Hell City Kings, H.C.K.

Hell City Kings, H.C.K.

With H.C.K., garage-y, grimy, facepunching “deathpunk” gang the Hell City Kings — whose name I freaking love, by the way — have definitely found where they need to be. I was a bit underwhelmed by the band’s previous full-length, 2009’s The Road to Damnation, liking the music but not liking the lyrics a whole hell of a lot and wishing the production was dirtier and less “produced”-sounding.

Followup EP The Wolf apparently telegraphed where the band was headed, with a grittier recording and songs that steered clear of werewolves and pirates and whatnot, and with H.C.K., the Kings have taken that revised direction and made it their home. This time out the sound is appropriately rough-edged and raw, riding the line between stoner-metal sludge and gutterpunk snarl while never fully tipping into either, and the lyrics are real and in your face, a nihilistic, fuck-’em-all blast that fits the scraping, metallic guitars awesomely.

Granted, there’s not a lot here that’s new, really, for fans of the band, but the Kings have taken what they were doing and cranked it down so tight that even the band’s overall loose-limbed rawk feel seems airtight. They start off with the paranoiac “Lights Out,” which is snarling and vicious and incorporates a backing melody vocal, if you can believe it, I think for the first time. Bitter, shut-the-fuck-up track “Pity Party” keeps it rolling, on through the sneering, spitting dismissal and despair of “I Don’t Believe,” where Josh Wolf warns: “I’d take it off the flagpole, fucker / You don’t fool me anymore / Move on to another.”

“Hell City Holocaust” is louder and faster, an aural assault that begins to disintegrate into noise after a while, which segues nicely into the sprawling squall that is “The Dream,” a murky mess of staggering, pounding noise that blasts away at the supposed American Dream of working your ass off ’til you die. It and followup track “Room 134” make me think less of punk or garage than they do mid-’90s noise-rock like Copy Shoot Cop or Steel Pole Bathtub, especially with the very cool, unexpected bursts of saxophone on “The Dream” and the way both tracks crumble into staticky, messy, Jesus Lizard-ish noise.

Don’t take that to mean this is all a spastic mess, mind you; throughout H.C.K., the Kings craft one undeniable chorus after another, the kind of yell-along fun that makes you want to go out, get loaded, and start fights with complete strangers for no good goddamn reason. They cruise on through “Set The Robots To Kill,” which, yeah, is a little goofy lyrically but still works, with a spiraling, keening, Kim Thayil-esque riff gouging its way throughout, and the crunching, fist-pumping “Demon Of Insomnia.”

Wolf and his bandmates — guitarists Bill Fool and Christian Bakka, bassist Justin the Red, and drummer Jared Eville — have developed a way with words on this release, too, spitting out sharp-edged barbs left and right at wannabe tough guys, whiners who think they’re the only ones with problems, and all-round losers, as on final track “Jokes On You,” where Wolf declares, “Everybody agrees that interacting with you is the shittiest part of the day.” Damn.

By the time the album reaches its end, I want to high-five these guys; they honestly did every single thing I’d hoped they would do after The Road to Damnation, and they pulled it off fucking brilliantly. H.C.K. is a noisy, grimy, surprisingly addictive chunk of flat-out rock that’s so street-level you can practically smell the fumes and garbage and puke. My one quibble would be that I could’ve done without the weird little bookend bits of radio noise between each song, but hell, that’s nothing major given the rest of the album. Welcome to the “new” Hell City Kings, and hang on tight.

[Hell City Kings are playing their record release 10/21/11 at Fitzgerald’s, along with TeXXXas, Ghost Town Electric, & The Freakouts, and also 10/22/11 at SkateStock at Lee & Joe Jamail Skatepark, along with Tax the Wolf, Crime Wave, Anarchitex, The Escatones, & DJ Cipher.]
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Review by . Review posted Friday, October 21st, 2011. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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4 Responses to “Hell City Kings, H.C.K.

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: Manchester Orchestra + Hell City Kings (Rev’d!) + Jon Langford + Empress Hotel + More on October 21st, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    […] Badass garage-punk/metal dudes the Hell City Kings are playing tonight, too, up at Fitzgerald’s — it’s the album release for brand-new LP H.C.K., which is honestly everything I’d hoped for from these guys & more, with the “more” including some hints of NY noise, backing melodies(!), and yes, a saxophone. Check out the review over here. […]

  2. GFN on October 25th, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Good review. Much more punk rock than the last album.

  3. Jeremy Hart on October 27th, 2011 at 10:04 am

    Agreed 100%. I definitely like the punk side of their stuff more than the metallic stuff, myself…

  4. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 2: Skatestock + The 71′s + Venomous Maximus + ZZ Top + We Scare Coyotes + More on October 20th, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    […] dudes Hell City Kings, who get better & better with every record — last year’s H.C.K. firmly cemented them into my personal list of Damn Good Bands (from Houston or Otherwise), with an […]

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