Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hedlok - Year of the Wolf

Hedlok have been around for only three years, even though their name sounds like it should have been draped over the stage at a late 90's mallcore show featuring Disturbed and Linkin Park. Even the name of their label - Hip Kid Records - is just so bizarre that to hear their well done Year of the Wolf EP, and get black thrash instead of mall trash is delightfully surprising. Hedlok on this short release though do a good job to present their tracks, what they offer and leave with a positive taste, if not an original or unique helping of metal. On this release, the four piece unit fronted by dual guitarist / vocalists Matt Sokol and Mike Drysch and backed by drummer Mike Seman and Colin Brandon draw influence from late 80's Slayer. Second track "Return of the Wastelander" is a garage-band take on Dekapitator's dirty thrash and throws back to awesome songs like "Release the Dogs" or "Haunted By Evil."

Perhaps evident immediately was the two guitarists musicianship. A ripping Kerry King styled solo culminates opener "Toxic Shock" as well as "Speed of Death." It's a short release but the band offers tastes of some slower material as well as faster across the release. "Toxic Shock" opens unassumingly with a crawling intro before picking up speed through an amateur, though appropriate, bridge riff. The simple take on thirty-two-bar form here with the inclusion of a solo section is predictable though, and the four minute long playtime drags just a bit much. I think opening with a faster, quicker track - which are the better tracks here - such as "Return of the Wastelander" or "Speed of Death" may have offer better pacing. "Speed..." also happens to be my personal favorite on the brisk four song EP. The dynamic between the verse and chorus, with the chorus jumping up in pitch adding aggressiveness to the easily headbangable and moshable track. The breakdown is a nice cut. Simple, quick, forceful and effective.

"Year of the Wolf," rounds out the release and is a weaker track. It resorts to mid-paced chugging and sounds incomplete at the slower tempo. Hedlok have excelled in the lyrical department with some lyrics that demand to be gang chanted with a bunch of drunken thrashers in a basement somewhere. I go back to "Speed of Death" again for my favorite, which happens to be the first full verse here, "Fast like a shadow, dark as the night, ride with the wind, and curse the light, reject your savior, forsake the lord, but move too slow and speed of death will crush your soul." Combined with the very harsh screamed vocals, there is a manifest viciousness that is lacking on a lot of stuff in this realm. Year of the Wolf is done well, even if the band's name is a bit lame..

Looks like Steve also reviewed this completely independently from myself. Here is his review:

Hedlok - not to be confused with Hed P.E. - are a solid blackish thrash/speed band, even if their name sounds like a 90s mallcore band. Not to be confused with Speedwolf either, they've got some speed metal in here, and they've got the wolf, but it's a grimier but less gritty sort of thrash. The guitar work is extremely aggressive, heavily influenced by Slayer while mixing in brutal and teutonic thrash. That is contrasted by mid-paced drumming without double bass or blast beats - it's more like heavy/speed metal, which provides an interesting contrast and helps the guitar work stand out more by not just being another band hammering away with tight double bass and chugging guitars. The bass is nearly inaudible at most times in the distorted mix, but if it were louder it would give the music a nice punkish feel like a lot of the good early black/speed metal. Unfortunately the sound is pretty much all bite and crunch, with the vocals so distorted and reverberated that it almost sounds like they're going through a guitar amp.

The band sounds pretty good throughout the four tracks, a relatively consistent sound and performance, but the songwriting stumbles a few times. Vocals and guitars trade off the lead well at times, then crash into each other. There are some fragmented leads that are supposed to decorate the tail-ends of riffs that just go nowhere and don't wrap up the line like they need to. It's a twelve minute EP, but overall it doesn't have much structure and doesn't go anywhere, despite some really strong parts that pick the music up and send it flying, like the killer speed metal riff that starts off the second track, similar to the ultra-catchy speed-thrashing of Speedwolf, who these fellows seem to be the too-serious evil blackthrash cousin of.

Check it out if you like oldschool-worshipping blackened thrash/speed.

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