Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Long Hundred 013/100: Hellchild - Bareskin which a Japanese death/grind band released an album that was everything but.

[This is part of a series of posts dedicated to 100 albums I feel lucky to have heard. The full list and a more detailed explanation of the series can be found here.]

I discovered Hellchild at the Loud Az Fuck festival - a two day fest organized by Disassociate singer Ralphie Boy. It's not just the single greatest live event I've ever attended - those two days in July of 2000 may have been the best of my life. Sadly, I missed most of Hellchild's set, but heard enough to be blown away by Tsukara Harakawa's utterly inhuman vocals and impassioned performance. I later ran into the band after their set, and picked up a copy of the Bareskin cd.

Though I listened to the album obsessively throughout that summer, I really didn't know what to make of Bareskin. Like a lot of bands I'm drawn to, Hellchild defies pithy categorization. Ostensibly rooted in Japan's death metal and grindcore scene, their music favoured noisey hardcore and a prominent Sabbath/Pantera influence. Though both Carcass and Entombed started employing more traditional rock influences shortly before Bareskin was released, Hellchild's knack for groove predate either the "death n roll" or groove metal trends, and can be found on the first EP they released in 1992.

As confounding as the music is, the album's stand out performance belongs to Tsukara. Though completely feral and absolutely inhuman sounding, his vocals have a mournful quality - quite unlike the monotone growl that most other death/grind bands employ. It's a strange thing to talk about a death metal singer having "range", but that's the only way I can think of describing Tsukara's constantly shifting vocal timbre.

In addition to Disassociate, Hellchild had some other famous tastemakers in their corner: Converge teamed up with Hellchild for a split EP titled Deeper the Wound, which undoubtedly raised the Japanese band's profile in the West. Converge were ahead of the curve on most things, so it says something that the crew over at Deathwish Inc. thought so highly of Hellchild.

Despite making significant in-roads into the West, Deeper The Wound ended up being Hellchild's last release. Most of the members continued making music as From Hell, who released two EPs that were doomier and more experimental - a perfect backdrop for Tsukara's unique yowl.

Hellchild are once again active and gigging in Japan - though sadly without Tsukara, who joined Swarrrm. The latter is an active and extremely confounding grindcore band whose last album came out as recently as February of 2018.

Like a lot of great bands, Hellchild are fondly remembered only by a select few, and Bareskin remains difficult to find outside of Japan (through legal means, at any rate). It's a pity that most people missed the boat on Hellchild; I know that if it wasn't for that magical night in 2000, I might have been one of them.

Deeper The Wound:

Logical Nonsense -
Expanding The Hive