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It was a few weeks ago where I caught the tail end of the Born of Osiris show at Red Herring. Afterwards, I ended up being introduced to the bass player of Hurricane Joe, who happens to be named Joe, who had opened earlier that night. I’ve certainly heard of Hurricane Joe and they used to reside in Duluth, but are now since located in the Twin Cities. They have close enough ties to the area that they were even more recently featured in the Beaner’s One Week Live concert series. During our brief conversation, I received their new CD “Alpacalypse,” and promised to give it a listen. All I have to say is, “damn, this is one hell of a great local metal album.”
I love metal, but it seems like it’s an easy genre to screw up when it comes to putting out a studio album. There’s even more that can go wrong if it’s an album not recorded in an actual studio. Rather than focusing on the things I’ve seen done wrong on other albums I’ve listened to, I’m going to mention what I think was done right on this album. For the most part, they nailed it.
First off, a lot of metal bands try to be badass, and in that effort, they start to sound like they’re taking themselves so seriously that it’s hard to take seriously. This album is called “Alpacalypse,” yes, as in an apocalypse that deals with alpacas. The cover art is indeed badass, but I appreciate the underlying sense of humor. I guess what I’m saying is that some bands get so tied up in image, they forget to be actually good. This is not the case with Hurricane Joe.
The album starts up with the track “Relapse.” Upon putting the CD in, I had to double check if I was playing the right album. The song opens with a swirling piano part that goes several bars before going into the heavy good stuff. That right there got me intrigued, and the listening journey from there was nothing to scoff at. The band is certainly in your face, but they throw in clever and beautiful melodic parts that flow directly into heavy blast beats and all sorts of other metal wizardry throughout. There is definitely a theme of apocalypse to the album, “As the human race is pushed to extinction/I’ve killed myself so many times I’m alive,” sings frontman Josh Berini.
The song blends perfectly in the next track “Kim Jung Uno.” The story of destruction continues, “We are not primordial/We are sycophantic/We are not primordial/We are human parasitic.” It’s kind of cool they have a theme going on here. It’s a dark glimpse into the Alpacalypse, I guess. Or in other words, they managed to be brutal without the lyrics coming off as lame.
On the note of lyrics, or rather the singing of them, here’s where tons of bands just get it wrong. With Hurricane Joe I can actually understand well over half the lyrics without having to read them out of the liner notes. That’s a pretty good percentage because there’s not much holding back on the guttural screaming going on. When it comes to metal, there are two things that kind of rub me the wrong way. First, lyrics screamed, growled, or shrieked in such a way, it’s impossible to understand. One of my favorite heavy bands and albums is Remains of the Day’s “Hanging on Rebellion.” I listen to it at least once a month, but I think I can understand maybe two sentences out of the entire album, it’s just so awesome in it’s delivery that I don’t let it bother me. To make matters worse with that album, it’s kind of obscure and I can’t find the lyrics online. I’ve had that album for years and still don’t know anything being sung/screamed on it. Here’s the opposite of that, and this sometimes really bothers me. It’s when the singer is just too sing-songy and sings almost too well. I’ll use the band Evanescence as a good example of this. Bands like Dio and Iron Maiden don’t count in this, but I think anyone into metal has seen this.
Really, what makes Hurricane Joe truly awesome is the technical level of the band itself. The band consists of Devin Sannes on drums, Max Russo and Simon Hamel on guitars, and Joe Sannes on bass. Whether it be clean melodic parts, brisk palm mutes, all out shredding, or subtle to not-so-subtle breakdowns and bridges, it’s pretty fantastic.
As a whole package, I find it fitting to mention that the album was produced by Mike Saker. The album was well thought out and I hope this guy got paid, because this isn’t just some demo quality wall of noise, it’s controlled even when it’s going all out. The album artwork is done by Rebecca Olene and Josh Hames. It’s the coolest cover art dealing with alpacas I’m ever likely to see. If you like metal, get this album.