Album Review by Mark Bayross
Supporting Papa Roach, ‘A’ and Glassjaw before you’ve even had an album out can do wonders for your confidence, even if half your band have already been poked with the shitty end of the music industry stick before they are barely out of school. Such is the position of Hell Is For Heroes, with a couple of ex-members of Symposium onboard, the latest youthful gang of guitar-abusers to have a pop at the “Saviours of Rock” crown (courtesy of the ever-reliable ‘NME’).
Now their debut album THE NEON HANDSHAKE – recorded at LA’s Sound City studios at the hands of same producers as Refused – is about to drop and big things are expected of it, at least until NME’s next Saviours of Rock come along in about five minutes. Fortunately, I’m delighted to announce that the hype is very much justified in this case – this is a fantastic, self-assured debut.
From the opening blast of FIVE KIDS GO, this is guitar heaven, and, as singles I CAN CLIMB MOUNTAINS and YOU DROVE ME TO IT have testified, once attached to some killer tunes, this is a pretty unstoppable combination. Even more impressive are the ferocious OUT OF SIGHT and monumental FEW AGAINST MANY, demonstrating that this young band can throw real weight behind their music and that singer Justin Schlosberg possesses one hell of a set of lungs.
Don’t be put off by some journos’ lazy allusions to nu-metal – this is much closer to the turn-on-a-dime muscular hardcore of Helmet spliced to the soaring emo of bands like Hundred Reasons. Just listen to how DISCONNECTOR builds from a teary acoustic opening verse to a tornado of immense guitars and Schlosberg’s edge-of-hysteria vocals.
There isn’t a song here that won’t rip your head off, but all are executed with such confidence and precision that you’ll be wearing a grin from ear to ear in the process. Even the self-explanatory SLOW SONG can’t resist unleashing an avalanche of My Bloody Valentine-style guitars halfway through.
As debuts go, THE NEON HANDSHAKE can hardly be faulted. It never fails to impress, nor does it fall into the trap of outstaying its welcome. When you consider how young the band are, and how many years of creativity they must have left in them, it amounts to another victory in the war for music over product.