When you listen to a lot of music, you probably hear (or ask) the question, "Whatever happened to rock?" It's true that a lot of modern rock is based more on emotion, and less on volume and tempo than its predecessors. Rest assured that hard-hitting rock is still being made. Hellbender by Zeke (the band's first album in 14 years) is a pretty good example. In fact, it's such a good example that it's hard to write about because the longest song is 1:47. Yes you read that correctly.
"Two-Lane Blacktop" is only the second song on the album, but it might exhaust you if you try to keep up with it. The tempo brings Three Bad Jacks to mind while the melody and vocals seem like a hybrid of Motorhead and Nashville P---y. This is just an all-out assault. You wonder how the drummer doesn't pass out from driving the tempo of this burner. You could say the same thing for the guitarist, who provides a blistering - if brief - solo in the instrumental break.
If anything, "County Jail" has an even faster tempo than "Two-Lane Blacktop", which is hard to imagine. This recalls old-school punk and hardcore with the call and response vocals. You get the sense that fans go crazy for this song when they hear it - all 52 seconds of it - live.
"Cougar Rock" is a song that features some guitar riffs that sound straight out of the Motorhead catalog. Meanwhile "Blind" Marky Felchtone howls the vocals and punctuates them with some well-placed screams. This is the kind of song that makes you feel like you can run through a wall.
After a few songs, you realize what an exercise in futility it is to try and figure out which is the most uptempo song on the album. Every song is just about as loud and fast as you can stand it. And isn't that what rock is all about? Play loud and fast, and whip your fans into such a frenzy that they start slamming into each other. After hearing this album, you realize that Zeke doesn't have any trouble with any of those. This album contains 15 songs and lasts for only 21 minutes. It just flies by and leaves you wanting more. If you like your rock, loud, fast, and thrashy, add this album to your collection. Hellbender (Relapse Records) will be available everywhere on March 30.