Hell:On – Once Upon a Chaos…

Experimentation is occasionally a path of ruin, irrespective of history and skill, a choice often made for the wrong reasons, or even when made for the right reasons it leads to abject failure.  It's a dangerous path, fraught with danger, covered in brambles leading up to steep cliffs where a single foothold means either progression or falling down into a chasm where one's body is tossed into separate parts upon the rocks.  But experimentation is inevitable, it must always be so, for unless a band in its very essence is pushing boundaries as part of its sound from inception, there are only two choices; experiment and grow or stay the same and wear those wrinkles upon thy skin with pride, or a little make up, or whatever the hell that means or whatever the hell we're even talking about.  See what experimentation does?  The body writing this review is merely a pile of scattered limbs now, we took the leap.  But hey, writing's easy to fix, see, by this point we're making sense and you forgot about most of the above.  By this point, you probably don't even care, so let's pretend it never happened and see what has happened with this new one from Hell:On, Once Upon a Chaos...

  

Interestingly, aside from a name that would confuse and plague an editor, Ukraine's Hell:On have been pretty straight-up thrash metal for most of their decade-long, or a little longer, career.  Simply listening to earlier work like 2012's Age of Oblivion makes that sufficiently clear.  One year later they verified it further, and exemplified the sound of thrash with Hunt, referring to themselves as "Cossacks from hell."  But aside from more production, more clarity in tone, more cultural references, and more solos, Hunt was more in the sense of more of the same, which is really all that thrash does.  So, two years later into the future, and right now, or, well, this past August, Hell:On decided to make break for it, to take their thrashing to another level, and they made the leap into experimentation.  Once Upon a Chaos... makes it evident that the band is all about doing something new, but perhaps at the cost of accessibility to the very fan base of which thrash is comprised.

 

Chaos, destruction of form, the removal of order.  It seems this has been the path of experimentation (maybe put that in quotes there) for many bands as of late, the PORTAL disease, if you will.  Now, occasionally, that's actually turned out to be an awesome idea, this using of disruption to create something new.  But thrash?  The genre thrives primarily on never changing, so it's potentially an awesome idea, but already comes packaged in a box of be freaking careful goddamn it.  Hell:On are definitely attempting something new with the genre here, going far beyond the usual packaging or sound.  The artwork says it all, but the music takes it further as Once Upon a Chaos... opens with a confusing conglomeration of thrash chording and Middle Eastern twang. Our initial reaction was simply, huh?  Hell:On doesn't stop there, though, oh:no, they alter vocals, break through thrash fencing to enter their neighbor's progressive metal yard, and in doing so trampled some death metal rose bushes.  As such, there are moments when this release shines, when the experimentation with thrash comes together in a most beautiful way, such as roughly the last minute of "Destruction".  But these moments are fewer than one would hope.  In the end, Hell:On needs to consider the dynamics of thrash before taking their experimentation further than this sampling, because the only thing keeping this album on peaceful terms with us are those sick solos and the art.  Otherwise, it's too confused with what it wants to be, leaping quickly from thrash into territories where it probably doesn't belong.

 

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Written by Stanley Stepanic

Hell:On: One Upon a Chaos...
Ferrrum
3.4 / 5