Genre: Death/thrash Metal | Label: Carbonized Records
Location: Dallas, Texas | Listen: Bandcamp
Death/thrash is one of my favourite metal hybrids, as I can’t resist the combination of fast, energetic riffs next to the downright extreme and brutal tendencies of death metal. Some of my all time favourite bands like Deceased and Ares Kingdom have been masters of the genre for decades at this point. Enter Steel Bearing Hand – a Dallas, TX based band that are bringing the fucking riffs, and their sophomore record has been one of my favourite albums of 2021. Every thing that I like in metal is here, and they do it with powerful conviction.
“Slay in Hell” has only six songs, but clocks in at 40 minutes, with the first couple tracks acting as total rippers before the band really starts to flex their songwriting abilities with the latter four songs. Their songwriting reminds me of Sacrilege’s “Behind the Realms of Madness” quite a lot in terms of feel, rhythmic approach, and structure. Often times, a simple riff with get played with a midpaced feel, and then kind of pick up to something a little more intense, before letting loose into a fast punk or even blasting feel. It’s a perfect catch-and-release approach, and the parts seem to all center around an idea and just embellish it as iterations go on. There’s parts that plod like Amebix/Axegrinder, there’s double kick death metal grinders like early Bolt Thrower, and there’s just downright thrashing parts.
As mentioned, the first two tracks are more compact and keep it pretty up tempo, as they both are under 4 minutes. By “Tombspawn,” we get a little more variety with some slower parts as a breather, but it’s not long until Steel Bearing Hand busts some blazing fretboard work again. Scope that opening Sacrilege like lick in “Per Tenebras Ad Lucem.” The way they bring it back at the end of the song (after an array of riffs with fast and tight picking) is great too, as the the two guitarists start harmonizing it and bringing it up higher and higher for effect. Evidently, these guys are fantastic guitarists, as both the rhythm and lead parts are played with a high level of skill. Much like the precise picking on these fast paced riffs, the solos are dazzling too. Steel Bearing Hand absolutely brings it when it comes to killer guitar solos, and it just feels fucking metal, reminding me of the deadly solos the godfathers of death/thrash I mentioned earlier are known to have. “‘Til Death and Beyond” probably highlights this the best with it’s multi-solo section at the end, utilizing dive bombs, smooth runs, and tight tapping.
“Slay in Hell” is a rather clear sounding record, but it still feels filthy thanks to its high gain guitar tone that just reeks of heaviness. All the palm muting and picking patterns come out really well, and the parts where things slow down (especially in the epic 12+ minute closer, “Ensanguined”) still end up having enough sustain and power to sound massive. Likewise, the drums sound massive, and there’s great clarity with every fill. A lot of this record is dominated by double kick beats, and they all come through really well thanks to the competent recording. The bass is easy to find without taking away from the guitar tone – you can really feel it filling out that low end, and there’s a well balanced amount of clang that shines through for that added percussive force. Furthermore, there are some really nice production touches throughout, such as background keys for atmosphere in some of the slower parts, giving it that apocalyptic crust feel akin to bands like Filth of Mankind. There are other little flourishes like the odd dive bomb or vocal echo when a new part comes in, things like that to spice it up.
I can’t say enough good things about this record. It does all the things that make enjoy metal in the first place, from the punky thrashing parts, to the tremolo riffs with blast beats, to the electrifying lead playing, and to the use of dynamic songwriting. The whole record feels so complete the way it starts off with a couple thrashers, and then closes off with a big epic full of gloomy atmosphere. I honestly don’t know how this band’s debut didn’t end up on my radar, but Steel Bearing Hand has made quite an impression on me with “Slay in Hell”. Kudos to Carbonized Records for putting out such an awesome package, as even the artwork feels like a crusty death/thrash masterpiece.