Published on January 16th, 2012 | by Ryan0
Review: The Hell – Sauve Les Requins
One issue I have with side projects is that oftentimes they involve drastic genre-changes that artists are not always capable of making relevant to their fans. The cycle usually goes like this: a musician in a punk or indie band makes a statement announcing the project such as I’ve always enjoyed juke joint blues, so we’ve decided to make a juke joint blues record.” Then the record comes out and all of the hardcore fans of the musician’s main” band buy it and are like well this is neat, I guess,” listen to it for a week, then shelve it for eternity. In an interview a few years later, the musician will apologize for the record, calling it a bit of a misstep,” then announce his new reggae fusion project, and the cycle begins again.
Thankfully, The Hell does not fall into this trap. This side project from singer/guitarist Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio) and drummer Atom Willard (Angels & Airwaves, Rocket from the Crypt) has each musician doing what they do best, which is constructing excellent pop punk songs. By bringing their talents together, they have created a record that sounds different enough from their current bands to justify its existence as a separate product, but not so far removed that it alienates fans.
This is unmistakably a straight-up punk rock record. The four tracks on this EP all come in under the 3 minute mark, and the production is far less pronounced than on Angels & Airwaves and more recent Alkaline Trio releases. The vocal delivery and lyrical content also invoke memories of early-to-mid-career Alk3, with f-bomb laden blasphemous songs primarily about well, Hell. However, the EP is not merely a rehash of Matt’s output in that era of Alkaline Trio. The song construction is tight and focused, but more driving, with some more traditional punk whoa-ohs” and 1, 2, fuck yous” thrown in which also serve to differentiate this record from Alk3 releases.
Given my general suspicion regarding side projects, I went into this EP cautiously optimistic. Less than 45 seconds into the opening track Gasoline,” I was sold. This EP greatly exceeded my expectations and is exactly what I want from a side project — a record that plays on the musicians’ strengths and does not alienate fans, but is different enough to separate it from the artists’ principal bands. I hope that this was not just a one-time deal and that we’ll see more from The Hell in the future, even if it takes until the members finish their alt-country/Eurobeat/visual kei record.