The relationship between heavy metal and Halloween should be a pretty obvious one. The aesthetics of heavy metal have been rooted in the occult and the unnerving ever since that chick posed for the cover of Black Sabbath’s inaugural offering. While most metalheads enjoy being spooky year-round, once a year there’s an entire month where the rest of the world gets their spook on as well. It should be a no-brainer that Halloween is a metalhead’s favorite holiday, and in the spirit of the season, Green Death offer to the altar their third full-length album, celebrating all things morose and macabre, fittingly titled Hallowmass.
For those uninitiated, Green Death’s approach to songwriting is akin to mixing a fine drink; two parts traditional metal’s hefty riffs, a shot of King Diamond’s theatric songwriting, mixed well with a dollop of Misfits style grease and a touch of Bay Area thrash poured in for taste. Serve it chilled and the resulting toilet water cocktail has a bit of something to please every pallet. Their last effort was reviewed quite warmly by yours truly, and continuing their upward trend of increasingly enjoyable releases, Hallowmass is quite simply the best thing the band has ever put to record.
The album starts with the obligatory intro track that sets an eerie mood before “Bullet of Silver” comes tearing through like a frenzied beast. We get our first taste of Green Death’s brand of King Diamond worship on this track, as vocalist Sol Bates operatically belts through a story of lycanthropy and murder. The only thing sharper than the band’s thrash-flavored riffing are the vocal hooks. These songs will be lodged in your head like a bullet wound; Green Death have had a knack for catchy tunes from day one, but never have they been quite this infectious.
“I Am Eternal” is just as good as it was when we premiered it some months back, and after its no-frills thrash attack, we get another brief interlude to catch our collective breath. “Curse the Heavens” is our first taste of the band’s trad-metal talents. It’s a weighty metal ballad that pushes Bate’s doom metal croon to center stage for a lament against the divine. The back end of the track features a tasty little solo, too.
“The Harvest” splits its runtime evenly between American thrash and classic NWOBHM-isms. It’s one of the more fun songs on the album and is followed by one of the record’s most four tunes. “She Couldn’t Live” is a theatric dirge filled with over the top vocals and sluggish riffs. The drums on this song feel particularly massive, as they propel the song forward with the force of tumbling mountains, but at a pace no quicker than tectonic erosion.
Two of the album’s last three songs are from the band’s Pure Torture EP (which was also reviewed quite positively by yours truly), and they’re just at home on this release as they were on that one. “Sickle and Scythe” is still one of the best songs that band have ever written, and David Ellefson’s (whose revamped Combat Records label releases this album) guest appearance on “Pure Torture” is still awesome. But the real pick of the bunch is the sweet-ass title track. You can just tell that the band were reveling in how spooky they are when they recorded this song. Think Children of the Corn gone metal and you get a rough idea of the vibe.
Green Death have made steady progress with their sound on each of their releases, and I think Hallowmass might just be their best album yet. It’s catchy, it’s heavy, and it manages to blend styles in a way that’s focused and coherent. There’s a gratuitous B-horror vibe to the whole affair that only serves to sweeten the deal further, and I’ve been returning to this album whenever I need another dose of Halloween spirit. Keep your eye out for Green Death, because this band is making some serious moves, and they might just blow up and get huge while you’re not looking. For now, Hallowmass is the crown jewel in an already solid discography and I’m excited to hear what comes next. Maybe a Christmas or St. Patrick’s themed album?
You can purchase Hallowmass here.