Hell Machine – Merciless Hate (Album Review)

Hell Machine is an Australian Metal band that is notable for at least a few unusual reasons. Playing a style of old school Thrash Metal that could easily have its origins in Scandinavia or Germany but being a product of Alice Springs in Australia’s Northern Territory is one of them. Further to this, they are a duo, and no, not the type of duo that you would see at your local tavern playing cheesy top 40 covers, but the type of duo that plays aggressive Blackened Thrash Metal along the lines of Kreator, Toxic Holocaust, Darkthrone, Aura Noir etc. They also have NO guitar player, the line-up consisting of drums and bass exclusively, yet somehow the band manages to achieve a full and heavy sound on their debut 8 track album MERCILESS HATE, and by all accounts, Hell Machine is a massively heavy live band as well.

Instrumentally, both members of Hell Machine are up to the challenge, and as a duo, they need to be! Bass and vocal duties are handled by Dave Hellrazor (Exdemision), somehow filling the guitar void and bass frequencies simultaneously. Though a finger bass player, there are times when he reminds me of Lemmy from Motorhead, a churning and grinding tone that fills out the sound admirably. The use of the ‘octave up’ effect on some sections also helps and provides the required variation of sonic textures. There are moments of Hellrazor’s performance that you are hearing that classic muted thrash riffing or a solo section within a song and have to remind yourself it is a single bass guitar getting the job done, very cool. Vocally Merciless Hate has a combination of old school Thrash Metal screams that bring to mind the voice of Mille Pertozza of Kreator fame and guttural vocals for variation that are used to good effect.

The drums on this album are provided by Malignant Mal (Miazma), the engine room of Hell Machine. He sets the feel and solid foundation that is required with some creative playing within the constraints of a relatively straightforward genre. The drum performance and production sound very honest and the drumming on display shows a seasoned player that provides great feel, good power and a great sense of time to lay his bass lines onto. As with any good Thrash Metal, a solid groove and Rock feel make the faster time changes all the more effective and on Merciless Hate, Hell Machine delivers this in spades.

For the attitude and aggression expended here, this is still a fun listen. Definite old school Thrash influences but with a blackened dirty edge. It’s not hard to see where these guys are coming from, non-pretentious old school Thrash power, catchy riffs and accomplished instrumental performances throughout the album.

In God We, Rust kicks off proceedings with a lurching doomy introduction then launches into mid-tempo Thrashy Rock with some faster sections towards the end of the track and an immediately catchy melody and song structure.

Toxic Wench turns up the speed with a classic Thrash feel and fast double kicks, building the intensity with an interesting instrumental section at the 2:40 mark.

Serpent Woman sees the band hitting their stride, immediately infectious rhythms on the intro and moving between fast Thrash and 6/8 time signature on the verses, the best and fastest track on the album so far and the bass guitar tone sounds fantastic especially at the 3:07 mark with a melodic legato instrumental section.

War On The Cross starts with some stripped back brutality, kick drums punctuating the grinding bass riff before the track launches into fast paced relentless thrash and once again into a sweet instrumental section with octave effect on the bass. This track has quite a complex structure for the 4:22 duration.

Overall Merciless Hate has solid and very honest production without being overly polished, probably exactly what the band was looking for. The album gives the impression that it was recorded quickly without a lot of studio tricks, and the sparse production showcases how tight this band is. On a critical note, I feel that the vocals could have been presented a little better from an engineering perspective, more upfront and fuller in the mix. In addition, there is not a huge amount of variation in the vocal delivery.

The minimalist black and white album art, though memorable, seems somewhat underdone. It is far from the worst album cover I have seen but it is not quite up to the standard of the music contained within the release.

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Something a little more sinister and detailed would have been preferred to align with the Thrash Metal assault to come.

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For fans of Old School Thrash and Blackened Thrash, Hell Machine’s debut album Merciless Hate is a very solid entry into the Australian Metal scene. For a debut album, the band has done an incredible job.

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I look forward to future Hell Machine releases and to see them annihilate audiences in the live arena.

Hell Machine: Facebook

Release Year: 2018
Label: The Black Wreath
Category: Album
Country: Australia

Reviewed by Jimmy LaCobra