At the risk of sounding like I’m making a dad joke (I’m not), Hellish just might be the most appropriately named band I’ve ever encountered. If you have even a passing familiarity with South American proto-black/thrash metal, then you already have a pretty good idea of what to expect from this Chilean horde. Breakneck tempos? Check. A snarling punk attitude? Check. Over-the-top guitar solos? Check. A healthy dose of the occult in their lyrics? Check. Add in the raw aggression of early Bathory and some guitar work that’s clearly influenced by the Mike Torrao school of writing riffs, and you’ve got The Spectre of Lonely Souls, the feral foursome’s sophomore full-length.
Clocking in at just over half an hour, the album is a blast in just about every sense of the word. After a brief piano-led intro track, Hellish comes screaming out of the gates like a bat out of…well, you know. And they barely slow down again before the album ends. But this is also music that’s way more fun than to listen to than it has any right to be. Consider “The Screams Come From Inside,” which we’re thrilled to be premiering here today at the Vault. Sure, that main riff is going to split your belly wide open. And yes, vocalist Necromancer does sound like he’s going to feast on your spleen. But there’s also such a gleeful sense of abandon in their performances that it’s easy to picture them busting out a case of cheap beer, throwing an old Sodom tape into an even older boombox, and windmill banging in your entrails.
The Spectre of Lonely Souls will be available on July 27 from Unspeakable Axe Records (preorder here). In the meantime, check out “The Screams Come from Inside” below, along with my interview with the band.
Indy Metal Vault: Hey, dudes – thanks for the interview. I’ve been jamming The Spectre of Lonely Souls pretty steadily over the last few days, and it’s a fucking ripper – catchy riffs, shreddy leads, killer songwriting. It’s also a shit-ton of fun to listen to, which I don’t often find myself saying about such…well, hellish music. You’ve been together for a while now, right? Assuming your Metal Archives page is accurate, three of the four members of Hellish have been playing together since 2010. You released several demos in the early years, but you didn’t release your first full-length until 2016. Did it take you a few years to feel like you’d fine-tuned your blackened thrash attack enough to feel confident recording a full-length? Or were there other factors that made it difficult or impractical to record a full length?
Hellish: Yes, there have been three of us since 2010, but we had changes in the line up until 2015 when Javier Salgado joined the band as guitarist. We did not record an album because in the first few years because we kept changing the line-up, and we were prevented from moving forward and making new songs. We also stopped playing for a year and a half, and then played again but with Cristian moving from guitar to drums. After that, we recorded a new demo called Witchand an EP called Theurgist’s Spell, and then finally in 2015 when Javier joined, we started rehearsing to record our debut album Grimoire.
IMV: One of the things that I think impresses me the most about The Spectre of Lonely Souls is the way that it sounds firmly rooted in that 80s South American proto-black/thrash metal tradition, but at the same time you definitely put your own stamp on the genre. The first half or so of “Souls of Desolation” is a good example of what I mean – that slow and sinister opening riff is sick as fuck, but it definitely doesn’t sound influenced by Sarcofago or your countrymen in Pentagram (Chile). I feel like some of it is a Bathory influence, but that’s just a guess. If you had to list the five bands outside of South America that had the most influence on Hellish’s sound, what would they be and why?
H: We think the South American bands have influenced us indirectly, because at first we focused on doing more German-style thrash like Kreator, Destruction, Sodom, Assassin and Violent Force, but we are always listening to dark and violent thrash bands and we’re also listening to a lot of heavy metal, so when creating, all our musical tastes combine to create something damned. Other bands that currently influence us are Slayer, Possessed, some Bathory, and some newer bands like Antichrist or Nocturnal.
IMV: I don’t usually ask ‘where did your album title come from’ types of questions, but there’s something about the phrase The Spectre of Lonely Souls that strikes me as…surprisingly poetic? Where did the title come from? What significance does it have to the band? How does it tie into your lyrics, which seem like a mix of occult themes and perhaps some horror?
H: It ties in directly with the lyrics of the album, because the title occurred to us when we mixed all the lyrics together and we did not want any song to have the same name as the album. As you say, it has some occult and horror in it. We could also add in some of our experiences, but we always wanted a direct title and also to give coherence to everything we’ve been doing.
IMV: Okay, so as I mentioned earlier – The Spectre of Lonely Souls fucking rips. What’s your songwriting process like? Does one person write the majority of the riffs, or do you tend to write more collaboratively? How much time do you spend jamming songs out in a rehearsal space?
H: There are songs that are composed entirely by a single member, but we also have songs that have come out of an improvisation like “Only Death,” or others created by two members (León & Sanhueza) such as “Souls of Desolation.” Sometimes during the rehearsals more than one idea is shared and created by everyone. We rehearse constantly, almost always once a week.
IMV: The production on The Spectre of Lonely Souls is essentially perfect given the style of music you play. Where did you record the album? And since the subject fascinates me, how did you get your instrument tones? What did your studio rigs look like, and how close are they to what you use when you play live (assuming you do play live).
H: The album was recorded at Lion’s Roar Studio, which is practically our studio because it belongs to our drummer and we have always recorded there. We have always looked for a dark sound, where the guitars sound sharp, and the kick drum and the snare have a lot of attack and weight, not like the modern drums that use triggers. And we like that the voice sounds like something from Hell. We like to mix the heart-rending cries of the necromancer with deep delays to give it a primitive sound. We almost always get the sound we want even if we sometimes sound better or worse on the same album. Everything depends on the equipment available.
IMV: The cover art for The Spectre of Lonely Souls is really striking. Who was the artist? How closely did you work with the artist on the cover concept?
H: The artist is the master Francisco Visceral. He is an artist from our country who has painted several covers like the Demoniac album and Death Force, among others. We contacted him and explained the general concept, but we wanted him to interpret that idea; the work was fluid and together we came to what is the cover of The Spectre Of Lonely Souls.
IMV: How did you end up hooking up with Unspeakable Axe Records? You originally released Grimoire, your first full-length, independently before it was picked up by UA, right?
H: Unspeakable Axe Records contacted us after having listened to Grimoire because Patricio Spalinger (Ripper) recommended it to him. We had only released the album only previously, and up to that point we only had a deal with Xalpen Records to release it on tape a few months before UAR released the CD.
IMV: Thanks again for being willing to answer a few questions. I like to leave the last word to the artists – anything else you want to add?
H: First, thank you for the diffusion of our music and our new album, and thanks to Eric of UAR for all the support that he has given us in releasing The Spetre Of Lonely Souls. We would also like to comment that we are currently busy with rehearsals to present our new album in gigs that we’ve got scheduled, with the hope that this time we can make dates out of the country and the continent. On the other hand, we are also composing new songs for a future EP.