Decibel Interview – Issue No. 114 April 2014
All-star Bay Area project thrashes out an ambitious concept aLbum debut
SINGING LYRICS ABOUT POLITICAL/SOCIAL TOPICS in his previous band Down Factor, which released two albums in the early ‘oos, just didn’t resonate with guitarist/vocalist George Anderson. So, when it came time to form his new band, From Hell, he made the ambitious move of adopting an alter ego (Aleister Sinn) and writing an epic concept album, Ascent From Hell. “By doing a concept album like King Diamond,” he says, “whenever I played the songs, I could get into the story. I just wanted to tell these horror stories.” ~ Following his inspiration, he crafted a tale about a corpse trapped in hell while its soul inhabited another body on Earth. This “corpse without a soul” (hmmm … a Mercyful Fate reference, perhaps?) ascends from hell to in search of its other half, so to speak. ~ Story and music in place, Anderson just needed to find the musicians to complete the project. This, however, proved to be more challenging than writing the album. The first attempt at recording Ascent happened nearly two years ago, and lineupchanges ultimately caused things to grind to halt mid-process. Six months later, in November 2012, Anderson’ announced via Facebook that a new lineup was in place-an impressive one, no less-and recording would continue. “I got tired of dealing with flaky musicians,” Anderson says. “And not wanting to deal with flaky [musicians], I just decided to ask these guys, and they were into it.” “These guys” turns out to be an impressive collection of musicians. Current Slayer drummer Paul Bostaplr{he was ex-Slayer at the time) was the lynchpin that helped several other pieces fall into place. Anderson’s longtime acquaintance, Death Angel bassist Damien Sisson, then jumped on board, and former Nevermore guitarist Steve Smyth (who had guested on both Down Factor albums) agreed to record some leads. In one fell swoop, Anderson had a group of musicians with an impressive resume. “After Paul laid his drums down, [Ascent) just became amazing,” Anderson says. “I just ended up with a pretty amazing arsenal. Having those guys in there really bumped up the production with recording.” Recording started right around the time Dave Lombardo was getting sacked from Slayer in early 2013, Anderson was able to get Bostaph’ s contribution to the record before Slayer reenlisted him. Obviously, Bostaph is a bit busier now (as is Sisson), so the players on Ascent won’t be in the live version of From Hell. They may not even appear on future releases-also planned as concept albums-as Anderson is open to changing things up, “I’m probably going to mix it up a little bit,” he says. “Part of the concept of From Hell is that I have these musicians from hell. I’d Iike to have another round of badass musicians for the next recording.
Johnny Deviant – ‘Deviating From the Norm’ Cyprus Radio Album Review: FROM HELL – ‘Ascent From Hell’
My biggest gripe in music today is the lack of emotion. Emotion can mean different things to different people but for me it is that moment, where minutes into a song, you get that spine-tingling sensation, shivers and then the goose bumps… Emotion can translate into a number of feelings be it anger, love, fear, or in the case of FROM HELL, sheer terror.
Within the first 30 seconds of ‘Standing At The Mouth of Hell’ you really do get the feeling that you are truly standing at the mouth of hell itself. The intensity, chaos, the snarls; you can almost smell brimstone and ash whilst flames engulf your screaming body. That’s certainly not an emotion that’s easy to convey but trust me when I tell you, FROM HELL do it, and boy, do they do it well!
So what differentiates a group that’s able to convey emotion so succinctly?
Well, cue in George Anderson. Anderson had a successful stint as the frontman of Down Factor, a California-based band with a strong socio-political message. He soon grew tired of the ideologies the band was portraying and wanted to seek alternative sources of creativity. And so he came up with the concept of FROM HELL.
FROM HELL means a lot of things for Anderson. It’s a homage to his all time hero King Diamond, a nod towards the likes of Aleister Crowley, while at the same time he also credits an old black and white version of the movie ‘A Christmas Carol’ as his inspiration. In this version, Ebenezer Scrooge who was portrayed by actor Aleister Sims. A quick play on words and Aleister Sinn was born, Anderson’s alter-ego and the narrator of this dark and broody tale.
Aleister Sinn is not the only character of this story. Anderson, having mustered some trusted and experienced (to say the least) talent from reputed sources, has a force to be reckoned with; Paul Bostaph on drums (Slayer, Forbidden, Exodus, Systematic, and Testament), Steve Smyth on guitar (Forbidden, One Machine, The Esseness Project, Nevermore, Testament, Dragonlord, Vicious Rumors, Ariah) and by no means least, Damien Sisson on bass (Death Angel). This is by its own virtue a supergroup, an all-star cast that cannot be easily dismissed.
