Okay, let's talk about Resident Evil for a minute. If you're at all familiar with the games, you felt a strange feeling of dread mixed with anticipation mixed with hope when you first heard about the plans to totally revamp the classic RE control scheme for the fourth installment of the series. Part of you thought; "If it ain't broke, don't fix it! Oh God!" Another part of you thought; "I really hope they can pulls this off. I mean, I doubt they can, but I hope they do." Still a third part of you felt something along the lines of "Yea that shit was getting stale, and Code Veronica sucked. Let's mix it up." That's exactly how I felt when I first learned that Hella was adding three new musicians to it's lineup, including a full-time lead singer. I loved Resident Evil 4. Hella's fourth - coincidence? I think not - full-length There's No 666 in Outer Space gets it sort of half right.
The band has been expanded to a five piece, as was mentioned earlier, and now includes Zach Hill's cousin Josh Hill on guitar, Carson McWhirter on bass, and Aaron Ross taking over the admittedly heavy burden of vocals. I love the new guitar players, who add another layer of stellar musicianship and fit beautifully into the frenetic yet coherent and precise dynamic that Hella has slowly been perfecting. Unfortunately, they cannot save this album from the vocal hacking of Ross, with whom I place the full blame for this album's distinct, umm, not-very-good-ness. The very best thing that I can say about these vocals is that at least it seems like Ross is trying pretty hard, and that he could probably make it in a couple years singing in a Mars Volta tribute band. The sort of open wailing and drawn out syllables that come from Ross' throat just do not fit in any logical manner with the incredible urgency produced by the rest of the band. In a bizarre seeming contradiction Ross seems to be simultaneously lagging behind the rest of the band, trying desperately to catch up, but at the same time also consciously holding them back like a one man riot squad at an out of control protest. I feel very confident that, without Ross' vocals limiting them, this new Hella lineup could be the best one yet and expand on Hella's sound in ways as equally radical as adding a vocalist, but also in ways that are not detrimental to the sound of the band.
As far as the lyrics go, there's really nothing worth talking about. I mean, writing lyrics is largely uncharted territory for Hella so it's understandable that this first serious stab is made up of, as far as I can tell, mostly meaningless and outlandish lyrics. I can't say I'm a fan of the somewhat puerile "sad, mad, bad" style rhyming attempts. Here I'll just show you some: "The day they proved the earth was round / Was the day they flattened holy ground / The sea it sang and orphaned sound / The earth is / flat, it is not round / (It's upside down)" Whatever.
Alright, so I'm probably making this out to be the worst album in history simply by virtue of the vocals. That's obviously not true, I'm just a little bit angry. There are certainly positive aspects to this album. Mainly the parts where Ross isn't singing and the band is freer to indulge in little solos and, as much as possible, let themselves out of their cage. I would also like to point out the super performance of saxophonist Skerik, who contributes on several tracks. One of those, "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle," is the strongest on the album and the re-emergence of the video game style keyboards that have been seen on Hella's other work is like coming up for a quick breath of beautiful air after drowning for a minute or so in sewage.
I love Hella, and writing this review (and listening to this album) killed me. So, write to your congressman, organize protests, get out and vote, do whatever it is that you need to do but I really hope Hella gets the message and drops Aaron Ross because I truly believe that they could do some amazing things as a quartet. But until then, don't listen to this. It's depressing. I'm going to play Resident Evil...the first one.
4.5 / 10
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