Zeke – Hellbender Review

Band: Zeke
Album: Hellbender
Label: Relapse Records
Genre: Punk ‘n’ Roll
Country: USA
Release Date: 30 March, 2018

Get your best neck brace out because west-coast thrash punk band Zeke is back with a record that will really test the limits of your neck muscles after headbanging to this. After 14 years since Til’ the Livin’ End, Zeke’s Hellbender is crashing into us with a track list so aggressive and straight-to-the-point that your ears will start bleeding before you get the chance to turn it off. At about twenty minutes long and no more than two minutes per track (some less than one), Hellbender clocks in just long enough to kick you in the fucking face with brash rhythms and howling lyrics then leaves while you beg for more.

This is not the black Satan resurrecting metal you are used to finding around these parts of heavy metal land. This is Seattle based, west-coast punk made with the goal to piss off your mom as you blast fire from your iPhone dock in her unfinished basement. If your tastes are a bit dark, or if you need growling Nordic vocals with a stupid fast bass drum run then this is probably not the sound you are looking for. But I beg of you, give Zeke a chance to show you how close to metal punk can get, because it is all here.

At first glance, the set for this record is lacking in length. Do not let this make you feel cut short musically. From the start of the very first track, All The Way, you get a warning alarm that things are about to get nasty. Zeke sets the tone for the next 20 minutes with a jam that has everything from kick-punch drum beats to the shredding guitar licks you don’t find in many punk albums of this variant. Fast guitar riffs almost compete with each other in between a rhythm section that swings only to land every hit.

A couple tracks in and we have Hellbender figured out right? Wrong. So wrong. Working Man starts with a bass/tom lick that will nail your coffin shut and force your brain to endure a series of face-melters from both guitars. The title track Hellbender is no more than a calling back to what we have heard so far before we get a whole new vocal sound in County Jail. If I could compare it to anything, it would be prime Henry Rollins before Black Flag went Black Sabbath. Watch out for Big Rig at the end at it shares this vocal styling. Rollins isn’t the only punk god haunting Hellbender, because we get a bit of Lemmy’s mumble in songs like Burn and Redline. Of course, Zeke brings a sound of their own but it is safe to say that there is influence from the pioneers of the past in parts of this record.

Hellbender goes 15 songs deep with similar jams, but each seem to have their own bead in the beard. Whether it is a quick bass break measure, melodic guitar swoops, style changes in vocality, or percussive hammers that knock the gauges out of your ears, Hellbender is a reminder that American punk may still live if you look hard enough.

Overall, everything your punk rock heart desires is here with a hint of metal technicality in the guitars and a drummer that could beat a metronome into submission. If this record is anything it’s consistent. Consistent in that all it does from beginning to end is bash your ears in with lightning fast straight-strum punk guitar and a lead singer whose bleeding vocal cords tear through all fifteen songs. I did have the feeling that I needed more once Zeke left the building. Not more from Blind Marky, Kurt, Dayne, and Kyle. I needed more from the songs. Some of these jams are less than a minute, and with thrash punk this good I was fucking begging for more when the silence came between tracks.

Rating: 8/10

1. All The Way
2. Two Lane Blacktop
3. On The Road
4. Working Man
5. Hellbender
6. County Jail
7. Burn
8. Goin’ Down
9. White Wolf
10. AR-15
11. Cougar Rock
12. Devil’s Night
13. Ride On
14. Redline
15. Big Rig

Total Playing Time: 20:14

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