The Hell are a lot cleverer than you might think. While the majority of the hardcore scene takes itself far too seriously, Watford’s masked wrecking crew have used their existence to shuffle the deck a bit. Their first two albums, 2013’s You’re Listening To The Hell and last year’s improved Groovehammer both took wide-aiming swipes at the music industry via cliché-laden hardcore, and even then that subversive streak showed. Third album Brutopia is now the turning point. It’s the point where The Hell go from being mere jokers of the scene to a genuinely excellent band in their own right.
Don’t worry though – there’s no newfound maturity on Brutopia. In fact, there’s very little progression at all. There’s still the same combination of sledgehammer riffs, copious levels of swearing and the nonexistent reluctance to call out the world’s dickheads. No, the reason for Brutopia‘s brilliance is that it takes all of these features that this band have built their entire existence on and reconfigures them into ways that sound, not so much fresh but definitely new. Not only that, but it’s genuinely hilarious; most bands who would try to be funny usually end up feeling forced and awkward, but The Hell know how to integrate the comedy element into their music without resorting to becoming a novelty. Shite Club is a piece of art in its own right, whereas I’ve Got Loads Of Money, as repetitive as it may be, has some particularly choice lines tucked away amongst its chugging guitars and venomous screams. The skits can be a bit hit or miss (Gather Round is nowhere near as entertaining as the truly brilliant DH1 Classic Albums) but at their peak, they show that The Hell have really stepped up their game in every conceivable element.
Of course all of that would count for next to nothing if the songs weren’t up to par, and Brutopia‘s songs are some of the best The Hell have ever written. Sick has a massive chorus and gang vocals that even the most serious of bands would be envious of, while Painiac shows off a bit of surprisingly dexterous riffing and System Of A Down-esque vocal eccentricities, and We’re All The Same even sees them peddling an equality message in typical The Hell style, namely with loads and loads of swearing. Then there’s last track proper Don’t Be A Dick which raises the bar by going from admittedly one of the weaker songs on the album to bringing in an actual gospel choir in a move that actually works. Of all the bands to actually innovate hardcore for the best, who’d have thought it would be The Hell?
That may be a bit facetious – Brutopia is not so much changing the game for hardcore as a whole, but rather showing that, when they want to be, The Hell can actually be a great band that can integrate amongst the ‘proper’ bands. This here is the proof – a largely consistent album with well-written, well-crafted songs that still make an impact without having to compromise any of the features that make The Hell The Hell. It’s certainly different than being simply a parody band, but it injects a longevity that would definitely be worth investing in again in the future. It suits them.
For fans of: Chuggaboom, Deez Nuts, Body Count
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Brutopia’ by The Hell is released on 30th October on Prosthetic Records.