West of Hell is a heavy metal band that formed in West Auckland, New Zealand but has since made their home in Vancouver, BC. According to their press package, “Their objective was to create a sound that would preserve their legendary inﬂuences, whilst having modern elements”. From the very first listen to the opening track of Spiral Empire, “Father of Lies”, those influences can be heard loud and clear. Frontman, Chris “The Heathen” Valagao, has a Bruce “Dickinsonian” vocal range that blends quite nicely with the guitar god-like assault and brutally pounding rhythms.
All of the songs are powerful with no let up in pace. The outstanding guitar pyrotechnics by Jordy Knute and Sean Parkinson have much in common with the likes of DragonForce, Iron Maiden, Veils of Maya, and even Metallica. The guitars do not overshadow the double bass drum thrashing by Andrew Hulme though. The bass (Jordan Kemp) and drum centered opening for “To War” is a great example of how well all the elements within the band fuse together. Lyrically, West of Hell” seems to lean to the epic side with great narratives in the tradition of Maiden or Testament. Spiral Empire focuses on musicality with a tinge of old school metal blended with what documentarian Sam Dunne would more than likely classify as thrash. The results are a formidable release that should gain fans rather quickly.
West of Hell was ﬁercely determined to produce an album of high quality hiring producer and Juno Award winning engineer Rob Shallcross (Strapping Young Lad, GWAR, Zimmers Hole, Gene Hoglan, Fear Factory, Cocaine Moustache) with whom Valagao had worked with on previous projects. The payoff for their efforts is huge. The production is a beautiful blend of instrumentation that helps keep the music focused and not muddy. If you are a fan of thrash metal with lyrics you can understand and a voice that hearkens back to the heydays, Spiral Empire needs to be on your download list.
Highlights: “Soul Taker”, “Demon Sent”, “To War”, “Father of Lies”