It’s been 14 years since Seattle reprobates Zeke last released an album, and it would seem there have been more changes in the shape of spaghetti in that time than there have been in the band’s sound. The only discernible difference is that said album, ‘Til The Living End, contained seven songs that broke the two-minute barrier. There is no such foolhardy, wanton excess on Hellbender.
In and out in less time than it takes to order a round in some bars, Hellbender is 20 minutes of gloriously pungent beer-throwing, glue-sniffing, truck-loving, speed-metal-punk-thrash bedlam, over so quickly you could put the whole thing on the jukebox and still miss it if someone ordered something complicated like a glass of wine. The band waste absolutely no time at all in getting back to business and reminding everyone exactly who they are, and what they do, namely a rock and roll band doing rock and roll things at speeds even Motorhead refused to attempt. Launching with the ferocious All The Way and flatly refusing to take their feet off the pedals until there is nothing left in the tank, nosebleed punk banger follows nosebleed punk banger with the satisfying reliability of a perfect line of dominoes, with absolutely zero deviation from the course. Hell, Two Lane Blacktop is almost exactly the same as On Through The Night from 14 years ago, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still slam harder than Jesse Ventura’s first dump of the day. Did the band simply forget they’d already written that song? Does anyone really care?
It’s hard to imagine the faithful giving Hellbender anything less than full marks. For the uninitiated, its time to Ride With Zeke or risk die not knowing true love.
Hellbender is out 30 March on Relapse Records