Keen-eared listeners will quickly notice something about HellCast on their debut EP Anguish: This band’s got rhythm. Granted, it’s a heavy rhythm replete with all the crunch and volume you’d expect from a group with the word “death” in their genre title.
“I’ve always wanted to have something for people to groove to,” said lead guitarist Rhett Tanner, who cited Florence band Through the Eyes of the Dead as a key influence for the band.
Anguish is HellCast’s debut EP, coming out roughly a year after its formation. The band was born out of the ashes of a pop-punk group, composed of metalheads, Tanner said. “It was definitely heavier pop-punk,” he clarified. “We decided, ‘Let’s play some metal, let’s do something different.’”
Because of the band’s love of all things heavy, most of the members had metal riffs in their back pockets, ready to be fleshed out. Some of those early songs appear on Anguish.
“Torment,” the lead single from the album, is an attention-grabber partially for the things it doesn’t have as a metal song; “Torment” lacks loads of grinding distortion and guttural instrumentation so common in deathcore.
Don’t get it twisted, it’s still a brutal track, but the band’s sense of rhythm and interest in melody-adjacent riffs is a unique addition to the sound. The vocal accompaniment from David Lopez of Down Under adds miles to its intensity, as well.
Following the traditions of deathcore and death metal bands before them, HellCast provides a punishing tonal assault of breakdowns, rapid fire bass drums and fleet-fingered guitar lines.
The EP starts in fifth gear with “Cesspool,” winding rhythm and lead guitars from Tanner and Jeff Adams together. The lyrics give a glimpse at the bleak world the band sees. “How can you live with yourself/ so fucking heartless and spineless/ we’re living in a fucking cesspool,” vocalist Zach Hall screams.
“Anguish” takes the baton from the opener and speeds off into another head-ripping track. The band picks up the pace, with Robert Moring beating the drum kit into a pulp. He and bassist Austin Kraft are tightly wound, finding the right moments to slow it down and speed it up.
Tanner said many South Carolina bands of their stripe are pretty straightforward, something that has helped inform HellCast’s sound. “We wanted to set ourselves apart by taking on some technicality side of metal, but also incorporating that beatdown and heavy side that people love,” he said.
As a band that started to make moves when the pandemic began, HellCast hasn’t gotten many opportunities to show off that sound.
Thanks to the pandemic canceling a year of shows the band had lined up, HellCast has only been able to play one concert. Despite the sudden lack of visibility in a music scene heavily held down by live shows, Tanner believes it helped the band and made their debut album better. “We’ve really had a lot of time to persevere and work on crafting our sound, essentially,” he said. “It’s actually worked out in our favor. We’re very happy we had time to put in the work and not just rush into things.”
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