Review­: Hed PE – 'Forever'

It’s common for dance labels to release albums that cover the whole experience of going out at the weekend. You have a disc of music to get ready to, a disc of banging tunes to represent being in a club, then a third disc of chillout tunes to decompress to. Californians Hed PE tenth studio album ‘Forever!’ works on a similar principle. Batter your senses for thirty or so minutes, then give you a chance to breathe in the final 20 with some classic come down sounds. If ever there was an excuse to use the football cliché of a “game of two halves”, then ‘Forever!’ provides it in spades. Metal, hardcore, punk, and hip hop, in the early stages, give way to blissful island reggae in the latter. ‘Eclectic’ is an often overused word, but in this case very apt. Hed PE deserve credit for continuously mixing it up and refusing to play it safe. It’s no surprise that they are out on the road with Skindred in the US later this year. Two bands that defy pigeonholing. Vocalist, and founding member, Jared Gomes explains it best by saying, “With our new record ‘Forever!’ we blend Godzilla heavy guitar riffs with beats that will hypnotize. The vocals strike the proper balance between rock, punk, hip hop and reggae. Its is a soundtrack for life!” The album opens up with ‘Live’, where a spooky keyboard sound and military style drum intro leads into a blend of clean vocals, cookie monster growls, and some rap style vocals from Gomes. The growls seem unnecessary, as they distract from the lyrics and the overall feel of the song, but the female backing vocals work well in creating an eerie atmosphere. ‘Pay Me’ begins with some classic Nu Metal riffs, before Gomes comes in with a Biohazard style hardcore vocal performance. He changes between hardcore, rap, and a more traditional rock sound so often that this song must take it’s toll on him when performed live. The lyrics tell a tale of the daily struggle to survive in today’s society, and ends with a soundbite of a speech from what could be an anti-austerity rally, American style. ‘Closer’ kicks off with a great reggae vocal, that mixes well with the rap and rock vocals on offer, and the chorus of clean vocals lifts the song up. ’Hurt’ opens with a southern rock riff before slamming into a classic metal sound that shakes the foundations, and the manic vocals throughout are creepy as hell itself. ’It’s You’ is classic metal. Pantera-sized riffs with reggae scattergun vocals merged with some screams and an incredible clean vocal performance from Gomes. ’Waste’ is total punk rock. With a running time less than two minutes, it’s short and sharp, and damn, I would hate to be the person on the receiving end of the abuse that Gomes spits out. Think Blag Flag rather than Green Day. ’Jahknow’ continues in the reggae-infused metal vein, where the chorus merges clean vocals and screams with ease. ‘One Of A Kind’ is where the second half kicks off. My favourite song on the album begins with a laid back synth sound and gorgeous reggae-infused vocals, before the band batter down the door with a full throttle blast of rock. The way Hed PE seamlessly drift from one extreme to the other is astounding. ’The Higher Crown’ is a 90 second musical time out for listeners to catch their breath. When the band return on ‘Shadowridge’, we are slowly drifting into island life but with some added beef around the two minute mark. So laid back, it’s practically horizontal. ‘Together’, and ‘Always’, continue the vibe, with more instruments thrown into the mix. The album ends with ‘Ganja’, which has a ‘Message To You Rudy’ bounce about it, as Gomes waxes lyrical about weed. A warm and fuzzy way to end the album that will cause an involuntary visit to the fridge, or a trip to the 24 hour garage…
‘Forever!’ is a mind fuck of an album like any eclectic album should be. Sounds that conform to the norm go out the window, to be replaced by those that shouldn’t work,but Hed PE somehow make them work, and should be applauded for still taking risks after all these years. ‘Forever!’ is released through Pavement Entertainment, and is available from the usual outlets. Review: Dave Stott
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