Let’s deal with the elephant in the room: What is a hybrid sheep? My only guess is that it’s a cybernetic organism, living tissue over a metal endoskeleton sent back in time to make perfectly smooth 50/50 wool/polyester blends and blow shit up.
Ok, now that that’s dealt with, we’ll move on to the review. Hybrid Sheep, hailing from France, have just released Hail to the Beast. It’s a modern take on the classic Gothenburg melodic death metal sound. Upon first listen, this record grabbed my attention with it’s At the Gates and In Flames-inspired riffage. These guys do a really good job of blending flashy, at times neoclassical, melodic death riffs with more modern groove sections.
"Following Blind Leaders" is definitely my favorite track on the record. The section at 1:15 is everything that makes melodic death metal great, and I found myself coming back to this song time and time again. A close second is album opener "Warface," which manages to showcase the band’s musical prowess and neoclassical influences while still coming across as extremely aggressive. Title track "Hail to the Beast" makes sure this album passes the 6/8 rule (all great melodic death metal bands must have songs in 6/8!). About half way through the song there is a cool section very reminiscent of The Black Dahlia Murder’s Miasma that jumps off into an extremely tasty solo.
I really dig the vocals on this album, which are a blend between Ritual-era The Black Dahlia Murder screeches and Aborted-style growls. The vocal performances deliver on all tracks and work well with the instrumental parts. The promo I received did not come with a lyric book, so I can only assume that this record is an ode to surrendering, smoking, and fancy cheeses.
The only drawback to Hail to the Beast is that it falls victim to some of the standard “modern metal” pitfalls. The Joey Sturgis-esque production gimmicks (glitching, reverse snares, etc.), usually reserved for polishing turds, seems out of place with a band who’s musicianship is so high caliber. In addition, some of the guitar parts feel a little too modern for a band that appears to be so deeply rooted in a classic metal sound.
Overall, this is a great record. If you’re a fan of melodic death metal, you’ll find yourself listening to it again and again. Buy and stream Hail to the Beast below.
- Old Dirty Dan