The sound of US sludge metallers Hellrad is like toxic lava. It crawls over and consumes ears, blisters the senses, and devours all before it in an atmosphere of unbridled hostility. It also, with weighty persuasion and hellacious intensity, leaves the listener basking in a network of scorching, seductive grooves and intimidating rhythmic slavery, it all colluding for one fierce volcanic treat.
Hellrad began in the August of 2014; the Philadelphia quartet formed by guitarist Mike Hook (Eat The Turnbuckle, Bad Luck 13) and drummer Robert Lepor (Brian Candle). The pair swiftly enlisted bassist Herb Jowett (Javelina, Lick Golden Sky), and with an album’s worth of tracks emerging from their songwriting, completed the line-up with vocalist Dirty Dave Repenning (Off Duty Death, Warsaw). Their sound is as dirty as it is ugly, as angry as it is uncompromising, but aspects aligned to a violent creativity which emerges as wholly contagious. Recording Things Never Change at Permanent Hearing Damage Studios with Steve Roche, Hellrad have unleashed a proposal which is not quite a game changer but it is certainly an uncomfortable and uncompromising fresh breath to the sludge/stoner scene.
From the uncaging of its opener Street Zombies, the album reveals depths of sound and a cast of textures which are as much ravenously doomy as they are voraciously noise rock inspired, a blend perpetually brewing in a cauldron of sludge predation. The first track comes in as a warning siren, its portentous air sparking ears and imagination though their expectancy is soon engulfed in a lumbering and slowly brewing tempest of binding grooves and scything rhythms. It is a stalking rather than an onslaught, yet it has the intensity of a sonic tsunami smothering and stirring up everything in its path. The vocals of Repenning are just as rapaciously delivered, a squall of ire and emotion and as addictive as the roar growing around him. Lyrically little is given away by his raw delivery across the release but his psyche ripping presence is all about texture and emotion, and in that he, as the webbing of enterprise around him, is primal magnetism.
The following My Jihad’s Against My Mind keeps the impressive and intrusive start going, its rage and intent a much more urgent and volatile persecution of body and thoughts. Riffs and rhythms again create an unforgivingly caustic canvas for grooves and vocals to spread their almost rancorous bait, and once more the victim is blissfully immersed in echoes of a cancerous world and destruction. The closing tonic of stoner bred lures of guitar, rather than a respite to the torturous adventure seeding them, is the flowing link into another merciless ravaging. Dope Fiend Jesus manages to be even more raw and filth clad than its predecessor but also more seductive with its flirtatious melodic enticing and passages of mellow aggression. It is deliciously fearsome stuff carrying the whiffs of classic stoner and sludge bands but quickly corrupting and twisting them into something rabidly distinct to Hellrad.
Homegrown Terrorist is one of those sonic and social statements you do not ignore. Everything from its opening sample to the insidious sprawl of Repenning’s tones and the barbarous presence of the bass to the violent swings of Lepor, create an unshakeable trespass physically and emotionally. Its brutish incitement is only enhanced by the venomous sonic vines unleashed by Hook, their virulent enticement, rather than a temper to the existing savagery, an incitement to more threat. It is a template just as addictive in the hard-line predatory saunter of Fucked Up, another unrushed violation which waits until it is ready before unleashing a scourge of sizzling sonic enterprise and poisonous intent bred in an exacting embrace of intense rock ‘n’ roll.
The rhythmic nature of 15 Years and Counting is at times almost meditative, certainly hypnotic though there is no peace or calm to be found in the ruinous landscape of the song. The infectious and anthemic bait of Lepor is only reinforced by the carnivorous tones of Jowett’s strings, both forging the irresistible dark spine within the tightly entwined mix of melodic enticing and inhospitable noise pollution. The track enthrals and thrills before making way for the groove fest of Smoke More Crack. The salacious slab of rabid, dirt spawned rock ‘n’ roll is the final confirmation of the immense and addiction forging properties of band, album, and their severe concoction of sound.
Things Never Change is a punishing treat and Hellrad the nastiest, most vicious exponents of aural castigation, and we for one cannot get enough.
Things Never Change is available now digitally and on CD @ http://hellrad1.bandcamp.com/releases