Black metal has garnered a pretty dodgy reputation amongst heavy music fans, not exclusive to the cringeworthy behavior of Norwegian black metal racists like Mayhem in the early '90s. The scene has been rife with Neo-Nazism, dangerous nihilism, murder and scandal years after it came to the attention of heavy music publications and with that left a sour taste in the general populations mouth but as a genre it’s persevered more than most could have.
To be the outcasts in a scene full of outcasts is pretty damn hard but whenever black metal is referenced these days it comes with some venom because of the aforementioned behaviors, rather than looked upon as the darkest and most brooding corner of metal music. In our highly political age there is an abundance of political bands that aren’t reserved for just bands like Napalm Death and Rage Against the Machine.
New Hell, from Rhode Island is one that surprised me as a politically charged black metal band which I have rarely, if ever, come across.
“Everything I sing about is about how the world is collapsing which is why we’re called New Hell,” explains vocalist/guitarist Brandon Lemire about the origins of the band's name. New Hell’s sound is not exclusive to black metal as they also draw influences from hardcore and death metal with plenty of blast beats and breakdowns to be found amongst the onslaught of black metal leads and screamed vocals from guitarist and frontman Brandon Lemire.
Since releasing their demo in 2017, New Hell’s sound has evolved over the years into the current display of black metal soundscapes with punk-influenced guitars and rhythms. It really is the best of both worlds as they merge the doomy and dreadful guitar tones found in black metal with socially conscious lyrics that decry the dogmas of American society that usually comes from a punk ethos.
They’re not subjecting you to gruesome tales of torture or whatever Mayhem was whining about on Deathcrush, they’re utilizing the tortured sounds of the genre to show what society is doing to its people everyday on the streets of America.
“There’s been so many shitty people in black metal but there’s definitely a growing section of black metal nowadays that’s becoming political and not the nazi kind of political, a lot of them are leftists. I don’t declare myself on the left but a lot of what I think and say about the world tends to end up on that side,” says Lemire.
The band has gone through some lineup changes over the years but currently consists of Brandon on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Curt Klump on lead guitar, Jimmy Valpey on bass and Mikey Marcotte on drums. They have released multiple EPs and singles over their nearly five years as a band and have come out of the pandemic with what Brandon describes as their most concentrated and complete work.
“Our previous releases were all kind of rushed but with this one we had time to really sit down and write out this whole thing then go in and record so it feels a lot more focused and not really disjointed. We weren’t sure if we were ever gonna play again but we really wanted to get this out somehow.” Brandon elaborates on the album's recording.
New Hell is debuting their newest single, “Age of Sin,” here on No Echo and the song brings the band’s sound even further into the black metal realm as it attacks the genre's favorite victim: the Catholic Church. New Hell doesn’t need to go burning down churches to make their case against the Church however, they simply do it by battering said establishment with damning convictions throughout history:
“This song is all about the churches take on gay and trans people, which I don’t agree with at all. I do a lot of anti-Catholic stuff because I was raised that way and it always kind of stuck in my craw with the pedophilia allegations that always come out and everything yet they want to tell gay and transgender people how to live their lives or tell women what to do with their bodies. The Church doesn’t even pay taxes, which was originally because they opened their doors to homeless people, but do you see that happening anymore?”
Brandon continues: “I’ve always felt like religion does nothing but create division and hate, most wars are fought over religion. 'Age of Sin' is just one of the songs I’ve written about the Catholic Church on this new record we’re doing because I feel like they contribute to our impending demise.”
Listening from the bands Kill Your Masters demo from 2017 to now shows a band growing as their songs have become less straightforward and heavier but still maintaining the speed and aggression found on earlier releases. Their most recent release, a split with The Slow Death of Gaia, showed this darker, more brooding sound on songs such as “Abuse of Power.”
Talking about the band's influences Lemire stated: “At this point, we’re more of a metal band with some punk influences whereas when we started we sounded more like a punk band with a lot of metal influences. When me and the original drummer started this we were basically playing power violence songs with black metal leads on them. With time and lineup changes it became more like mellow death with D-beat influences.”
New Hell has a clear vision of who the enemies are and through “Age of Sin," they begin to launch their attack on religion and many other institutions that contribute to Earth’s slow yet coming expiration. The group stands out amongst the crop of blackened death metal bands as they take listeners through a hellish soundscape like all black metal does yet New Hell isn’t describing a world that is fabricated, nay it’s a reflection of the world we are currently surviving through day and night.
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