Saturday, June 8, 2013

HESSLER "Comes With The Territory"

(c) 2012 Hessler
  1. Waste Away
  2. Rising Sign
  3. Who Will You Run To
  4. Confessions
  5. Gone Away
  6. All You've Done (Is Nothing New)
  7. Wicked World
  8. Taste The Lips
  9. Million Lights Above
  10. Hate Me, Leave Me
Lariyah Daniels--Vocals
Frankie Snakes--Guitars, Backing Vocals
Igz Kincaid--Guitars, Backing Vocals
Erik Michael--Bass, Backing Vocals
Marcus Lee--Drums, Backing Vocals
First, I have to say this...WHAT THE HECK IS THAT THING ON THE COVER?!, on with the review...
Hessler is an up-and-coming hard rock act hailing from the Windy City of Chicago.  Combining the sounds of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, a bit of the hair/glam scene of Hollywood, and some modern elements, Hessler doesn't really come off sounding like anyone in particular, largely because NO ONE plays this type of metal any longer.  Unless you still worship at the alter of early 80's, female-fronted acts like Bitch, Hellion, Lee Aaron, early, pre-radio hit Lita Ford, Warlock, or Leather Leone-fronted Chastain, you aren't likely to have a grasp on what Hessler appears to be trying to do, which is to recreate the old Metal Blade/Shrapnel Records sound (or so it would seem) and convince everyone that this is 1983 and not 2013, at least musically.   
One thing that I would think the band might find frustrating is the fact that every review that is written about the bands seems to focus first-and-foremost on Lariyah Daniels's looks, much the same way Doro Pesch (Doro/Warlock), Lizzy Hale (Halestorm), Christina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil), and Angela Gossard (Arch Enemy) are all viewed more as sex-symbol leading ladies than they are powerhouse vocalists.  This is unfortunate because, like all the others mentioned here, Daniels brings a lot more to the band than just a pretty face.  Combining a powerful scream with a definite vocal sneer, Daniels delivers a commanding performance right from the first track...when the song allows.  For example, powerful guitars drive the album's opener, "Waste Away" , which has a definite NWOBHM feel to it, but it's Daniels' voice that slams the track home, accompanied by some big, shouted gang vocals from the boys in the band.  "Rising Sign" is much the same: pure NOWBHM worship musically with Halestorm-styled modern female vocals layered over the dual guitars, although Lariyah is all alone on this one, with the gentlemen remaining vocally silent (at least not thrusting their voices and their fists in your face on this number). 
This same formula is used throughout most of the disc...big, hook-laden songs with some killer twin guitar work, pummeling rhythms, and screaming vocals....and it works pretty well.  Case in point, take the multi-tempo track "All You've Done (Nothing Is New)".  On this song, things kick off with a chugging NWOBHM guitar rhythm before adjusting to a more bouncy style for the lyrics, then bursting into an arena rock-styled anthem complete with gang-shouted vocals backing Lariyah's, who sounds very similar to Lizzy Hale on this track, especially on the bridge section coming out of the lead guitar solo.  "Taste The Lips" is more direct in its tempo choice, but still has that big raise-your-fist-and-scream anthem feel that just reeks of 1982's metal scene, along with more gang vocals and some nice, if simple, guitar work.  The album ends on a crushing number, "Hate Me, Leave Me", leaving fans with a definite metallic taste in their mouths that will likely leave people banging their heads, pounding their fists, and begging for more.  I think closing in this manner is a very good move because it allows the listener to forget some of the less-than-inspired material that is scattered throughout the album.
"Million Lights Above" sticks out a bit from the rest of the album, at least for me, as it is the biggest departure from the early 80's sound, relying more on the later 80's power ballad approach.  On this track, Lariyah shows off a softer, more feminine vocal approach over a guitar line that reminds me a lot of Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" at times.  It gets a bit long (over five minutes), and we don't even get any drums or bass of any note until after the 3:20 mark of the song, so you can tell there's not a lot of "power" behind this "power ballad", but it's a solid effort that sounds a lot like what I would imagine Metallica and Lita Ford in a blender might sound like.  While not spectacular, it is definitely the better of the two ballads on Comes With The Territory (I'll get to the second ballad in a moment). 
So, what are these problem spots?  "Wicked World" is just boring to my ears, as Lariyah shares lead vocal duties on the verses, sounding like a lot of modern hard rock bands, and when she does step into the spotlight she shifts into a lower vocal range as she enters the chorus section.  With a weak, repetitive chorus, and bland male lead vocals, the Iron Maiden-inspired guitar riffing on the solo is really the only thing that sets this song apart from a lot of what passes for hard rock on radio now, but it can't salvage the track.  "Confessions" starts off with a weird intro that leads into a kind of tired-sounding mid-tempo chugging rhythm that leaves Lariyah's vocals sounding flat and lifeless.  I think the potential for a powerful song is there on this one, but it fails to deliver. 
As I mentioned, there are two ballads on this album, with one being far superior to the other.  This is the other one.  "Gone Away" just seems to drone on and on and on, chewing up over five minutes and going nowhere musically.  This is one of the very few tracks here that are devoid of masculine backing vocals, as Lariyah is used as her own backing vocalist here, with multiple layers employed in what I imagine was an effort to add more emotion to the track.  It fails for me on all levels, however, and I skip this track every single time I get to it now.
The packaging is pretty typical of independent band releases, as it comes in a digipack with a band picture on the back and individual band member pictures on the interior.  There are no lyrics included, although there is a thank-you and credit section.  And, of course, there is that FREAKY thing on the album's cover that I still have no idea what it is!
All in all, not a horrible effort by any means, and I think Hessler will grow from here.  I have read that this is the first time the band has had a stable line-up, so perhaps as the band has more time to write as a group they will find their preferred groove, work to perfect it, and come out swinging on their next effort.  As to this one, there are a lot worse things out there to listen to (or to avoid listening to, I should say!), but there are quite a few more complete efforts, also.
Rating:  Rock this at a 6, with the best stuff slightly overshadowing the filler. 
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