Gallhammer - Ill Innocence
Peaceville Records
Crust/Black Metal
10 songs (50:31)
Release year: 2007
Official Myspace, Peaceville Records
Reviewed by Charles
Archive review
I really only gained an appreciation for this band after seeing them play live. Their morbidly crusty Hellhammer worship, putridly minimalist and slicked over by foul depressive black metal, is absorbed so much more effectively when delivered by a terrible sound system. I bought Ill Innocence very shortly after that night, totally enraptured by the horrors that had been visited upon me.

This is a more hook-laden affair than their debut, Gloomy Lights, and all the better for it. Whilst that was dominated by suffocating ambient expanses of groans and filthy guitar noise, this one retains that staple but focuses it, as well as introducing a welcome shot of grubby punk catchiness. So we open with the undulating At the Onset of the Age of Despair, with a rumbling chord progression that soon becomes utterly hypnotic. But the mesmerizing gloom is dispelled by bizarrely poppy three-minute gems like Blind My Eyes; venomously memorable bass riffs and barking mantra vocal lines, with a hint of melody in the chorus and inexplicable backing vocals that sound like Chun Li doing a spinning bird kick.

As a result, the album is entirely well-rounded, avoiding the potential for boredom that can bedevil this sort of music, and which indeed did affect Gloomy Lights. Horizons here are expanded, and this leads to branching out in various directions, such as the ominous acoustic strumming of Ripper the Gloom, or the minimalist twanging of Song of Fall. A highlight is Ashes World which seems to cross over into sludgey doom terriroty. Then there is the oddly optimistic post-rock SLOG, which could almost be Pelican wearing corpsepaint.

It seems fairly easy to dismiss Gallhammer as some sort of novelty; the Japanese women that like Celtic Frost, and so forth. But Ill Innocence is perfectly capable of standing on its own. The fact is, they are a novelty, in the sense that I am not sure who else in the metal world today is playing music strictly analogous to this. There are bands such as compatriots Coffins, who deal in comparably crusty doomdeath. But they are brutal and violent where this is eerie, ambient and hypnotic.

This was a big step forward for the band musically, but there is clearly room for improvement. As indicated by the first paragraph, this is one of the few bands whose live sound leaves their recordings in the dust. At times here, particularly on the less vicious, more atmospheric tunes, you can feel slightly underwhelmed by the tone, and find yourself wishing that it sounded more unpleasant. Maybe a truer Gallhammer experience can be gained from watching live footage on youtube at this stage.

Nonetheless, a solid album.

Killing Songs :
At the Onset of the Age of Despair, Blind my Eyes, Ripper the Gloom
Charles quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Gallhammer that we have reviewed:
Gallhammer - The End reviewed by Charles and quoted 70 / 100
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