Our occasional columnist (and Pig Destroyer vocalist) J.R. Hayes wrote about a record label he’s quite fond of.
I enjoy all kinds of music—reggae, soul, jazz, country, you name it—but metal has always been my favorite, and likely always will be. Having said that, sometimes it feels like I despise 99% of it.
Why, you ask? Sweet Baby Jesus, where do I even begin? The fake-ass, toothless overproduction? The infuriating good cop/bad cop vocals? The endless, pointless, mind-numbing technicality?
Let’s be clear about some of that shit right now:
- I don’t care what time signature your band plays in. I’m not trying to use a fucking protractor while I’m banging my head. A guitar riff is either good or it’s not. It doesn’t matter how hard it is to play. End of story.
- When a metal band and a symphony meet, nothing good will ever come of it. Unless an asteroid hits the building.
- Clean singing and prog riffs are not “experimental.” It usually just means that a band has recently discovered Rush or Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. There’s nothing more sad and pathetic than watching a first-rate metal band turn into a third-rate prog rock band. I fucking hate metal bands that don’t want to be metal. I hate them so much that my fists clench and shake uncontrollably.
- Gimmicks do not equal innovation. Your black metal band may be the first to ever feature a one-armed midget playing a trombone, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a genius; it might just mean you’re an asshole. Just to be safe, I’ve already trademarked One-Armed Midget Trombone Black Metal (OAMTBM), so don’t even fucking think about it.
- If I want a bunch of pretty melodies, I’ll listen to Prince, Van Morrison, or Hope Sandoval. That’s what those records are for. When I listen to metal, I want aggression, and lots of it. Metal is supposed to be dirty, raw, angry, violent, and evil. Like my ex-girlfriend.
Fortunately, all is not lost. From out of the barren, apocalyptic wastelands of Ohio comes Hell’s Headbangers, a record label that has sworn an unholy oath to put out only the most diabolical and murderous underground bands. They don’t seem to have a preference for any sub-genre in particular; it’s more about having a menacing atmosphere and a “fuck you” attitude. And amen to that.
Oh, and I almost forgot the devil worship. If you like devil worship in your metal, then you are definitely in the right place with Hell’s Headbangers (or HHR).
The label is like a 21st Century version of the notorious Wild Rags label, which was home of scary weirdo bands like Impetigo, Nuclear Death, Blasphemy, and Zombified Preachers of Gore, all of whom would fit neatly into the HHR stable. I could also compare the label to Noise International, who issued such rough-and-tumble classics as Kreator’s Terrible Certainty, Voivod’s Rrröööaaarrrr, and Overkill’s Taking Over.
Get the picture yet? Anyway, let’s talk about some of Hell’s Headbangers’ standout releases.
Midnight Satanic Royalty
Perhaps the purest distillation of the HHR ethos, Midnight come storming out of the shadows with their part Venom, part Mötörhead, all-buzzsaw attack. As mean as it is catchy, as commanding as it is rocking, this record has a ton of crossover potential and could appeal to a wide range of punk and metal fans. I’m sure Gorgoroth and Marduk are pissed they didn’t think of that album title first. | HHR store
Evil Army Violence and War
My personal favorite of the HHR acts, Evil Army is like demo-era Metallica on really, really bad drugs. This three-man thrash commando team is on a suicide mission to destroy your eardrums, and the new mini-LP is every bit as ruthless and combat ready as the self-titled debut. Rob Evil and Co. are going to beat you up and take your lunch money, and you’re going to like it. | HHR store
Gouge Beyond Death
Raw death-thrash from this pack of young Norwegians. Somewhere between a slower Repulsion and a faster Autopsy, but with a swagger and energy that keeps it from turning into some bullshit nostalgia trip. Enthusiastically endorsed by Fenriz of Darkthrone, who might know a thing or two about metal. | HHR store
Havohej Dethrone the Son of God
In addition to putting out contemporary bands with an old-school flair, HHR has also been busy archiving old releases by obscure outcasts like Deceased, Cianide, and Nunslaughter (R.I.P. Jim Sadist). This strange black metal record from 1993 (originally released on Candlelight Records) has been confounding me for a couple of years now. Much like its bizarre cover art, I can’t tell whether the music is silly or disturbing. Perhaps it’s both. All I know is that I keep returning to it over and over again. The hand of metal moves in mysterious ways. | HHR store
Cerekloth In the Midst of Life We Are In Death
Turning down the speed and turning up the creepiness, these guys pull elements from death, doom, black, thrash, and traditional heavy metal to craft their own unique sound. Lots of very evil Jeff Hanneman-style chords create precisely what the last Slayer album lacked: a great atmosphere. | HHR store
For more on HHR, I spoke to black metal expert David Addicott (AKA Gorewolf Pornchrist). He offered this alternate top-five list for the discerning reader below. Until next time … [cookie monster vocals] GO TO HELL!
Nowadays, hearing the term “blackened death metal” makes me assume that I’m about to hear the millionth slickly produced Behemoth knock-off. I’m always glad to hear something that actually sounds like evil-ass black metal and death metal combined. This is one of the better examples of that kind of thing—plus the album art is amazing. | HHR store
Goat Semen Ego Sum Sathanas
Sounds exactly like a band named Goat Semen should sound. I think that says it all. | HHR store
Scythian Hubris in Excelsis
Crazy good, and one of the few HHR bands that don’t immediately make me think “yeah, this is definitely on Hell’s Headbangers.” Most of the end-of-year lists I’ve seen have Horrendous in the top 10, but as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to the best old-school death metal albums that don’t seem derivative, I’d put Scythian up there in that conversation as well. | HHR store
Profanatica Thy Kingdom Cum
It’s Profanatica. If you know them, you understand why they’re on this list. If you don’t know them, go listen to them right now. | HHR store
Bonehunter Evil Triumphs Again
The bandmembers’ names are Syphilitic Satanarchist, Witch Rider, and S.S. Penetrator. If that doesn’t make you want to check them out, I don’t know what will. Great album art as well. | HHR store