Hymns: Ancient and Modern is a collection of the works of the Liverpool quartet Hellfire Sermons from the late '80s and early '90s. The early singles have an '80s new wave, bass-driven sound with two guitars playing off one another. The vocals have a sometimes charming, sometimes annoying out-of-tune quality that can enhance or ruin a track. The picking guitars in "Rachel Clean" has an R.E.M. feel. This track is a good example of when the vocals work well with the music. "Rachel Clean" could have definitely made a John Hughes movie soundtrack. Hellfire Sermons seem to succeed when they swing the rhythms and attack with the guitars. As the singles move along in this collection, Hellfire Sermons seem to pick up a lot from listening to the Pixies. "Covered in Love" has interesting changes, especially for a single. One guitar picks out a single note melody, while the other guitar pounds out a steady rhythm. The problem tends to be in the mix. A lot of the time, the vocals are too high in the mix, while covering the backbone of the bass and drums. "Lovespoons" was their last single in 1993. There exists wonderful noisy guitar work in this tune with nice hooks for a solo, while the bass and drums create a loose lock and groove. At times, it seems as if Velocity Girl might have taken a musical hint from Hellfire Sermons. Hymns: Ancient and Modern gives a great overview of a decent British late-'80s/early-'90s band. They tend to go for it, but might be stifled by their recordings. They probably were a good band to see live. A charming feature of this collection is that all of the tracks sound as if they were remastered from vinyl, which gives the release a warm, running sound.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Francis Arres