Sydney veterans Hazmat return five years after their debut, self-titled statement of intent, and you’d have to say it’s been worth the half decade wait…
A wall-to-wall festival of chugging rifferama, baleful vocalising and, most importantly, great songwriting, Atonement will definitely be one of the best metal records we hear from an Australian band in 2016.
A cynic might say that vocalist/guitarist Jay is a bit too sincere in his appreciation of Dave Mustaine at times, but to be honest, whilst he’s adopted all of the sneer of ol’ winedrinker Dave, there’s thankfully none of the whine, if you get my drift, meaning that the hate filled delivery is good enough to complement the music rather than take away from its undoubted impact. So whilst there is an undoubted ‘dethly whiff around a lot of the material on offer here, it’s the kinda stench one actually doesn’t mind waking up with their clothes well and truly coated in every now and then…
Atonement is that sort of album, carrying as it does a cloying, oppressive nature that leaves you feeling like you need a good dousing in disinfectant after contact thanks to the weightiness of the riffs and Jay’s grim delivery. Rhythm section Caine and Stu rarely let their collective feet off the gas either, pounding the listener into submission with tight, cohesive workouts on every track. The bay area styled backing vox on Sold lend a bit of light relief after the battering – but not much –as guitarists Jay and Andrew ‘Duck’ Howard unleash a furious barrage of riffs and solos to contribute together to what is undoubtedly the album’s strongest track, although the title track runs it a close second with its grinding, doom-fuelled bass and lead interplay at the start of the track being a real highlight.
This is proper heavy metal, made not with an eye on money-making modern musical mores or flash in the pan trends, but purely because it’s what’s inside the musicians involved and they need to get it out into the open. There’s never a moment on this record where you stop to think ‘Mmm. That’s a bit contrived’, but there are lots of moments when you’ll be balling your hand into a fist, or testing the old neck muscles a bit more than is totally necessary when sat in a crowded train carriage. And when the band breaks into the NWoBHM-informed album closer The Dodger (New Murder) I refuse to believe you will not be considering manufacturing some sort of cardboard guitar/studded wristband combo to further add to your enjoyment of the song. Atonement has that sort of effect on me, and if you dare call yourself any sort of headbanger, it’ll do the same to you. There’s a lot of ‘trad’ heavy metal doing the rounds today that is purely laughable; Atonement isn’t one of those albums.
Atonement is out on April 1st.