JAMES MCBAIN (HELLRIPPER): “The Album Is Still Very Much A Speed Metal Record At Its Core”

Photo of James McBain from Hellripper

James McBain, the mastermind behind Hellripper recently took the time to talk with Metal Express Radio about Hellripper’s third upcoming album entitled Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags, following up the highly praised album The Affair of the Poisons, his love for Toxic Holocaust, and more. Check out the chat below!

Metal Express Radio: Hellripper’s third album Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags is set to be released on February 17th via Peaceville Records, what can you tell fans about the upcoming album?

McBain: Soundwise, I would say it still contains all the elements that Hellripper has become known for, though this time around I have tried to incorporate a lot of different influences into the music that I have not yet explored with Hellripper. I think that overall, the end result is an album that’s both more diverse and more cohesive than the previous albums. Lyrically, each track on the album is inspired by Scotland in some way – the darker side of Scottish folklore and history especially. I’ve got everything from cannibal clans to MacBeth, to city-devouring sea serpents covered on this one. The title track is based on Address to the Deil, a poem by Robert Burns, and the album title comes from a line in that poem also.

MER: How was the writing and recording process having this being Hellripper’s third album?

McBain: It was basically the same as always really – I write and record everything at home over a period of time aside from a few guest musicians who performed their parts at their homes and sent them over to me. I started writing for this album properly just before the previous album was released and started recording a couple of months after it was released. I do things as I go, so the album was recorded on and off over the period of around 18 months or so. The main difference this time was that I got some new recording equipment and software that took a little while to get used to.

Since moving to the Highlands a few years back, I was inspired to look a bit further into some Scottish folklore, stories, and things like that. After exploring some ideas for potential song topics, I decided it would be a cool idea to centre the album around Scotland. This would also lend some cohesiveness to the album lyrically.

MER: How would you compare this to Hellripper’s previous two albums?

McBain: I really experimented with some of the song structures this time around, and some songs have more complex arrangements than on previous albums. Though this album still retains the core “Hellripper sound”, it was nice to be able to throw in some twists in there that bring a new dimension to the music. There’s some acoustic guitar in there, and even some bagpipes. But, the album is still very much a Speed Metal record at its core!

MER: Hellripper’s previous album entitled The Affair of the Poisons was released in 2020 and was highly praised, even considered by some the best Metal album of that year, was there any pressure following up that album?

McBain: Yes, The Affair of the Poisons was received well generally, which is always good! There was no real pressure to follow up that album. I write primarily for myself, and my goal when making an album is always to please myself first and foremost. If other people like it, then that is a very nice bonus. The hard part this time around was at the beginning of the writing process when I was trying to figure out what direction I wanted to go in with the music. I always write a couple of songs at the start that I end up deleting later on as I find my feet in the process.

MER: You recently released a single from the upcoming album “The Nuckelavee,” what kind of feedback have you received?

McBain: Yeah, people seem to like it I think, which I’m grateful for! Of course, I never know how people will react to a new release, so it’s always nice when it receives a positive reception.

MER: Do you feel like “The Nuckelavee” gives fans an idea on what to expect from the full album?

McBain: I think it is probably the song that gives the best idea of the album in general, though there are quite a few twists present and new ideas that I have not explored with Hellripper previously.

MER: What are your plans after the album release?

McBain: We have shows planned in the UK and Europe throughout 2023 and this will probably continue into 2024. I have already begun work on a new EP and have started writing for the next album, though I have no idea when I’ll finish those. I hope to have at least something new out in 2024.

MER: Who would you hope to tour with that you haven’t yet and why?

McBain: We have only done 3 “tours” in the band’s lifetime, so there’s a million bands that I would like to play with! Toxic Holocaust would be a great one as they were the biggest influence on Hellripper, and although we have played with Midnight before, we had a full European tour with them cancelled during the pandemic, so it would be great to do something with them again!

MER: How would you describe the music scene in Scotland?

McBain: At the moment it’s doing well! Most of what’s going on happens in the central belt (Glasgow, Edinburgh etc.), and I am based in the Highlands which is a few hours away, so I am not as involved in the scene as I would like to be. But of course, I try to stay up to date with what’s going on via social media, and am always keeping my eye out for new releases or new bands popping up! In particular, there seems to be quite a strong death metal scene at the moment, There are quite a few bands from Scotland such as Saor, Party Cannon, Dvne, Frontierer & Bleed from Within who are doing well on a global level too.

MER: Out of Hellripper’s three albums, what is one you would suggest to a new fan and why?

McBain: I think it would depend on what kind of stuff you are looking for! In general, I would of course suggest the new album, Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags since it is probably the best representation at the moment of the “Hellripper sound”. If you want something more “straight-to-the-point”, then I would point you towards the Black Arts & Alchemy EP and The Affair of the Poisons.


  • Matt Zaniboni

    Matthew is an interviewer here at Metal Express Radio. He started his passion for music journalism back in his college radio days serving as the Heavy Metal Director at WKKL out of Hyannis Massachusetts. During Matt’s tenure in radio, he has had time working for commercial stations in Boston Massachusetts such as WAAF, WZLX AND 98.5 The Sports Hub before landing with Metal Express Radio. Anytime you want to talk heavy Metal, hockey, Guiness, and dad life, Matt is your guy m/

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