The three members of Black Hill Cove are all veterans in the Portuguese metal and hardcore scenes, which may explain why they sound so tight for a band that formed during the 2020 pandemic. Broken is a dense slab of metallic hardcore that prides itself on the virtues of fortitude and resilience. But it also contains a few nuggets of cross-genre experimentation that will leave you wondering if you’re listening to a technical thrash record masquerading as punk. The important thing is that it makes you feel invincible.
Pinning down the Black Hill Cove formula is impossible, mainly because they try to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to their sonic assault. Opener, ‘Lutar até ao fim’, is occultist enough to make you wonder if you’ve selected an Akercocke album by mistake. Since when did a hardcore band incorporate bass trombones and ritual percussion into their repertoire with dark symphonic flourishes? You’re still pondering this when they meet your expectations with ‘Angels Fall’. Now this is more like it – fast metalcore guitars drop-tuned to C with rapid-fire drums in pursuit. Vocalist and guitarist, Nuno Aguiar de Loureiro, sounds like he could overturn a Chevrolet with his bare hands on this track and on its successor, ‘The Wolf’. The attempt to replicate a Machine Head chorus misses the target by a whisker, but you’ll soon forget this when you hear the inventive Killing Joke chord choices in the main riff. Black Hill Cove are confident they can blind you with the fury and unpredictability of their music, and seldom do they misfire across the twelve cuts on offer.
Perhaps the most unusual strength of Broken is how the best songs appear in the latter half of the record. Most bands are already running out of steam by this point, but ‘The Calling’ locks in on a cyber metal riff with pinch harmonics and glitch effects plugging the gaps where the guitar chugs cut out. Fear Factory fans will feel their eyes bulge at the precision riffing, yet the eerie intergalactic middle-eight is just as captivating. They’re not done with the surprises, either. ‘The Hunt’ thrives on a scything Obituary crunch, while ‘Hole in the Head’ doffs a cap to Pantera. “I bleed for sanity/ My blood runs for you and me,” roars Nuno, like an Anthrax-era John Bush.
It’s no surprise that the confidence levels are high given the experience and veteran years of the band members. This might explain why Broken strides through twelve songs when nine would have been sufficient. ‘Kill the Beast’ and ‘In the Shadows’ are fillers, but they’re listenable compared to the weak melodic chorus to ‘Broken Piece’, which manages to destroy the venomous bite of the intro in one regrettable octave change. Why nobody told them to remove this anomalous chorus is a mystery.
Nonetheless, Black Hill Cove have every reason to be proud of their debut offering. The Portuguese trio are a relentless metallic force with a restless will to overcome the obstacles that life throws at them. Would you want to get in their way?
Release Date: 05/11/2021
Record Label: Raging Planet Records
Standout tracks: The Wolf, The Calling, The Hunt
Suggested Further Listening: Extinction A.D. – Chaos, Collusion, Carnage & Propaganda EP (2021), Prong – Ruining Lives (2014), Snafu – Exile // Banishment (2021)