GALLHAMMER
"Ill Innocence"

(Peaceville)

01. At the Onset of the Age of Despair
02. Speed of Blood
03. Blind my Eyes
04. Delirious Daydreamer
05. Ripper the Gloom
06. Killed by the Queen
07. Song of Fall
08. Ashes World
09. Slog
10. Last Scary Dream

RATING: 8/10

Never underestimate the power of primitivism. THE STOOGES had it, DARKTHRONE has it, SUNNO))) has it, HELLHAMMER had it…you know the list. In each of those examples though, there is far more at work than a stripped down sound and a primal essence; it is indeed a matter of finding the sweet spot or failing miserably. One needs only look to the black metal progenitors and the '70s/'80s punk rock pioneers to understand what making music that you can feel in your bones is all about. You can now look to Japanese trio GALLHAMMER for a band that's "got it" too. On "Ill Innocence", the ladies have crafted a down ‘n' dirty mix of black metal, crusty punk rock, and mud-caked doom that works precisely because of its rudimentary approach.

Those decrying the basic arrangements have missed the point entirely, as the dark beauty of "Ill Innocence" is to be felt, not dissected in some vain search for compositional excellence or technical wankery. The manner in which GALLHAMMER sequences their album — most appropriately mastered by DARKTHRONE's Nocturno Culto — is just as important as the actual songs to make everything work, alternating doom, black metal, and punk in a way that achieves grand results. It could be the up-tempo and raw black metal of "Speed of Blood", the sludgy 'n' slow doom of "At the Onset of the Age of Despair", or rather 90s distorted, "alternative" sounds (ala SONIC YOUTH) of "Delirious Daydream" that makes the point. You will particularly enjoy the driving bass line and punky cadence, spiced up with a delightfully squeaky/girly vocal, of "Blind My Eyes", and the up-tempo-crust-by-way-of-HELLHAMMER on "Killed by the Queen". The style blend is done in a way that retains a constant sense of dread and a dirty sound, allowing variety, but never altering mood. And those gruff, grunting vocals are just plain perfect.

I'll not go overboard and declare "Ill Innocence" a masterwork, regardless of the satisfaction I've gotten from it time after time. However, GALLHAMMER have recorded a damn fine album that smokes, burns, and churns in all its primordial glory. Well done, ladies.

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