Why should I listen to just reason?
-- Hunter --
Review written by Stijn “Metal Shredder” Daneels.
[METAL SHREDDER REPORTING]
I first encountered Hunter around 2018 when I saw them perform on the inaugural edition of Plutofest. It was a memorable and enjoyable gig, memorable in particular because they played their first couple of songs without their bassist only for said bassist to quickly pop up on stage, plug in his equipment and then provide some groovy bass jams which brought the show to a significantly higher level. A year later the band managed to reach the finals of the Wacken Metal Battle Belgium 2019 and released a solid eponymous debut EP (which I reviewed, check it out: https://www.belgianmetalshredder.be/reviews/142)
Now, Hunter has returned with their first full-length called “Rebel Angels Rise” and since I’ve had much fun with Hunter in the past, I’m of course highly inclined to shred this one too!
“Rebel Angels Rise” is the first full-length of the Belgian heavy metal band Hunter and is an independent release and sent to us by Hard Life Promotion, all much like their self-titled EP from 2019. The album kicks off with “Wicked,” a smooth jamming tune whose riff and vocal styles remind me of Painkiller era Judas Priest but what I particularly like about this track is the extensive guitar solo.
Then comes a lengthy track called “The Forge” and while I’m not the biggest fan of overly long tracks, I did genuinely enjoy this one. It’s a dark power metal tune that intertwines slow, menacing riffs and howling vocals with fast, aggressive beats and more operatic singing. Next up is the title track of “Rebel Angels Rise” and I was instantly hooked to the catchy melodies that this song features. Thematically, it’s a classic metal anthem tune, but it’s of the subtle kind, no over the top vocal deliveries, no frantic pacing, just raw power.
Opening up with a minute of gentle acoustic music is “Requiem,” which then moves on to usual Hunter grooves for the rest of said track. While I do like the main riffs of this song, I did wish they wrapped this track up with some more acoustic tunes. Continuing from there is “The Knight of the Black Rose Part 2,” a sequel to “The Knight of the Black Rose” which was featured in Hunter’s eponymous 2019 EP and continues the story of the knight after he had killed his wife and son in the previous track after he had fallen to the temptations of a malevolent elf and now gets a brutal punishment for his crime. Musically, the song also continues in the same vein as Part 1 with various tempo changes, instrumental sections and narrative lyrics.
Next up is a speed metal track in the form of “Suffocate,” this song even features some death metal growls in the chorus, quite a pleasant and effective surprise. The final regular track on “Rebel Angels Rise” is called “Morior Invictus,” just a solid jammer track but I admit that I didn’t leave much of an impression on me. And finally there’s the bonus track “Dominion MMXXIII,” a re-recorded version of the “Dominion” track which opened the 2019 debut EP. The “Dominion” track is still a favorite of mine in Hunter’s discography thanks to its well thought out build up and brooding atmosphere and this newly recorded version brings this tune to a higher level.
Now, while I’ve praised Hunter’s “Rebel Angels Rise” I do doubt whether or not I prefer this album over Hunter’s 2019 EP. Production-wise, “Rebel Angels Rise” is a definite improvement with a higher quality mix while still feeling very straightforward. The upgraded production values greatly enhance the brooding atmosphere of Hunter’s material. But when it comes to the tracks themselves, I’m more drawn towards the shorter and faster-paced songs of the EP. All in all, I believe that, while Hunter already has more than a solid old-school heavy metal base, they can still further expand their vocal and instrument range with grunts, acoustics and who knows what more. I believe that would make their longer songs less repetitive for me.
© 2023 Gino Van Lancker
Hunter’s “Rebel Angels Rise” features the band’s undead cowboy hat and trench coat wearing mascot attached to a spire in the middle of a hellish landscape with a winged, trident-wearing demon looking on at the top of that spire. The artwork has a lot of action going for it, from the white-winged angels flying around to the debris getting soaked into the blackhole in the sky. It’s great artwork overall. The hellscape could fit very well as cover art for a DOOM game and the whole scenery also reminds me of classic Judas Priest, Blind Guardian or Iced Earth.
Thematically, Hunter’s debut full-length deals with dark fantasy and mythological topics like the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Adam and Eve’s fall from Paradise, heaven and hell and death itself.
[SHARPEST SHREDS & BLUNTEST BLADES]
I’d say that “Wicked” is a solid opener to Hunter’s first full-length and “The Forge” being my favorite of the lengthier tracks on “Rebel Angels Rise.” However, I do chose the anthemic title track and the speed/death mélange called “Suffocate” as my top picks of this album.
Weakest track for me was “Morior Invictus,” it just didn’t click with me compared to most of the other tracks on “Angel Rebels Rise.” Good thing the remade “Dominion” track comes after and that one functions as much more suitable finale to this otherwise enjoyable album.
7,5 Edens out of 10. Despite some songs overstaying their welcome, Hunter’s “Rebel Angels Rise” album marks a nice improvement to their already fun debut EP. They’ve upgraded the production and expanded on their existing musical tricks while staying true to ther classic metal roots from the likes of Priest, Maiden and Cirith Ungol.