Audrey Horne – Devil’s Bell – Album Review

Artist: Audrey Horne

Album Title: Devil’s Bell

Label: Napalm Records

Date of Release: 22 April 2022

There are times when I can make no sense, and this review demonstrates such an occasion. I have known about Audrey Horne for many years, initially mistakenly disregarding them, then enjoying their brand of heavy music, before forgetting all about them again. It makes absolutely no sense; you know that, and I know that. But here we are, on the eve of the band’s seventh release during a career that has so far spanned 17 years, and this will be the very first time I have listened to one of their records fully enough to be able to offer any kind of review. The facepalm emoji was invented just for this kind of occasion.

Nevertheless, here I am, and here are Messrs Torkjell “Toschie” Rød (vocals), Arve ‘Ice Dale’ Isdal (guitars), Thomas Tofthagen (guitars), Espen Lien (bass), and Kjetil Greve (drums) with their seventh full-length release, ‘Devil’s Bell’. And, based on the music offered on this record, there seems to be no sign of Audrey Horne losing any amount of energy or enthusiasm for what they are doing, delivering another clutch of hard-rocking, melodic music for our delectation.

I may not be the greatest authority on such things given my past with the Norwegians, but my first thought when listening to ‘Devil’s Bell’ was ‘I don’t remember these guys being quite so overtly inspired by the NWOBMH scene, and classic 70s/80s heavy metal’. From what I knew about the quintet coming into this review, I was expecting some modern melodic hard rock, with hooks, riffs, and melodies aplenty. However, whilst the riffs, hooks, and melodies are all delightfully present, they are wrapped up in a seemingly darker, more brooding, NWOBHM cloak. This is not a bad thing, I’d like to point out, just that I wasn’t quite expecting it. In fact, I’m lapping this up, as much of it is great.

When I talk about the broodiness of the music, this is never more evident than in the opening moments of the album. The intro to ‘Ashes To Ashes’ is a dark affair, full of smouldering intent and takes its sweet time to build up the drama for what’s to come very nicely. The intensity builds across a couple of minutes before it falls away to be replaced by a really strong, instant hard rock riff. The unmistakeable voice of Toschie has lost none of its commanding presence, leading the band through a groovy verse and into a wonderful chorus that gets better and better with every spin. The production is great, allowing the bass of Espen Lien to work perfectly in tandem with Greve’s drums to lay down a rich and tight rhythm upon which the guitars of Ice Dale and Thomas Tofthagen deliver riff after chunky riff, and latterly, some cool duelling solos.

‘Animal’ is much more the style that I was expecting, being a full-on fast-paced hard rock affair with galloping rhythms, dominated by the bass, as well as vague punk overtones created by the attitude that comes through from both the instrumentation and the vocals. Ironically, it’s one of my least favourites too. So too is ‘Break Out’, which revels in the 80s classic metal sound, Toschie mimicking more of an Ozzy Osbourne style of singing. Much of the track is reasonably forgettable if I’m honest, but I really like the darker, more introspective vibe that’s brought to the fore in the middle and actually, it serves to enhance the enjoyment of the faster elements when they return to see out the song.

Interestingly, and surprisingly, we’re then presented with an instrumental track in the form of ‘Return To Grave Valley’. As you might expect, the musicianship is of a very high standard, the song driving along at a brisk tempo for large periods, with the guitars able to play a little more with embellishments and other ideas. Initially a throw away composition, the NOWBHM dual harmonies and solos, as well as the stomping groove from the halfway point mean that you can’t help but fall for its charms.

Easily one of the very best songs on this album is the title track. Starting out with a flurry of lead guitar extravagance, it soon launches into a Maiden-esque gallop that gets me excited, continuing with an energy and exuberance that is thoroughly infectious. And the chorus is a thing of real beauty, one of those sing-along hook-laden beasts that most of us with metal in our blood will take to our blackened hearts. But those dual harmonies, up-tempo riffs, combined with the overall playfulness of the song is equally as disarming and enjoyable. Put simply, it reminds me of a time when Iron Maiden sounded like I wanted them to sound, if that makes sense.

