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Hella - The Devil Isn't Red

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Artist: Hella

Album: The Devil Isn't Red

Label: 5 Rue Christine

Review date: Feb. 3, 2004

If there’s one band that knows how to scare up a highly organized stampede and make it sound like an arbitrary, lunging deluge, that’d be Hella. It’s the thrills of improv, now with structure. It’s simultaneous buildup and catharsis. It’s like Lightning Bolt, only more spastic. It’s one bad motherfuckin’ art-metal record.

I don’t recognize touchtones, so I can’t tell you if the first ten seconds of The Devil Isn’t Red transmit a message. I’m not positive about the rest of the record, either, but I’ve got theories. While maintaining this speedy complexity, ‘twould be a waste not to slide some sort of code in there… as it would be wasteful for an animation team to forego the inscrutable titty shot or drug reference.

Hella conjures seeming chaos that demands investigation, and by the end of “Top Twenty Notes,” one might be a tad winded. So it’s a strange relief to hear “Brown Medal 2003” commence with a straight-up pop-snap funk beat (plus a shopping cart full of aluminum cans boppin’ down the courthouse steps). Of course, it goes speed metal halfway through, but at least Hella lends you a few seconds to digest now and again. The title tune runs a flurry of drums over a slow guitar snarl that wouldn’t sound antisocial on a Neil Young record.

“You DJ Parents” and “Except No Subs” sound a bit like a Gameboy hooked up to a 10,000 watt amplifier; “Subs” is funkier, though. And the majestic closer “Welcome to the Jungle, Baby, You’re Gonna Live!” blurs together everything Hella does well.

The Devil Isn’t Red settles it: I’m buying a good pair of headphones.

By Emerson Dameron

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