Label: Blackened Death Records
The first installment of Hammer Smashed Faith was, if not necessarily a sampler for Blackened Death Records, then it certainly served as a statement of intent. Taking in a host of underground bands of varying styles, the second compilation – released on Halloween – carries on in the same style. It’s clear that Blackened Death Records aren’t concerned with strict conventions of genre or geography. The label’s description of it showcasing “the best underground metal bands you have never heard of” is delightfully arrogant, and not too far off the mark.
Arguably the biggest name on the compilation comes up first, with The Meads of Asphdel offering up “God Is Rome”, originally from their Exhuming The Grave Of Yeshua album, and it sounds just as superbly unique and strong as it did in 2003. “Midwinter Sacrifice” from SIG:AR:TYR follows, with five and a half minutes of majestic, heathen folk metal, full of triumph and catchy melodies that are sure to worm their way in to your brain and stay there for days; the acoustic section just over halfway through is especially noteworthy. Allfather change the tone with “No Justice / No Peace”, just under four minutes of tough, no-bullshit riff-heavy hardcore of the sort the UK seems to excel at. There’s more than a hint of sludge and doom to their sound, and it helps ensure that they fit in well with the more metal fare on offer, whilst still packing in the breakdowns in a way that is so self-assured and confident it makes me realise how empty much modern hardcore really is. A definite highlight.
The jaunty piano intro to “Lifelore Revelation” by Thrawsunblat (taken from their Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings album) that follows is a bit of a stark contrast, but it’s not long before it launches in to some devastating melodic black/folk metal, full of great guitar work and a genuinely soaring chorus that is sure to get even the most necro kvltist out there headbanging and singing along. I normally despise this kind of metal, but god-damn if this song isn’t awesome, full of energy and melody, whilst avoiding the traps of self-parody this genre is prone to fall in to. I’d also be failing if I didn’t mention Rae’s superb drumwork throughout the song.
Wapentake then calm the pace down with the neofolk of “Saxon Pastoral”, taken from the excellent tape of the same name – four minutes of atmospheric acoustic guitars and melodies. The album then takes a bit of a dip for me with “No Not You… You” by the interestingly named Toehider, their mix of prog metal and rock not really working for me. Thankfully, Arise From Ashes change things once more, with their pagan, ice-cold black metal. “As Nature Displays Her Unrelenting Wrath”, taken from their self-titled record, might not be revolutionary but it’s still a dizzying, ruthless example of black metal done right, with nihilistic savagery. Chthe’ilist maintain the savagery, with “Into the Vaults of Ingurgitating Obscurity (Masticated by the Cryptic Shapes That Guards the Gateway of Eil’udom)”. At seven minutes it’s almost as long as its title, but when the death metal is this intense and bewildering, that’s hardly something to complain about. Originally from their 2012 demo, the track shows exactly why Profound Lore will be releasing their forthcoming album. Expect this one to be big.
“Premature Burial” by Repulsive Vision keeps things (death) metal, though much more to-the-point and old-school – no bad thing – whilst Angelfuck are as subtle as their name, with “Habitual Ritual Carnage” being exactly what it says, though I can’t help but feel that the mid-song spoken word section sabotages any flow it built up until that point. Ethernal‘s “Atazoth” – from their recent Reborn As Fire record – is a three minute whirlwind of razor-sharp riffs and black metal melodies, whilst remaining harsh and uncompromising. “The Mouth to Hell is the Atlantic Ocean” from Sea Wolves of the Atlantic – from the previously reviewed Lucifer’s Light – still sounds as good now as it did then, the antifascist neofolk making a refreshing change after a considerable spell of extreme metal. The compilation comes to a close with “Boudica” from Ethereal Forest, who have members split between Norway and Derbyshire. Their debut album has been a long time coming, but based on this it will be worth it – pagan black metal with more than a hint of Bathory about it.
As with the first Hammer Smashed Faith, there’s a lot of varied music on offer here – so much so that it might not all appeal. But there’s no denying the overall quality of what has been compiled, and any fans of underground metal with an open mind would be well advised to check this out. You may just find a new band or three to get excited over.
Hammer Smashed Faith II is available to stream and download via Bandcamp, and can also be purchased on CD through Bandcamp.