Hella completely flips the script with its latest, expanding from a throttling experimental duo working in waves of skronky feedback and oceanic percussion to a more traditional rock quintet. The move is surprisingly effective.
Butcher-turned-singer Aaron Ross' high-pitched vocals recall Rush's Geddy Lee, while the combination of the music's herky-jerky pulse with impressive, free-wheeling guitar excursions suggests Primus, rear-ended by King Crimson. And while the song structures are hardly verse-chorus-verse, Ross' singing becomes an important instrument in the mix, providing a firm foundation that allows listeners to wander through Hella's still thickly knotted sound in a leisurely manner.
The lyrics prove as expansive as the music. "Look the world in the face/Quit rewriting your theatrics/Step into the skin," begins "Let Your Heavies Out." While often a bit overwritten, the wordy, concept-heavy constructs feel appropriate to such heady music. "Friends Don't Let Friends Win" is the highlight track, featuring vocal harmonies in various states of degradation, sprinkled intermittently over a vibrant, buzzing, particularly crisp arrangement that clocks in under four minutes. Rarely is a dramatic band renovation this successful.