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Hella Hold Your Horse Is album cover
3.70 | 34 ratings | 6 reviews | 15% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2002

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. D. Elkan, The
2. Biblical Violence
3. Been A Long Time Cousin
4. Republic Of Rough And Ready
5. 1-800-Ghost Dance
6. Brown Metal
7. Cafeteria Bananas
8. City Folk Sitting Sitting
9. Better Get A Broom!

Line-up / Musicians

-Spencer Seim / guitar
-Zach Hill / drums

Releases information

5 Rue Christine Records 61018
Released Mar 19, 2002.
Recorded at Toast Studios, San Francisco, CA

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HELLA Hold Your Horse Is ratings distribution

(34 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(15%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(50%)
Good, but non-essential (26%)
Collectors/fans only (9%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

HELLA Hold Your Horse Is reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Hella's debut album is a statement to the world of Avant-Garde music. Until I heard this album, I never thought I would listen to such manic and insanely intricate and dissonant music, but now that I have, I think I am a better person. Hold You Horse Is shows the strengths of the two members of Hella. The drumming is fast, furious, and insanely complex. The guitars are dissonant, heavy, and all over the place. The music here is essentially video game music given a rather large dosage of anabolic steroids... the result? 34 minutes of pure mayhem, excitement, chaos, and most importantly, fun music. Who can enjoy such stuff? Not everyone, that's for sure. But for those who can find enjoyment in this music, you couldn't have done any better.

The D. Elkan opens the album with some very electronic, very video game like, music, it's a very misleading introduction, because after this 43 second track, the real fun starts. Biblical Violence begins the manic drum and guitar maelstrom. The riff on this one is a great ascending single note and chord progression with some terribly precise, almost Christian Vander-like, drums in the background. It's a nice introduction to the core sound of the album. During points of this album, you may think that there is bass guitar, but the fact of the matter is, that there is no bass on this album. Been a Long Time Cousin begins with a screeching guitar riff that quickly turns to a fast paced, manically charged tune that really takes shape rather quickly. The guitar breakdown is quite stunning, with some rather impressively quick playing on the part of Spencer Seim. There's a riff in this song that is quick brilliant too, a bit uplifting if you ask me, around the 2:30 mark.

Republic of Rough and Ready has essentially become a slogan for the group nowadays. The very muddy intro is complimented by some slower sections followed by mildly faster sections. It shows that Hella can play slower stuff, but there's a necessity for there to be faster stuff in between. It's also a prime example of how intricate the guitars can get, almost Robert Fripp on Fracture intricate, and what is there not to love about that? 1-800-Ghost-Dance begins with some great riffing and drumming, one of the best things they came up with for this album. In fact, this is my favorite song on the album. I love the trills in the beginning and the dissonant chords that follow. The guitar on this track can make even the most technical of guitarists cry for their mothers.

Brown Metal begins with a muffled guitar tone that blares rapid fire notes with some banging percussion in the background. The song takes final form towards the middle, when some well timed beeps and electronic sound effects bring in the precise and well timed snare beats. The drums finally kick in and the song comes full circle as it ends at the 3:54 mark. Cafeteria Bananas begins with some whooping noises and then some manic guitar and drums (as always, if you haven't noticed by now). It doesn't really go anywhere special and it sounds no different than many of the tracks on the album.

City Folk Sitting, Sitting is the longest song on the album, at a whopping 7:06. The song has a mellower feel in the beginning when compared to the rest of the album. An interesting riff carries the song along until around the first minute, when a very bass guitar like tone-wise riff comes into play. The song then becomes interlocking sections of chaos and more melodic (if there is any true melody at all) sections. Better Get a Broom! ends the album, and it really ends the album with a bang. A droning guitar beat and some manic breakdown sections and guitar/drum interplay is what you can find here. It ends the album in a completely fitting fashion, with many twists and turns until it finally ceases from life and you're left wondering what in the hell you just listened to.

Overall, Hella's debut album is a very strong opening effort for the Sacramento, California, duo. Between this and their next studio album, The Devil Isn't Red, they released many singles. This is a great place to start if you're just getting into Hella, though their best piece was yet to come, the dual disc and ambitious/adventurous Church Gone Wild/Chirpin' Hard. But this album is no slouch, it's loads better than their sophomore effort, as that album seems to be almost exactly the same stylistically as this one. Overall, though, I have no real gripes except some of the songs tend to drag and sound very similar to one another. In the end, I give it a 4.5/5.

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars An absurdly complicated and laborious debut, Hella nails this first one with an impressive performance on these nine tracks. No frills here at all, instead drummer Zach Hill and guitarist Spencer Seim do what they've been doing for years on stage. This makes 'Hold Your Horse Is' much like the old blues recording sessions where a musician would just sit down, someone would hit a microphone and what was played was what you got-- pure, authentic and undecorated.

Mostly the music is an exercise in pattern building and John Nash numeric infatuations. Sanyo keyboard bleeps make an odd start but 'Biblical Violence' gets things going, Zach Hill a ravenous force on his drums, very hungry and very focused. And Spencer Seim reflects back the mathematics no problem. The two seem to have a psychic thing and often play as if they are indeed one person... you'd have to be, as to tolerate the relentless 'Republic of Rough and Ready' and '1-800-ghostdance'. 'City Folk Sitting, Sitting' is a near-epic seven minutes and the almost catchy 'Better Get a Broom' to close. These are players that appear to have been kicked in the head by a moose and are still able to calculate the value of pi, or at least attempt it. Scratchy, abrasive and rude, unwashed and stinky but overflowing with savant gifts, Hella somehow mange to keep it all alive and moving forward almost out of desperation. A band that makes you feel embarrassed to be staring at them, and a lot of fun.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Math rock outfit Hella deliver a wonderful debut with Hold Your Horse Is, with swift and intricate playing which takes on intriguingly playful tones, suggesting a sense of humour behind the music and fostering an emotional connection which is often lacking in math rock. Spencer Seim's intricate guitar work sees him tying himself in riffy knots whilst Zach Hill isn't so much keeping time as going off his own flights of fancies. An extremely stripped down lineup doesn't equate this time to threadbare recording standards, with the album being recorded in crystal clarity to capture every intricacy of their playing. Highly recommended even for those who usually find math rock a bit cold and distant.
Review by 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!

Latest members reviews

2 stars This is not for me. Sure I do find interesting the fact that this is absolutely unusual, the great ability of Zach Hill, the incredible complexity of the music and everything else, but I just can't, and I really can't, enjoy this. This lacks any kind of melody, I can't feel any intensity in the m ... (read more)

Report this review (#236310) | Posted by JTP88 | Tuesday, September 1, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars this is definitely their best cd that i have heard so far. i have heard concentration face homeboy and church gone wild. if you love insane drums, this is one of the best drummers, then check this out. if you love music that you cant find the meter to, then check this out. this is not for ever ... (read more)

Report this review (#78806) | Posted by master17 | Saturday, May 20, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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