Elsewhere, ‘All Is Lost’ is an entertaining affair led by driving riffs, and a swagger that just works, whilst ‘Toxic Twins’ provides us with a raucous hard rock workout with another infectious chorus. ‘Devil’s Bell’ is then brought to a close by ‘From Darkness’ which, as the name implies, brings back that air of brooding darkness that I referenced earlier. It is a song that stretches beyond the seven-minute mark and contains some great guitar work, as both six-string slingers duel together and also feed off each other. I’d have liked the addition of a central, addictive chorus, but bearing in mind how good the rest of the song is, it feels a little churlish to even mention this, even if such a thing could have pushed the song into the stratosphere. As it is, my favourite part is strangely the extended instrumental outro that carries with it a bittersweet feel, both welcomingly melodic, but strangely forlorn sounding too.

It is very safe to say that I will not be forgetting Audrey Horne again, or even shoving them to the back of my mind, because they are just too good. And I knew that before diving deeply into this album. But sometimes it takes some new material to remind us of just how good a band actually is. ‘Devil’s Bell’ may be a tad darker and a touch more inspired by the NWOBHM genre than ever before, but it doesn’t stop the Norwegian powerhouse from gifting us with a very satisfying record indeed.

The Score of Much Metal: 85%

Check out my other 2022 reviews here:

Vanum – Legend

Stone Broken – Revelation

Radiant – Written By Life

Skull Fist – Paid In Full

Hurakan – Via Aeturna

Incandescence – Le Coeur De L’Homme

Imminent Sonic Destruction – The Sun Will Always Set

Monuments – In Stasis

Soledad – XIII

Viande – L’abime dévore les âmes

Credic – Vermillion Oceans

Postcards From New Zealand – Burn, Witch, Burn

Darkher – The Buried Storm

Treat – The Endgame

Bjørn Riis – Everything To Everyone

Destruction – Diabolical

Et Moriemur – Tamashii No Yama

Angel Nation – Antares

Wolf – Shadowland

Denali – Denali EP

Centinex – The Pestilence EP

Meshuggah – Immutable

Chapter Of Hate – Bloodsoaked Decadence EP

Ancient Settlers – Our Last Eclipse

Tranzat – Ouh La La

Playgrounded – The Death Of Death

Father Befouled – Crowned In Veneficum

Abbath – Dread Reaver

PreHistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter 2)

Kvaen – The Great Below

Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 2

Dark Funeral – We Are The Apocalypse

Carmeria – Advenae

Agathodaimon – The Seven

Moonlight Haze – Animus

Hellbore – Panopticon

Konvent – Call Down The Sun

Idol Of Fear – Trespasser

The Midgard Project – The Great Divide

Threads Of Fate – The Cold Embrace Of The Light

Arkaik – Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts

New Horizon – Gate Of The Gods

Cailleach Calling – Dreams Of Fragmentation

Tundra – A Darkening Sky

Sylvaine – Nova

Hath – All That Was Promised

Sabaton – The War To End All Wars

Kuolemanlaakso – Kuusumu

Oh Hiroshima – Myriad

Godless Truth – Godless Truth

Shape Of Despair – Return To The Void

Eight Bells – Legacy Of Ruin

Embryonic Devourment – Heresy Of The Highest Order

Serious Black – Vengeance Is Mine

Allegaeon – Damnum

HammerFall – Hammer Of Dawn

Immolation – Acts Of God

Veonity – Elements Of Power

Nightrage – Abyss Rising

Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Star One – Revel In Time

Pure Wrath – Hymn To The Woeful Hearts

Dagoba – By Night

The Last Of Lucy – Moksha

Arð – Take Up My Bones

Embryonic Autopsy – Prophecies Of The Conjoined

The Devils Of Loudun – Escaping Eternity

Cult Of Luna – The Long Road North

WAIT – The End Of Noise

Abysmal Dawn – Nightmare Frontier

Amorphis – Halo

Nordic Giants – Sybiosis

Persefone – Metanoia

Vorga – Striving Toward Oblivion

Mystic Circle – Mystic Circle

Nasson – Scars

Burned In Effigy – Rex Mortem

Silent Skies – Nectar

Celeste – Assassine(s)

Abyssus – Death Revival

SOM – The Shape Of Everything

Ashes Of Ares – Emperors And Fools

Beriedir – AQVA

Lalu – Paint The Sky

Nocturna – Daughters Of The Night

Battle Beast – Circus Of Doom

Lee McKinney – In The Light Of Knowledge

Descent – Order Of Chaos

Aethereus – Leiden

Toundra – Hex

Ilium – Quantum Evolution Event EP

Power Paladin – With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel

Necrophagous – In Chaos Ascend

Infected Rain – Ecdysis

Wilderun – Epigone

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2021 reviews

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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