So what is the story behind ‘Ascent From Hell’?
It is a horror concept album which was originally titled “Eyes Of My Dead”. It tells the story of a corpse which wakes up in hell and needs to find its way back to earth in order to reclaim its soul, which (rather inconveniently) is in another body. It was later, and rather appropriately so if you ask me, that the band renamed it “Ascent From Hell” to fit in with the overall theme.
At 70 minutes long this is by no means a short album, with the average song ranging at 6.5 minutes and some up to 10 minutes in duration. Did I at any point get the feeling that the album was stagnating? To be honest at an average of 6.5 minutes I was expecting it to be, but just when you think things are sounding a little stale, bang!, a riff, a break, a bass/drum solo, reminds you that this is anything but a predictable journey as our corpse battles it’s way out of hell.
What I like about FROM HELL is that they refuse to be type-casted. This album is all over the place stylistically with echoes of trash, death, doom and black metal all thrown into the mix. Even the vocal delivery changes from time to time. During the ‘The Walking Dead’, Anderson sounds almost Jeff Walker-like while in ‘Nuns with Guns’ there’s more than a few Rob Zombie undertones. And that’s not a bad thing in my opinion. Too often I’ve seen bands try to do too much; they showcase what they can and try to cram as much into 60 minutes as humanly possible as a measure of diversification. It’s a risky strategy and has been known to fail miserably. But FROM HELL really do pull it off. It’s almost as though the album takes you on an evil journey and like any good story there are twists, turns and a few pleasant surprises for good measure. It is for this reason that I thoroughly recommend you enjoy this album from beginning to end. Each song has a way of linking into the next; clearly a lot of thought has gone into the sequencing of the album. Moreover, the album in its theatrical release comes complete with segues in between each song, providing the listener with additional details to this horror story.
Yes, But Is it any good?
Absolutely! Many supergroups have tried and failed with their first release. For a debut, FROM HELL have certainly captured my imagination and tapped deep into my head banging subconscious. Have they raised the bar too high for a debut…? I guess we’ll have to wait for the next chapter to decide, but I have a good feeling about these guys.
Visit the band’s website or Scourge Records for more information and future tour dates.
‘Ascent From Hell’ is expected to be released physically and digitally worldwide on April 8th, 2014
Posted on March 19, 2014, 1:27 pm By Johnny Deviant
Music Street Journal Review – May 27th, 2014
Review by G. W. Hill
FROM HELL – Ascent from Hell
This is extreme metal. I’d also make the argument that it is classical music. Yes, you heard me right. Make no mistake this is heavy and this is noisy and this is metal of the highest order. However, it’s a theatrical concept album and the music here is more classical in structure. By that I mean that the songs are extended pieces of music that are less likely to follow a typical verse, chorus repeat pattern than they are to be built like symphonies, going through massive amounts of change as they grow. Additionally, the whole thing works as one long operatic suite. For that reason, I’d consider this classical music, even though it’s also extreme metal.
The project was started by a guy named “George Anderson.” He’s enlisted some real metal royalty for the album. Paul Bostaph of Slayer handles the drums. Steve Smyth from Nevermore plays lead guitar. Death Angel’s Damien Sisson plays bass. In an unusual twist Phil Bennett of Starship even plays piano on one song. Those who like their metal extreme are the most obvious audience for this. I have to say, though, I’m not a huge fan of that sub-genre and I really like this a lot.
Track by Track Review
Standing at the Mouth of Hell
Some voices and effects create an effect that might make a person think he’s at the edge of Hell. Then pounding heavy metal plods out in a powerful processional. More screaming and sounds bring us further into Hell.
The Walking Dead
Powerful pounding metal brings this one into being. Screaming extreme vocals come over the top. The thing is, you can understand what he’s saying. That sets this apart from a lot of that kind of stuff. This is dark, evil and very heavy. There is a bit of atmospheric sound effects stuff at the end that merges this into the next piece.
Soul Crusher
This fires out with ferocious thrashing speed. The vocals are the same as on the previous one – a bit like a cross between Dani Filth and King Diamond. There are some sung vocals on this at times. There are also some musical twists and turns. It’s quite a thrashy number. I love the guitar workout on the instrumental section. Some sound effects and theatrical bits come in at the end.
Psycho Killer
Heavy and percussive, this is a real dark metal workout. It’s gothic and it’s powerful. It’s noisy and yet there are dark, heavy melodies. This is unsettling and yet very cool. More cinematic type stuff comes in at the end and segues it into the next piece.
