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Sunday, 12 June 2011

REVIEW: Gallhammer - Ill Innocence [2007]

Gallhammer’s ‘Ill Innocence’ is – the stereotype comes from norms – a very surprising sound to be produced by a group of three diminutive Japanese girls. This music is worthy of anyone, even of the greats of the genres which clearly influenced them; either shown by their attire (Celtic Frost, Amebix), or by their sound (Electric Wizard).

The three bands listed there essentially tell you all you need to know about the album – it is a delicious mix of crust punk, black metal and doom metal. These parts shine through at varying degrees in different songs – the doom is the prevailing aspect in opener ‘At The Onset Of The Age Of Despair’, whereas ‘Killed By The Queen’ is super-punky. This provides the album with enough variety to easily keep one’s attention throughout its duration.

The production is nicely done and perfect for the style of music – much like recent DarkThrone, it is a long way from polished, yet still has the clarity to be able to distinguish between individual notes. My one complaint would be that at times, the snare drum sounds a little hollow – this detracts little from the overall quality of the album, but is a slight nuisance nonetheless.

Largely, the album is played at a doom tempo, often using the funeral doom trademark of a 4/4 beat played as three light cymbal taps followed by a single beat on either the high hat or the snare, but obviously somewhat faster than your average Esoteric album. As I mentioned earlier, the occasional faster beat provides variety, but the drumming here is very much run-of-the-mill, so is inadvisable to purchase if drumming for you means Gene Hoglan circa ‘Individual Thought Patterns’.

Unlike most metal albums, or indeed those of rock of any ilk, the key instrument here is not the lead guitar, but rather the bass, and indeed for Gallhammer’s recent album ‘The End’, guitarist Mika Penetrator has left to little noticeable effect. An obvious example of this is ‘Delirium Daydream’, which is based around a dissonant riff with the treble-clef guitar in the background, and the bass in the foreground with a rather pleasing twang – both are playing essentially the melody, but the treble is naturally a couple of octaves higher and in a different key (I believe), which helps add to the dissonance.

The vocals are grunted at a moderate pitch – generally at a monotone, with small amounts of intonation here and there, but this is not to the detriment of the album, for they act largely as a percussive element rather than adding to the melody, which aids the punk simplicity to no end. On the aforementioned ‘Delirium Daydreamer’, there are also some interesting squeaks – these sound more like a six year old than a grown woman, but add intrigue to the song, and I’ll put it down to their size.

All these elements together come together to form an inspired, well-constructed album with few flaws to it. Although it won’t be challenging ‘Arise!’ for the crust throne any time soon, it is surely one of the best albums in the style from recent memory.

Download available here.

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