October 22, 2014

Bulletbelt - Rise of the Banshee

Written by Matt Hinch.

Artwork by Scarecrowoven

I hope you've done your stretches because Rise of the Banshee from New Zealanders Bulletbelt will give your neck a pretty hefty workout. Intensity is the name of the game as the quintet thrash and bash a blackened path through just about whatever they damn please.

Ross “Rots” Mallon and Ryan O'Leary make up a potent twin guitar attack. Blistering rhythms and scorching solos melt skulls (why stop at faces?) and tear holes in the sky. Sure, they can bring a pall of doom over things but they're all about the shred. Mixing a speed-ridden thrash with soaring black metal tremolos, the pair push ever onwards toward the next opportunity to make you clutch your oversized invisible grenades and scream “FUCK YEAH!” They reach back and pull the inspiration of their forebears into the modern age. Technically precise yet still catchy, the two work in tandem and on separate paths with enthusiasm and cohesiveness.

Tim Mekalick completes the stringed trifecta with stellar bass work. He can keep up through the frenzied gallops but he's more than just frequency filler. His dexterity cuts through the mix to highlight how he's able to work off the base riffs and runs while adding nuance and complex character. After a number of listens it's still fun to pick out the little things he's doing. And that's not just because I play bass. His rhythmic partner in crime, Steve “Cleaver” Francis is no slouch either. He spurs the guitar steeds on mercilessly with blast beats galore but he's no one-trick pony. Flexibility and strength play a large role in his impact but as with every facet of Bulletbelt, intensity is the driving force.

Perhaps no member of the band is more intense than vocalist Jolene Tempest. I have my doubts on that being her Christian name but in any case she more than lives up to it as she is a tempest indeed. Banshee is also appropriate as her demonic rasp is the stuff of nightmares. Throat-shredding barks command attention and respect. You can hear every fibre of her being channeled into her delivery for maximum depravity.

It's not as simple as five deft musicians, however. Bulletbelt also write sweet tunes. Each track on Rise of the Banshee, whether it's the 7:27 “Death Tinted Red” or the 3:19 “Sniper” is a headbangin' rager compelling furious bodily reaction. Catchy riffs, rapturous solos and well-timed and executed tempo changes make for an engaging and memorable listen.

Come to think of it, they push all the right buttons in much the same way as Skeletonwitch. Fast, intense, proficient and equally magnetic on record as they are live. They sound evil and epic in the way blackened thrash is supposed to but it doesn't feel like a shtick. Like the 'Witch, you can hear how they live and breathe the music but we're not led to believe they live in a cabin on a snowy hillside or hide from the light in a secret dungeon abode. This is straight up metal for metal's sake. Thrashing, bashing, searing, soaring. It's complex but honestly convincing. There's menace, melody, momentum and memorability. Epic undercurrents shade the maniacal attack and spine-shivering vocals. Just as a bulletbelt is stereotypical heavy metal attire, Bulletbelt take the basic tenets of heavy metal and rip your throat out with them. But do so without cheese or cliche.

Raise your fists, friends. The banshee is rising. Just listen to her wail.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

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