Screamer – Hell Machine (Released February 24, 2017 – High Roller Records)
Sweden’s greatest exports may be industrial machinery, automobiles, and paper products according to the Google machine but, as we know, their best export is heavy metal. From the Viking warlords, Amon Amarth to the genre defining Meshuggah to the melodic death metal trifecta of In Flames, Dark Tranquility, and At the Gates, Sweden has been responsible for more than its fair share of quality metal. That trend continues with the newest throwback offering from Screamer, Hell Machine.
Like their Norwegian cousins, Audrey Horne, Screamer play balls to the wall, high energy, pure, heavy metal. This nostalgic energy is sprinkled with modern flair on the album opener, Alive, as big chunky riffs are mixed with the gallops and leads of an Iron Maiden B-side. Peaking early, my favourite track, On My Way, burns out of the gate. Drums like an engine and an opening solo that mimics the chorus it is the perfect driving track. Fast and unrelenting the chunky riffs are put aside for blistering speed and a chorus that demands to be sung along to. If it was not obvious from the first two tracks the titular track drives home the point that Hell Machine is not kvlt and is most definitely not trv with its single string opening run and exciting riffs. Not a thinking record in the slightest, Hell Machine is simply pure fun and I am frustrated while listening knowing I will not be able to appreciate it as it should be. Lady of the Night is an inspired riff fest and Andreas Wikström really proves his chops on the mic. The first couple tracks his voice slipped into the monotony of NWOTHM singers but, when paired with just the drums he is able to shine through and separate from the riffs. Slower than the rest of the album, Warrior features an acoustic opening and big, nearly doomy, electric riffs. As the track picks up the dual guitars of Anton Fingal and Dejan Rosic break into leads that can only be described as fun as they make you want to pick up a guitar and play along.
With all this consistent greatness the fault in the album is its consistency. There is great truth to the statement that all good things should be taken in moderation and this is where my frustration and lack of appreciation stem from. Individually, each track on Hell Machine shines but, packaged together and consumed in an intimate setting the lustre of an individual track causes the one beside it to tarnish. Denim and Leather has an interesting compressed lead and some excellent cymbals but the drive behind is the same as previous tracks so it wears thin. Released as a single, Monte Carlo Nights got me interested in the album but its placement in the track listing causes it to slip although the groovy kick drum and wah pedal solo are great. Even the dual guitar leads and hammering kick of The Punishment fail to get me up as the album comes to close.
Metal fit to strip the acid washed jeans and leather jacket from your body, Screamer exists in an era long past but never forgotten. Hell Machine is pure fun and a shining reminder that the revivalist movement of 2016 has carried into 2017 but, it also makes me wonder what ingredient these bands are missing. It may be because I know Iron Maiden’s discography like the back of my hand or have listened to Judas Priest on repeat for days on end and Screamer does not have that connection with me but, I can never leave a NWOTHM release without feeling a little empty. Wow, it sucks to end on an unhappy personal note like that… sooooo, ye, seriously, if you have a road trip coming up toss this in stereo and be in bliss.