Black Emerald – Hell Can’t Handle all of Us
Release date: 10th February 2018
Black Emerald have been around in various iterations for 13 years and according to their bio undergone many a line up change. It appears that over that time they have managed to carve out a fairly distinctive style that melds quite a range of metal based points of reference. In their own words they play ‘stoner, progressive, doom blues metal with a smidge of hard rock’. On reading that I was interested as to how well they would bring all these elements together but it seems that across Hell Can’t Handle us all there is a cohesive linking of styles rather than a cluttered sound. This is quite a varied album that manages to encompass the aforementioned styles and then some; the final track Revelations is probably best described as an ambient soundscape.
The album starts on a high note with Hell Can’t Handle all of Us, which kicks off with a slow feedback heavy sludgy intro. This then builds up into a more classic rock flecked sound as the song moves through a range of quite different sections that fit together well. The vocals are delivered with strength and across the album are indicative of the band’s idiosyncratic sound. The singer’s voice has a gravelly feel to it but still retains a slight catch in the enunciation that should make it sound a little off. However, it doesn’t and the vocals are consistently good across the record.
As the album progresses the band showcase a range of styles with the next few songs focusing lyrically on topics of inebriation, over medicalisation and generally getting trashed. Dr Stein has an interesting sonic representation of a breakdown incorporating screams and weird scratchy noises before leading into a more industrial sounding drum part and doom like riff. B.O.D has a really strong groove to the riff, with slightly off kilter drums that combine well with some slick soloing. Fifth track One for the Road is another musing on the attractions and downsides of drinking. It is delivered in a more standard Hard rock, bluesy register and has an accompanying video.
The album progresses nicely, Voodoo Princess a slightly silly but enjoyable track, and Sculptures in the Sky deploying the use of ghostly vocals under the riff to good effect. It is the last three tracks where things really start to get interesting though. Figure on a Barbed wire cross starts off with a heavy sounding riff and drums before leading into a soaring metal inspired feel. Then around 4 minutes it breaks down allowing for some variation on the drums which draw on a military tattoo at one point. The lyrics are sparse but that works as the riff and drum variations speak for themselves, a top track.
The penultimate song Jonestown, is a sprawling nine minute epic focusing on the Jonestown massacres with the inclusion of vocal samples of Jim Jones done very well and creating an eerie macabre atmosphere. The slower tempo fits the subject matter as does the vocal variation and the inclusion of spectral choral parts. This is a grandly scaled and ambitious song which really demonstrates the band’s more experimental aspects. It sits well with final track Revelations which is a much mellower affair, I took the slight sound reminiscent of helicopter rotors to be a subtle reference to the arrival of the assassinated senator Leo Ryan at Jonestown. Overall, this album is a really good showcase for the band who have clearly managed to develop their own unique approach, with a couple of great songs peppered among some decent ones. I would certainly be interested in seeing how this transfers to their live set.
Recommended track – Figure on a barbed wire cross