Like the acclaimed graphic novel by Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell (and the film based on it), Detroit-based metallers From Hell take their handle from an infamous letter from serial killer Jack the Ripper... which came packaged with a human kidney, allegedly torn from one of Jack's victims. That should give you some hint of the dark lyrical themes explored by the band in their new album Heresy – seven songs of murder, madness, suicide, and sheer terror.
From Hell bring their visceral approach to songwriting to a fusion of thrash, crust and grindcore; they've been compared stylistically with hardcore icons Converge, but I also hear similarities to the bands Trap Them and Early Graves. They combine this with some coarse death-rock undertones and moody interludes, including haunting excerpts from an interview with Mafia hitman Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski – whose methodical approach to the act of murder supplies some of Heresy's most chilling moments. (You can watch the interview in its entirety below.)
Kuklinski's narrative forms the backbone of the doomy instrumental “Nemesis of Neglect,” as deep slow chords rumble beneath his matter-of-fact declarations of hate, before the band launches into the explosive “Terror,” which alternates blasts of furious hardcore with an urgent, menacing grind and a maniacal lyrical delivery, peaking with the manic repeated chant of the title. It segues immediately into the nightmarish “No Place Like Hell,” a jarring piece punctuated by sudden stops and screeching feedback, with a surprising touch of piano in the break. Gloomy picked chords give way to alt-metal polyrhythms of “Unholy,” which screeches to an abrupt halt to make way for melancholy piano and violin interlude “Crucifix in a Deathhand,” featuring another ghostly spoken-word excerpt. “Holy War” is effective in its brutal simplicity, driving home blood-drenched imagery with methodical gut-punch chords, and we close out with the ominous “Empty and Hollow,” which opens briefly with a new piano-and-violin motif before blasting into the album's most potent serving of thrash riffs, blastbeats and call-and-response lyrics.
Although I wish it contained a bit more material (it clocks in at less than 20 minutes, so it's really more of an EP), Heresy is still a blistering blast of an album, effectively blending sonic ferocity with the right touch of macabre atmosphere. There's a music video for “Holy War” in the works from artist & animator Matt Frodsham, so we'll soon be seeing some visuals to accompany their nightmarish lyrical vision... and speaking of which, here's that disturbing interview with Richard Kuklinski, excerpts from which can be heard in "Nemesis of Neglect."
Another cool bit of trivia: the screen-printed cover art for the vinyl version of Heresy contains ink blended with the band members' own blood – a wonderfully macabre touch that falls in line with the band's macabre themes (and also transports me back to 1977, when the members of KISS famously mixed their blood with the red ink for Marvel Comics Super Special). The vinyl LP is limited to 666 copies (also a nice touch), and all versions are available from Paper + Plastick Records.