Yes, Hed is still alive and releasing albums. Yes, I still listen to and like them. You know why? Because on top of them doing legitimately good rap metal, I sincerely think that Jahred is one of the most underrated vocalists in rock.
Let me expand on that for a second before I review the album. He can pull off so many vocal styles, its just crazy. If you’ve never given them a chance because of some stupid musical prejudice against rap metal or possibly the ICP association (yeah, ICP sucks but that has nothing to do with this band) this is a really good album to check out. He can sing, rap, scream, harmonize, go all Prince screechy, do some straight up death metal, and even throw in some Manson-esque gravel. The dude has got pipes and, unfortunately, due to the type of music he does (and some really, really shitty misogynist or just crazy lizard people lyrics) he is often overlooked.
OK, onward to the album itself. Its pretty damn good, actually. They take the more straightforward heavy rock sound they started with on their last album and keep it going here. They do some surprisingly heavy stuff as well. Pay Me is probably the heaviest riffing I’ve ever heard on a Hed album. The hooks on songs like Hurt get stuck in your head too. Its just a damn well written album all around. Its less bouncy and aggressive than a lot of their earlier work, but the songs themselves make it work and I would bet that it translates great to a live setting.
Another pleasant surprise, for me anyway, is how much I liked the dub style tracks. I HATE reggae and dub with a passion. But somehow, the keen songwriting on this album carries over well enough to these tracks for me to like them. Take Shadowridge. That is probably the first time I have ever legitimately liked a song in that vein.
I do have 2 minor gripes about the album. One is the abrupt change in styles. Hed did this on their last album too. The first tracks are heavy, and then after that, the entire end of the album is not. Its just such an odd decision. Why not work the other songs into the track flow? Its like they had 2 different EPs and just smashed them together. My only other gripe is that all the heavier songs sound about 5bpm too slow. Its an odd feeling, but that’s what I get out of it. Just speed them all up a tiny bit and they would rock so much harder and have a ton more life to them. Instead, they often feel like they can’t quite get going.
As for the sound, its definitely their best sounding album since being on a major label in the early 2000’s. Its nice and clean, with a great balance to everything. I’m not really sure what else to say about it other than it sounds great. All the instruments come through cleanly and, though its not a very spacious mix, it hits hard and sounds good loud.
I guess that about wraps it up. This is a solid offering from Hed and actually a pretty good jumping off point if you’ve never checked out the band before. I know rap-rock or whatever is out of favor right now but I don’t care. These guys were and continue to be the cream of the crop in that genre.
Check out their youtube stream of the album below: