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Hella - Hold Your Horse Is CD (album) cover




Post Rock/Math rock

3.69 | 30 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars HELLA is the culmination of the aspirations of two high school buddies: Spencer Seim (guitar) and Zach Hill (drums) who joined forces to create a Primus inspired band called Legs in the Sacramento, CA region before jumping onto the math rock bandwagon. While the duo would expand the band sound with new members joining on future albums, on this debut HOLD YOUR HORSE IS it is merely a duo duking it out with one math rock jittery slugfest after another. Despite the ridiculous lame moniker, HELLA is the real deal as far as nerdy spazzcore math rock is concerned. Through the nine tracks that will swallow up slightly over 34 minutes of your life, they are remarkably raw yet emotionally impactful which is a huge feat for a technically driven musical group that prays to the god of abstractness.

First of all, HELLA started out purely as an instrumental act which showcases two musicians dishing out one virtuosic chop after another. In the case of HOLD YOUR HORSE IS, it is Zach Hill who steals the show with an impeccable drumming style that takes the complexity of jazz and marries it with the frenetic drive of tech death metal but delivers it in a decidedly nerdy method of brutal progressive rock. Meanwhile Spencer Seim seems to base his guitar riffs off of the percussive bombast of Hill but still manages to offer the proper guitar accompaniments which often focus on the bass strings to keep the focus on the lower registers of the scale. The tones are both clean and sort of dirty which is a rare feat in the rock world.

After a short Nintendocre 8-bit sort of opening, the track "Biblical Violence" explosively sets the pace for a relentless ride through the mathematically challenging guitar and drum workouts that permeate the entire album. It's really hard to believe that only two musicians are performing on this album and in many ways it reminds me of the Japanese band Ruins except there are no zeuhl influences on board here. "Been A Long Time Cousin" continues things with wild fret climbing guitar antics and an incessant percussive bombast that remains true to the cause. In fact nothing on this album sounds forced or out of place. It all sort of sounds natural despite the massive attacks of strings and skins.

There's sort of a shift when it comes to "Brown Metal" where Seim focuses on frenetically fast tremolo picking and Hill primarily delivers a percussive bombast on cymbals and presumably other metal objects. After a Native American call "Cafeteria Bananas" continues the math rock antics of the first part of the album but it all seems even more complex at this point and these faster, crazier and more technically infused tracks just keep ramping up until the closing "Better Get A Broom!" which is the explosive climactic ending of the buildup of speed fueled quirkiness turned up to 11 with crazy labyrinthine riffing, high octane jazz fueled drumming and the ultimate mix of two guitar styles, one on bass and one on the treble strings which makes me wonder if dude recording two separate parts or pummeling out the polyrhtyms.

Math rock is hardly for the uninitiated and requires a great sense of adventure to even explore in the first place but HELLA excels on this debut like very few do including themselves on future releases. This album just gels so nicely as each rhythmic cadence cedes into the next while the unpredictable time signatures portend an apocalyptic musical meltdown but yet somehow despite all the evidence flows along somewhat gracefully despite the hyperactive jittery instrumental antics at play. If you're new to math rock this isn't a bad place to start as the emotional connections hadn't been severed via purposefully drawn out bouts with abstractness. As energetic as extreme metal, as progressive as King Crimson on a caffeinated day and as unpredictable as Henry Cow on a bad one, HELLA is well, actually HELLA rad!

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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