Review: “Live at Stag Studios” by Hellforged

Bagging themselves qualification into Metal to the Masses, the competition that as everyone knows allows bands to quite literally play off against each other for a place on the Bloodstock Festival New Blood stage in 2023 as well as releasing a debut EP has meant that the first year couldn’t have got much better for Hellforged. Citing influences in everyone from Judas Priest to Anthrax and even Slipknot, the stars seem to have alighted for vocalist Luke Grunge, guitarist Ben Greenblatt, bassist Michael Watson and drummer Matthew Coleman with their Essex territory already laid to waste by Beyond Extinction who have themselves been encouraging violence in the pit since 2019.

Rather than something recorded on a mobile phone in the center of a dark, damp torture chamber hell rehearsal space somewhere, Hellforged have instead entered Stag Studios to commit their first works to tape. “Live at Stag Studios” sounds like what you might have expected from a band playing in session for a radio station for example, live but without the audience. That means it’s a little bit warts and all as the bass is a little high in the mix and the microphone position on the drum kit isn’t perfect but as it goes, it serves the band well because it adds to the charm of the record. Opening cut “Reborn” finds Hellforged in similar territory to Hedra with vocalist Luke Grunge impressing with clean and soulful vocals that make the band like acts from the late 90’s and early 90’s like Soundgarden, in the space between Metal and Grunge. Vocally getting heavier with the odd unclean moment once the band have built up to it works well as a styling with the band opting for groove over virtuoso leads, the first solo appearing in “Undead Missus” an absolute face melter which proves that the band don’t need a second guitarist to bolster their sound. A cut designed for the pit, that one offers a pummelling finale that will go down a storm in the live arena. The vocals on “Leech on Me” might not be as prominent in the mix as they could be but the raw nature of the recording of this one has its own appeal and speaks volumes about the bands DIY or DIE attitude. This could actually be a “Badmotorfinger” era demo from Soundgarden with a distinctly Geffen Records sound leaning, such is the quality of the clean vocal parts while the tapping solo is manna from heaven, the Chef’s Kiss. It has to be said that it seems brave including a near ten minute cut on a first record but in “Curse of the Drunken Master” the band prove that they have ability to hold the attention for the duration. Grunge has storytelling abilities as well as a broad vocal range, sounding a little unhinged at points of this one while the extended solo from Greenblatt offers the suggestion that the band may have some more progressive Iron Maiden style cuts up their sleeves in the future. All in all a solid record that shows plenty of promise and if they’re playing in your town, on this evidence they’re not a band to be missed [7/10]

Track Listing

  1. Reborn
  2. Undead Missus
  3. Leech on Me
  4. Curse of the Drunken Master

Live at Stag Studios” by Hellforged is out now and available everywhere you’d expect it to be like Spotify, Apple Music and so on…

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