Before there was death metal or black metal, there was Hellhammer, which later developed into the mighty Celtic Frost. The music produced by both of these bands was abrasive, primitive, and downright nasty sounding, especially when compared to a lot of the speed metal and NWOBHM of that time. The foundation for a lot of the sonic qualities and tropes found in death metal, and subsequently black metal, were laid by Hellhammer and Celtic Frost; demonic lyrical themes, ghoulish vocals, black leather and spikes, and fast, brutal riffing.
Martelo Negro (formerly known as Black Hammer) from Portugal play a raw, heavy form of metal that takes elements of thrash, speed, black, and death metal, mixes them up, and produces some truly malevolent sounding music that owes a lot to Hellhammer/Celtic Frost. Right off the bat, you know exactly what the band stands for, with its cartoonishly evil/gory album artwork, and demonic intro with howls of anguish and deep, back masked vocals. While the artwork might not do much for me, the intro is pretty evil-sounding, and the final scream is pretty unsettling, which then quickly gives way to the first proper track, “Culto Hermetico.” The music is extremely primal in nature, and not overly technical; then again, you don’t have to be Yngwie Malmsteen to get the point across either. There’s definitely a lot of Hellhammer in the sound, though with much more gruff vocals, all of which are overdubbed to great effect, mixing deep death growls with high-pitched black metal shrieks. “Inferno Abysmal” is a particular favorite track, with a riff that will have you banging your head from the first second; what I love about this song, and really, the whole of Equinócio Espectral, is that it’s truly a perfect mix of death, black, and thrash metal. The blending of styles is handled extremely well, and fans of each individual style will certainly find a lot of tasty riffs to sink their teeth into.
The production is excellent, with plenty of low-end in the mix, while not sacrificing the mid-range which you absolutely need to have for the thrash tunes. The use of overdubs on the vocals manages to not sound too busy, and the use of sound effects and audio clips don’t come off as cluttered either. The heavy-handed Satanic imagery might put some people off, but if you listen to a lot of black metal, this will be pretty much par for the course. Martelo Negro have really knocked it out of the park with Equinócio Espectral, one of the most satisfyingly brutal records I’ve heard in a while.