Friends of Hell – God Damned You to Hell Review

Back in 2022, a tongue-in-cheek project by members of Reverend Bizarre and Electric Wizard was introduced to the world. Going by the name Friends of Hell (a not-so-subtle call out to Witchfinder General’s sophomore opus), they played classic 80s doom in the vein of Pentagram, Saint Vitus, and of course, Witchfinder General. It was a loving homage to a specific era and sound and the somewhat goofy, overblown delivery was balanced out by slick riffs and the one-of-a-kind vocals of Albert Witchfinder (Reverend Bizarre). It was entertaining but it wasn’t a must-hear kind of article. 2024 sees Friends of Hell back with a greatly overhauled lineup and without the talents of Albert Witchfinder. In his place is Per “Hellbutcher” Gustavsson of Nifelheim and Necrocurse fame. Can this new crew provide classic doom chills and thrills? Let’s get down in the Devil’s business.

It turns out Hellbutcher is a good fit for what Friends of Hell do this time out. The opening title track is burly and punchy and the riffs flow rough and ready, giving the song a tough, biker doom vibe over which Mr. H. Butcher shouts, sneers, and croons like a man possessed. It’s a weird mash-up of Pentagram and Cathedral and just heavy enough to convince. The Friends lean harder into their Cathedral affections on “Gran Inquisitor” which could have appeared on any of the better Lee Dorrian-led outings with big riffage laying the foundation for odd vocalizing and eldritch mood conjuring. I love when Butcher gravely intones “Evil witch!” with a palpable disgust that would make even Matthew Hopkins himself proud. “Bringer of Evil” injects a trve metal energy akin to Visigoth and Argus and it works surprisingly well, getting my sword hand twitching and making me want to mete out justice and wengeance. Hellbutcher does a fine job inspiring bloodlust and glory and the guitar play by new slingers Beelzeebubth (Mystifier) and Nikolas Moutafis (Solitary Sabred, Mirror) is rock solid. The requisite Black Sabbath debts are paid on “Snakes Not Sons” which sounds like something off of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. The leads are pure Iommi and you can easily imagine Ozzy singing this.

The standout moment hits with “Cross Inverter” which is just big stupid fun, dragging classic doom tropes into lusty over-exaggeration as Hellbutcher goes all in. It’s like the most bombastic moments of early Saint Vitus and also reminds me of the over-the-top bits of Briton Rites’ greatly underappreciated debut. The chorus is good fun and there are killer harmonies and leads to marinate in. Elsewhere, “Let the Devil Take You” manages to cram in a vague Mercyful Fate flavor. There are no duds here, though not every song will crush you under its steel boot. “Arcane Macabre” and “Ave Satanatas” are decent but not essential, and closer “All the Colors of the Dark” runs 2 minutes too long. At a reasonable 46 minutes, God Damned You to Hell is an easy, breezy spin with only a few moments that lag.

I was disappointed to learn Albert Witchfinder was no longer friends with Hell since I’ve always had a soft spot for his wonky, weirdo vocals. Hellbutcher’s enthusiastic efforts quickly won me over, however, and it turns out he’s an excellent fit for the Friends of Hell modality. He’s surprisingly versatile and can sing in the classic doom style better than you’d expect. Naturally, he hams it up like Easter dinner but that’s a big part of the fun. I’m also impressed by the guitar tandem of Beelzeebubth and Nikolas Moutafis. They do justice to the early 80s doom sound and pepper each song with catchy riffs, and their harmonies and solos are also quite striking. They even toss in little surprises like the Darkthrone-esque accents on “All the Colors of the Dark.”

I didn’t expect a whole lot from God Damned You to Hell, but I enjoy it a bit more than the debut. The style Friends of Hell pay homage to lacks a large demographic these days, but for folks who grew up with it, this will trigger all kinds of nostalgic tingles and tickles. If you enjoy the old Saint Vitus and Pentagram platters, this is a no-brainer. If you need more doom in your life regardless of era, you should become friends with Friends of Hell. It would be wise, my friend.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Rise Above
Releases Worldwide: April 5th, 2024

The post Friends of Hell – God Damned You to Hell Review appeared first on Angry Metal Guy.

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