Label: Blackened Death Records
Newly formed London-based label Blackened Death Records do not, as you may expect, specialise in blackened death. Instead, if their compilation Hammer Smashed Faith is anything to go by, what the label are looking to release isn’t going to be constrained by genre or convention. Given that the label is run by one Pope Richard – a member of the Meads Of Asphodel, as well as several other bands with comparable mindsets if not sounds – then it’s no surprise, really. The only criteria at work here seems to be “is it any good?”, which is pretty much as it should be. And whilst the variety of styles and genres featured on Hammer Smashed Faith mean it’s impossible to guarantee the listener will be a fan of everything, there are definitely some real underground gems on display here that deserve your time and attention. After all, the label is “proudly endorsed by Satan and his ballsack“, and what better recommendation can there be?
Over the course of these thirteen tracks, a huge variety of underground genres are covered, with no two bands sounding alike. Opening with the bleak, progressive metal of “Midwinter” by The Shipping Report and the avant garde of Ebonillumini on “Darwin’s Glacier (Antarctica)”, followed by the icy black metal of Sykelig Englen with the aptly titled “Cold Dark Depression”, it’s clear from the off that there will be plenty of variety on offer. Wounded Cross offer up more traditional, but no less enjoyable, heavy/trad-doom metal with “Bonecrusher”, which is sure to get you banging your head, before S.F.I (Sturmgeist.Fornicator.Insultus) take things in to dirty, low-fi black metal territories on the vicious “A Ritual (To Become Possessed). <redacted> provide a personal favourite with the thrash/death of “Black Shuck”, taken from their Alien Nation album (soon to get a physical release via the label), before Mundus provide crushing black/death with “Hell Eternal Forever” that bodes very well for their forthcoming EP.
Changing direction once more, Ebola Gush bring two and a half minutes of self-described fecal grindcore with “It Itches”, complete with silly samples, that sounds pretty much how you’d expect. Baalberith follow with six minutes of black metal that manages to sound both traditional and progressive, whilst Squirm plumb the depths of bass-heavy, pitch-shifted grind on “The Evil Dead”. Arguably even more extreme is “No Bliss” from Wytchfilth, an almost 8 minute long track that brings to mind an even heavier, more oppressive version of Godflesh with black metal tendencies, all negativity and anti-light. Needless to say, I’m quite a fan, as I am of the following track and band, “Wendigo Psychosis” by Carnivorous Forest. As if to emphasise the eclecticism of the label, following the blackened industrial of “No Bliss” with an incredibly catchy acoustic neofolk track is a stroke of genius. The chorus of “Wendigo Psychosis” is sure to be stuck in your head for days, and some of the guitar melodies and playing have more than a hint of black metal to them. Idolatry close out the compilation with “The Stygian Creed”, over seven minutes of crushing, icy black metal that finishes the record in style.
There’s a hell of a lot of different styles to take in on Hammer Smashed Faith, and as is inevitable with a compilation like this there’s also a variety of production levels that can provide for a slightly uneven listen. But such is the nature of underground music, and the limited budgets such songs are often recorded under. For anyone who can approach music with a relatively open mind, and realises that extremity has as much to do with attitude and approach as it does with sound, there’s a lot to enjoy on Hammer Smashed Faith.