Eyes of My Dead
This comes in fairly mellow, like a dark metal ballad. After a verse like that, it powers out into some smoking hot thrash. This beast keeps getting shifted and changed. There are theatrical moments that feel like heavier versions of some of Alice Cooper’s stuff. There are pure metal, crushing, sections. This piece is over nine minutes in length and it is a crazed, metal powerhouse. While most of the vocals are of the more extreme variety, there are some sung vocals, too. This drops way down near the end for another theatrical segment.
Nun with a Gun
This pounds in very heavy right out of the gate. We’re taken through all kinds of shifts and changes on a real thrill ride of a song. Other than at the end, where it drops to more theatrical stuff, it never lets up in terms of intensity and energy.
The Church
Neoclassical music opens this. There is more classically based music before this works out into another crazed kind of thrash thrill ride. This is extreme and works through tons of changes. Of course, by this point in the set, what else would you expect, really?
Dead Reckoning
In a change this starts with piano and that instrument holds it for a time. After a while, though, it launches back out into more of the trademark powerhouse, extreme metal thrash. Still, most of the vocals on this one are sung. Additionally that piano and other more symphonic elements come in as icing on the cake later. It drops to mellower segments at times, too.
Ascent from Hell
As extreme, furious and just plain crazed as everything here has been, the title track blows all of it away. This is a really insane piece. It’s aggressive and raw and yet technical at the same time. It’s not for the faint of heart. That’s for sure.
The Sleep
As far as I’m concerned, they saved the best for last. Of course, I should note that I’m not a huge fan of extreme metal. So, this one is more mainstream than the rest of the disc, and therefore more in line with my particular tastes. Your mileage may vary. There are still extreme elements here, but overall this is closer to old school heavy metal. It’s also a real powerhouse and the closing section is among the most effective musical moments of the disc.
Baby Sue Music Review – Ascent From Hell
From Hell The press release that accompanied this album describes the band as “a new horror concept heavy metal band.” This is an all-star band made up of members of other bands. From Hellis comprised of Paul Bostaph on drums (Slayer), Damien Sisson on bass (Death Angel), Steve Smyth on lead guitar (Nevermore, Testament, One Machine), and George Anderson on lead guitars and vocals (Down Factor). If you’ve heard any of these guys’ other bands you probably have a good idea of what to expect here. The tracks on Ascent From Hell are super hard and loud and feature pummeling rhythms and vocals that sound as if they came straight out of Hell. These guys are playing for a very specific audience…that segment of the population that gets off on loud, angry, frenzied heavy/death metal played at high volume. Ten intense tracks here including “Standing At The Mouth Of Hell,” “Eyes Of My Dead,” and “Ascent From Hell.” Reminiscent of the 1990s when bands were really pushing the boundaries of what metal could and should sound like…
Jeni Kaybee – KEOL-FM 91.7
Review – Ascent From Hell
Quite an excellent bombastic piece o’plastic this way comes from From Hell…and finally after some seven years in the works, their debut “Ascent From Hell”, a horror metal concept album comprised of players from Nevermore, Slayer, Death Angel, Down Factor…and even a guy from (Jefferson) Starship on piano.
In my humble opinion, this 70-minute epic is heavier and more lofty than any conception album Queensrÿche or Bruce Dickinson has ever done…maybe even giving King Diamond a run for supremacy. Interesting what I thought might have been choir tapes from a Mellotron or a Chamberlin is actually a living breathing 22-person chorus. As real as it ever gets…three weeks before its official release, thanks to Munsey Ricci over at Skateboard for sending killer product to KEOL-FM 91.7. (Originally posted on Facebook March 17, 2014) Review By Jeffrey X Martin
There was a time, not too long ago, when rock and roll was the Devil’s music. Heavy metal was Lucifer’s tool of destruction and damnation, and if you even touched a Hamer Scarab electric guitar, that was enough to send your soul screaming out of your body into the abyss, where demons would torture your eternal soul with free-form jazz and Zydeco gospel music.
Those were the halcyon days. Black magic and pentacles, hailing Satan on a regular basis (not just on holidays, like we do now), and rock loud enough to cause internal bleeding were normal things. Good times, man, good times.
Thank god for From Hell, a metal supergroup, bound and determined to bring horror-metal back to the forefront. Name-checking the immortal King Diamond, From Hell’s debut album, Ascent From Hell, is part metal album, part radio play. It’s a concept album about . . . well, here. Let me just quote the press release.
A corpse wakes up in Hell and finds out he cannot rest and must return to the land of the living to find his soul that still lives on inside the body of a priest and drag it back to Hell. When the moon turns red, you must walk with The Walking Dead.”
