make you feel like you’re standing at the gates of a heavenly Hell.
The fourth track is titled Goat Vomit Nightmare and speeds up the tempo a little bit. It is also the shortest song on the album at 3 minutes and 15 seconds. The second the song starts, it automatically slashes you in the face with shredding, with a slight Rock ‘n Roll vibe. The vocals immediately kick in and suddenly you’re trudging through goat vomit and blood as the song progresses into the demented and twisted Folk elements intertwined in the guitar melodies and Thrashy riffs toward the middle part of the song. At the end, everything slows down to a haunting, dark moment with demonic vocals, as if Hellripper is summonsing us through the goat vomit again.
The Cursed Carrion Crown is the next track, and it is another high tempo song that is very Thrashy. You hear James squealing, kind of like a nod to Tom Araya on Slayer’s Angel of Death, before the sharp, maniacal vocals kick in. Nearly halfway through the song, a very rhythmic drum kicks in behind the speedy, yet melodic riffs as it teases a guitar solo. As the anticipation for hearing the guitar solo builds, you hear a short verse until the guitar melody transitions into the Celtic-style solo you were hoping for. And it lasts for nearly a minute before returning to another moment of Thrash riffs. When you think the song is done with soloing, you are surprised with a second solo that lasts for nearly the rest of the song. However, the last twenty seconds of the track reel you back into the vibe of the song with the rigid and dark vocals.
The sixth track rolls into the song titled, The Hissing Marshes. This one is very chaotic, and you feel a hint of Motorhead influence throughout the song. The beginning guitars weave together Speed and spontaneous, electrocuting riffs. Before the vocals start, there is a moment where everything becomes somewhat muted, and the drums are heavily emphasized. The Black Metal vocals kick in, and you hear some classic, high-pitch, twangy Black Metal riffs intertwined throughout the rest of song. Two-thirds of the way through, you hear a quick solo that sounds as if it’s going against the grain, the tone is slightly higher pitch and a tiny bit more muted than in any other song we’ve heard on the album thus far. This is another song where we are surprised again with a second solo toward the end.
Poison Womb [The Curse of the Witch] is the seventh song we are berated into with guitars that foreshadow impending doom into our minds the very second the song starts, followed by simplistic drumbeats that soon intertwine the song together with the grim and cold vocals. A third of the way through, the first short guitar solo begins, followed by a verse, and then the second solo, which is quite a bit longer than the first… The song then gives homage to the very beginning with the simplistic drumbeats, cradling us into the poison womb that embraces us as the next last kicks in, and poisons us to Death at the very end.
The closing track, Mestor Stoor Worm is the longest song on Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags. The first thirty seconds begin with a malefic guitar melody and ominous drums. The Thrashy guitar riffs kick in with the Black Metal vocals we’ve heard all throughout the album with a twist of even darker and more guttural vocals, dancing and harboring throughout the rest of the song. We are faced with another surprise of a few seconds of an acoustic, melodic Folk-driven guitar riff as it crashes back into the Thrash riffs, and a moment of guttural vocals as the first solo kicks in. We progress halfway through, and the vocals go back to the higher register Black Metal style, and you really hear the influence of the genre in the drums. We are then darkly graced with two more guitar solos before the song finishes. The tempo slows down at the very end of the song, everything becomes more melodic with high pitch guitar melodies embracing the darkness, and we are eased back to the physical realm with a sense of cold-emptiness filled with the remnants of darkened folklore.
You can check out a first listen of the album on the Knotfest social media pages tomorrow, February 17th, 2023, on their YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook pages where James will be answering questions live about the album and sharing behind the scenes stories with Jon Garcia & Hardcore Keem. The event goes down at 14:30 PST [22:30 if you’re in the UK!].