North of Hell has been a long time coming for Japanese goregrinders Butcher ABC. Formed in 1994 and leaving a bloody trail of demos, EPs and splits in their wake, it took the band over twenty years to finally release a full length. But was it worth the wait? Thankfully, it only takes a few listens to North of Hell to determine that the answer is a resounding “yes.”
Truth be told, Butcher ABC haven’t evolved much (if at all) since releasing the Butchered at Birthday EP back in 2003; catchy and heavily Carcass-influenced goregrind is still the name of the game, but they’re so goddamn good at it that it’s near impossible to begrudge them for opting not to fuck with the formula that’s served them so well for the past two decades. These guys have their sound so completely dialed in that to expect otherwise would be a fool’s errand.
Then again, there a few surprising moments where Butcher ABC does step outside the genre norm. Several tracks are peppered with Tom G. Warrior-esque “oughs” and “heys” amongst the pitch-shifted vocal chunder and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if North of Hell‘s dry-as-a-bone guitar tones weren’t also at least partially influenced by Celtic Frost and Hellhammer, especially on the groovy, doom-laden title track. Additionally, the drumming and overall crusty vibe of the album owes just as much to Doom and Anti Cimex as it does to the aforementioned Carcass.
Butcher ABC might’ve taken their sweet time crafting North of Hell, but it only serves to prove that there’s more than a grain of truth to the old cliche of quality over quantity. One would hope that it won’t take the band another quarter-century to put out their next album, especially if the they can maintain such a high level of goregrinding excellence.
North of Hell wasn’t the only Butcher ABC release in 2018. The band also released Butchery Workshop 2002 to 2009, an odds ‘n’ collection chock full of EP, split and live goodies that serves as a superlative summation of the band’s career leading up to the full length.
All twenty-one tracks have been remastered, which certainly helps make for a more cohesive listening experience, but make no mistake, Butcher ABC still sound filthy as fuck throughout Butchery Workshop‘s hour-plus runtime. The early Carcass worship is in full effect here and those who wish that the legendary UK goregrinders never evolved into a melodeath band are in for a treat. Of course, there are now scores of bands doing this sound, but few do it with the panache that Butcher ABC exudes as they unleash riff after buzz-sawing riff of pathologically putrid death grind.
If you’re just discovering the slaughterous wonders of Butcher ABC, Butchery Workshop 2002 to 2009 is an excellent place to start before moving on to North of Hell. Sure, some tracks might be a little on the redundant side (did we really need three different versions of a Carnage cover?), but the collection does a great job of pulling the band’s history together onto a single release, which is especially helpful when one considers how difficult the original versions are to get a hold of. In other words, buy and die.