Head Like A Hole
Head Like A Hole returns with its sixth album of original songs by my count, their first since 2011’s Blood Will Out, that was their return to the studio and first post-reunion album, picking up the pieces splintered after 1998’s Are You Gonna Kiss It Or Shoot It?
Where Blood Will Out was an ode to Sabbath – or it at least seemed that way, in part, and hung together well as a result – Narcocorrido shows off the band’s pop elements, well-honed within the context of that big, dumb, thoroughly un-self-conscious brand of hard rock/rock’n’roll this sweaty, stench of sound ruminates around.
Trouble Again feels like something off a recent Ace Frehley album (again, compliment intended) and elsewhere there are hints of the KISS and Motley Crue records this band has always loved. There’s something huge and wonderful about opener The Great Wall and later on The Art of War. In between those tracks a blistering pace is set across the very-fun Creedence, aforementioned Trouble Again and Rotten. I hear traces of the lost Guns N’ Roses sound – what might have turned up between The Spaghetti Incident and Chinese Democracy. That Axl-of-old sound informs Maw too, a classic HLAH stomper, something you might have last found on Double Your Strength, Improve Your Health and Lengthen Your Life.
The standout of the new album is the passion in the playing, the inventiveness in the guitar lines too, channelling staples of 70s hard-rock and the 80s hair-metal sounds that have always been part of Head Like A Hole’s agenda, but with just enough of a crisp, fresh spin.
There are or two close-to-filler moments here, the album doesn’t so much dip off in quality as it does repeat itself (something this band has probably always been guilty of, really). But the songs excerpt so well. A track like 7000 Days, lit up with the spirit, once again, of G N’R/KISS, is – on its own – a delight. But seven tracks into the album it can feel like same-same-and-not-quite-different-enough.
Mexico is a highlight though – and not just an album highlight, a career high point. All of the sweat-drenched fuzz and filth of Head Like A Hole’s very best work and even better intentions but with something slowed-down and sleazy, something that separates it, elevates it.
I also dig the closer, Sunrise, for its sheer something-different-ness, it’s a hungover ballad, just half a song stretched to the right space and placed correctly to close off an album that’s been created with love, just enough great songs – Head Like A Hole has never, for me, been about the songs as such (it’s about the performance over the writing) – and is aimed fair and square at the core fan base that has supported this group through its recent crowd-funding and in many cases across the years, even right back to the earliest days where a quite different band called by the same name made up a new world of sin based on weird and wonderful antics and a commitment to rocking out with their cocks out. Sometimes literally.
Well enough of that passion is still here. Enough of that calibre of playing and material too – though it’s a vastly different HLAH, and has been ever since Double Your Strength really anyway.
I hear the lads are off to tour this album around the place soon too. That’s where this will really come alive.