Album Review: Hellripper – Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags

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Album Review: Hellripper - Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags
Reviewed by Matthew Williams

Genius is a word that is greatly overused in the music industry, as people tend to chuck it around for their favourite artist or lyricist or band like confetti at a wedding, but could James McBain, be on the verge of stepping out of the dark and mysterious black/speed metal shadows and be thrust into this bracket?

With the release of Hellripper’s third studio album, 'Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags' on Peaceville Records, the genius is beginning to unfold in front of us, with eight wonderfully crafted and scripted songs, which will hopefully expose the band to a much bigger audience, as these stunning songs need to be heard far and wide.

Having moved to the Highlands after the release of his last album, these new songs were spread across a period of fifteen months, with four songs coming quickly, then, as James told me in an interview, he went six months drawing a blank, no inspiration at all, before, BANG!!!

He has delivered his most diverse work to date, still full of his trademark high speed metal and blistering solos, but inspired by the scenery and landscape around him, he wanted to explore the darker side of Scottish history and folklore, whilst fitting the Hellripper aesthetic.

It begins with 'The Nuckelavee' a song based on the Orcadian tale of the eponymous creature, a grotesque and skinless horse-like demon that brings plague and death wherever it travels, and if that doesn’t rip your face off, then the opening riff will. It’s fast, furious, controlled and best represents the overall sound and vibe of the record. Its speed metal but with a few twists.

Album Review: Hellripper - Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags

Next up comes 'I, The Deceive' which is a more melodic song, well that’s until the mighty riff kicks your front teeth in and proudly announces its arrival. It’s another epic song, full of mystery and intrigue, based on MacBeth, with the opening words of "Seek, o`witches three” setting the tone for the song.

The title track, 'Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags' is taken from a line in the Robert Burns poem `Address to the Deil` and is delivered with an inspired rhythm section, that is addressing the devil himself, and over the course of the seven minutes it showcases the diverse music that McBain has written on this new album, with this one feeling somewhat anthemic.

'Goat Vomit Nightmare' was a song written over a few weeks, and was put on the album to replace another previously written song. It has quickly become one of McBain’s favourite songs and has more of a punk edge to it, drawing inspiration from Billy Strings, Joe Bonnamassa, Fleetwood Mac, so delivering more bluesy chords with his own take on a faster black n roll song.

Then we come to what can only be described as a song of the highest quality, the one that, I believe will thrust Hellripper to new heights. 'The Cursed Carrion Crown' is based on the legend of `Sawney Bean` and the Bean Clan, and tells the story of a family of cannibals who lived in caves off the coast of Scotland. It is the fastest song Hellripper has ever done, about 5BPM faster, and it’s a brutal thrash song, with lyrics such as "caves where mangled children hang" and "slain in the lair of the cannibal king" it’s destined for greatness and truly fitting of the subject matter.

A punishing bass intro starts of 'The Hissing Marshes', and it drives the song forward throughout, as a clever and somewhat cleaner section of music takes over, but one line epitomises the music so well, "The madness, the terror, the sin" it encapsulates everything about Hellripper and the way this album has been written. The relentless and punishing pace continues with the final two songs, 'Poison Womb (The Cure of the Witch)' which has deliciously evil lyrics summoning the "Goddess of Demise" before the eight minute plus epic 'Mester Stoor Worm' which would satisfy the thirst of any horror film addict.

With this release, Hellripper is creating Scottish history and folklore of his own, that will be spoken about for decades and centuries to come.

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