RATING: 5.5 /10
WORDS: HARRY HIGGINSON
Hellions, the genre-bending hardcore mob hailing all the way from down under, have never really been ones to follow anyone else’s lead. Developing from a somewhat run of the mill punk outfit on their earliest releases, the band’s second and third releases, ‘Indian Summer’ and ‘Opera Oblivia’, flexed their ability to blend intense, groovy heaviness with more melodic elements and some conceptual storytelling thrown in to the blend too. These records were ground-breaking in their own rights, carving out a very unique sound that the band definitely owned, something that can only be said for a select few newer groups.
Then enter ‘Rue’.
In a way, this record is the most Hellions thing the band could’ve possibly done. Dropping their hardcore influences almost entirely, the record represents a titanic genre shift away from heavy music, again reinventing themselves on a record that doesn’t sound anything like what anyone else is doing right now. Truth be told, however, this switch up may not be for the best; dropping the heavy core of your sound is a difficult transition for any band and for sure, this record is still at its core Hellions, but even their uniqueness can’t fully save this attempt at development.
“…reinventing themselves on a record that doesn’t sound anything like what anyone else is doing right now.”
The clearest issue here is the lack of a new core sound holding the record together when the hardcore aspects have been dropped. Without focal tracks like ‘Quality of Life’ from the last record, the front end of the album just feels like it’s missing something, and the what’s left is a little odd to say the least. Sounding like a combination of the anthemic pop-punk of Trophy Eyes, the conceptual melodrama of My Chemical Romance or even Queen, and the rap-punk stylings of a band like Zebrahead, the sonic direction of the album tends to feel a little dated. Where Andre Faivre’s aggressive rapped vocals worked wonders on harder edged tracks such as ‘Hellions’ from their back catalogue, they feel more than a little corny when cropping up on a track like the circus-music-tinged ‘The Lotus’.
When the band do get themselves going, they hit some satisfying high points. The pop-punk-goes-funk of ‘Get Up!’ is undeniably fun, and the choruses on tracks like ‘Smile’ and the aforementioned ‘The Lotus’ are worthy of comparison to Trophy Eyes’ titanic hooks on ‘Chemical Miracle’. There’s some really satisfying experimentation and creativity across the record too – ‘Furrow’ has a complex and dynamic chord structure, and the rhythmic variation in the latter parts of ‘Odyssey’ are a breath of fresh air on one of the record’s weaker moments.
“The experimentation, when executed well, is refreshing and Hellions retain their title of being one of the most genre-pushing bands in the scene.“
But these high points don’t make up for the consistent missteps that crop up across the record. The instrumentation across the board too often slips into the realm of outright cheesy, from the hand claps on ‘Harsh Light’ to the rapped section of ‘Rue’ that shatters the impressive harmonic development of the vocals and guitars. Tracks all too often take unnecessary key changes when what’s really needed is a stronger melodic idea to tie everything together. Too many of the chord progressions feel lazy here too; ‘26’s chord progression is almost irritatingly predictable, especially when the clean vocals in the verses just follow the chords, and ‘Odyssey’s overt lyrical references to Queen and potentially even ELO fail to hide the fact the song feels uncomfortably close to both artists’ music in the chord department.
Looking at the album as a whole though, it’s by no means a disaster of a record. The experimentation, when executed well, is refreshing and Hellions retain their title of being one of the most genre-pushing bands in the scene. What’s really the issue here is one of somewhat lost identity; by sacrificing the harder edge of their sound, Hellions have struggled to really find their place sonically, and the resulting weird rap-pop-punk hybrid is too often too cheesy or melodramatic to stand up to the quality of their previous work. There’s definitely potential here, but it’s raw and messy – but all that does is pave the way for a more accomplished follow up.
‘Rue’ by Hellions is out now via UNFD.