Tommy, it ain’t.
The story doesn’t work quite as well as one would like, simply because there’s only one singer. This is a story with six characters and one man, George Anderson, providing the voice. To the project’s credit, there are interstitial moments, spoken segues that help to move the tale along. However, without a lyric sheet, it’s difficult to tell who is telling which part of the story and at what time.
The story itself is fairly well trodden stuff, too, which leads to some awkwardly amateurish lyrics. “There is pain/And now it rains/What’s become of me?/I’m insane!” It’s an unexpectedly My Fair Lady moment, for an album about the glory and terror of Hell, and it’s not the only one.
Ascent From Hell never gets as joyfully weird as a King Diamond album, but Diamond’s stuff went flying off the rails more often than not. It may be a predictable plotline, but no one has ever told that story like this before, as a veritable metal opera, and From Hell deserves kudos for that.
Musically, this is one solid record. Anderson screams and sings with equal gusto as he barrels through the tale of ghostly vengeance. Paul Bostaph, current drummer for Slayer, is a beast on the drums. Steve Smyth shreds appropriately on the guitar and Damien Sisson keeps everything grounded with some fine bass work. These are all excellent, seasoned musicians, and we should expect fine work from them. They do not disappoint.
Three songs on Ascent From Hell come close to hitting the ten-minute mark, and it’s obvious that the band was aiming for epic scope and grand execution. Songs like “Nun with a Gun” and “Eyes of My Dead” come the closest to fulfilling that vision, and give the listener a glimpse of what From Hell could achieve next time out.
It’s about time we got some great metal concept albums again. The two ideas are perfect for each other. From Hell is the band to do it, too. There’s enough talent among these guys to burn the roof off of a Baptist convention. Ascent From Hell isn’t great, but it is good. Damned good.
Ascent From Hell was released on April 8 from Scourge Records.
Powerline Magazine Review by Patrick Prince
A huge jump from a classic “rock opera” like Tommy, From Hell’s Ascent From Hell is a horror concept album that centers around a corpse without a soul (sound familiar?) who wakes up in hell and must return to earth to reclaim the soul of a priest.
I have no interest whatsoever in stories about demonic possession or demented carnage — I think I’d rather chew glass— but this doesn’t take away from the fact that From Hell is damn good at what they do. George Anderson has proven his talent before with the extreme metal of Down Factor. Personally, I preferred the political lyrical slant of Down Factor but Anderson became interested in putting his creativity into a different type of approach.
Anderson succeeds at this, too. From Hell’s music is full force metal that does not disappoint. The structured guitars and the nuanced death metal vocals of Anderson are the stars of this show. Anderson can go from sounding like a creepy demon character to guttural growls to melodic accents. And for the recording of Ascent From Hell, Anderson gathered the likes of Paul Bostaph of Slayer (drums) and Damien Sisson from Death Angel (bass). Not to mention contributions from Starship’s Phil Bennett (piano) and the 22-piece choir, Pacific Mozart Ensemble.
“The Walking Dead” is the standout amongst the story mentioned above. If you want a quick hit, this would be the iTunes download. It could easily be the soundtrack to the hit AMC television series. It’s probably as close to a Death Metal single as you can get.
Hopefully, the supergroup feel of the band will turn into a longer term commitment. George Anderson’s vision deserves the continued recognition.
Label: Scourge Records
Bring On The Metal “Ascent From Hell” by From Hell Death Metal/Thrash Metal Released April 08th 2014
From Hell is a love letter of extreme metal; featuring an all star roster with Slayer’s Paul Bostaph, Death Angel’s Damien Sisson, Down Factor’s George Anderson, and One Machine’s Steve Smyth, the album is a concept album of sorts that pulls from several sides of the metal spectrum, though sticking strongly in thrash and death metal. It’s lyrics aren’t the most potent, but imagery is created nonetheless with demented black metal vocals and the general ideals of the songs, emphasized by powerful music that succeeds in part thanks to the aforementioned diversity; ‘The Walking Dead’ rocks a steady mid-tempo thrash groove, ‘Soul Crusher’ pounds with battering ram percussion, and ‘Nun With A Gun’ ignores the obvious tongue-in-cheek crap that could’ve been delivered in favour of driving death metal. The album glorifies the horrific aspects of metal and wisely reflects that in its music, and while nothing here is wholly original, “Ascent From Hell” is an enjoyable ride nonetheless. I’m personally interested to hear how this super-group expands on their sound should another album be released.
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)