REVIEW: The Last Hangmen – Servants Of Justice
Band: The Last Hangmen
Album: Servants Of Justice
Genre: Melodic death metal [gallows metal]
Gimmicks in metal are hardly a novel concept, with famous topics ranging from Vikings to Egyptian mythology. However, I’m fairly certain the topic of gallows and hanging has thus far not been fully explored, at least until The Last Hangmen formed in 2010 in Germany. Filtering through a metric ton of melodic death metal bands, theirs is a sound that is recognizable but with a couple of novel elements to hold interest for longer than the first spin. They released their début album Servants Of Justice themselves, but were soon after picked up by Twilight-Vertrieb, who re-released it late last year.
After an over-extended intro (“The Gallow March”) that echoes the hanging scene in Pirates Of The Caribbean, all grand drum-beats and cinematic orchestration, the album kicks off properly with “Lupara Bianca”. The listener is greeted with a synthesis of Kalmah and early Bodom in the guitarwork from Konze and Beckert, who throw out many a cool lead and solo, which is enhanced by some very interesting drum patterns from Garz, who knows when to blast and when to branch out in creativity. Kube adds his bass to the rhythm section, although he isn’t full utilized until later, and Hantsche tops the mix off with Norther-esque hoarse scream.
The vocals are the least striking thing about the Servants Of Justice formula, but they still fit into the style fairly well, despite a lack of variety. The lyrics (from what I can decipher) vary a fair bit in quality, with “Crash Course Dying” suffering slightly, although the theatrical 10-minute epic “Knocking Tombstones Down” is on the higher end of the poetic scale. As a topic, death by hanging is a paradoxically a good complement to the mostly upbeat music, 5 people who clearly take pride in executing their profession.
Adding to the ‘epic’ tag, The Last Hangmen soon make it clear that the intro and outro are not the only times to add orchestration; it also figures in many of the full tracks. In some, like “The Hypocrite”, the synth and choirs work to their advantage in adding atmosphere, but it feels out of place in other tracks such as “Little Ease”. That said, the guitar parts take over in this case, and they themselves are a strong highlight of the album, from mid-paced stomp to breakneck black metal speed in “Knocking Tombstones Down”. The lack of a metronome in the recording process is a footnote not to be ignored, making the tightness of the music all the more impressive.
To sum up, The Last Hangmen are not entirely novel musically, but they certainly rise above the sea of mediocre melodeath. Invoking the spirit of Bodom and Blackguard, with a touch of Die Apokalyptischen Reiter, Servants Of Justice outlasts its initial spins to become an enjoyable slab of metal, one for both enthusiasts and novices to the genre. Remain thankful that the gimmick doesn’t get old.
Song to try: