Various Artists – Hammer Smashed Faith III

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Label: Blackened Death Records

Blackened Death Records has been hugely active since the release of Hammer Smashed Faith II at the end of October; it seems that barely a week goes by without them putting out a new album, EP, or reissuing an old release by one of the bands they work with. As such, it would have been no surprise if there had been a longer delay until the release of the latest compilation installment, Hammer Smashed Faith III, featuring 13 artists. As well as some who have had/will have releases put out by the label – such as Thy Demise and Valkynaz – there are also a fine selection of underground gems here, ranging from funeral doom to grind to noise to black metal. It makes for a varied record in terms of sound, but one where the overall quality and underground spirit cannot be faulted.

Opening the compilation up is Goatchrist with the track “Xeper”, which opens with an absolutely great riff, and features some very adventurous elements for black metal, including a solo close to classic rock in feel, and some almost rock’n’roll rhythms during the verses. Petrichor follow with “Drown The World”, from their album Rain – reviewed here – and it is as miserable and powerful here as it is on its parent album. Changing the mood once more are Thy Demise, with the old-school death metal of “Head On A Spike” from the Prepare To Despair EP, before Beyond The Dark Forest take things in a rawer, even darker direction with “Filth”, which is one of the harshest, noisiest pieces of black metal you’re likely to hear in some time.

The compilation only becomes more brutal and punishing from there, with Humanely Killed serving up guttural, depraved grindcore and Harsh Noise Movement surprising no one with their track “Pig” – seven and a half minutes of, yes, harsh noise. Pustule Secretion‘s brand of slamming death/grind on “Addicted To Chicken Skin” doesn’t really do much for me, but nor does almost any other slam band I’ve heard. It’s followed by one of the highlights of the compilation for me, in the form of “Absolution” by Necrolytic Goat Converter. The name may be something of a joke, but the song certainly isn’t; depressive, raw black metal that hits the right mix of melody and roughness, topped off with some ice-cold touches, inspired lyrics and an overall superb performance. The demo it’s taken from has been getting considerable plays from me recently – expect a full review to follow.

It’s a tough task to follow a track as powerful as “Absolution”, but “The Beauty Of Nature” by Apenbaring manages it with its haunting dark ambient that gives something of a moment of calm before Human Resources Nightmare‘s “Grind To Five”, a short slab of grind that is slightly let down by an odd cymbal sound, but is otherwise absolutely great. “Devour Me, My Queen” by Below The Pit is next, its blackened funeral doom summoning a demonic atmosphere full of dark worship and a sense of the other – it’s a superb track, and has me excited for their debut EP. cloakovhex keep the atmosphere dark with “Do Not See”, a merciless three and a half minutes of black noise; and then USBM duo Valkynaz close the compilation out with “Reckless Delirium” from their Zwietracht album, due for release on 5th April by Blackened Death. The track lives up to its name, due in large part to the dizzying mid-section, which took several listens for me to wrap my head around, but was well worth the effort.

It’s likely that, with such a diverse range of sounds on offer, there will be tracks you find yourself skipping through at times, which is absolutely fine – there’s times when I don’t want to listen to, say, dark ambient but I do black metal, or I may want some harsh noise but doom metal wouldn’t do anything for me. Hammer Smashed Faith III is the kind of record to pick over at your leisure, and then follow up on what interests you most. As a small window in to the underground, it can hardly be faulted, and Blackened Death have done a fine job putting it together.

Hammer Smashed Faith III can be downloaded and streamed via Bandcamp.

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