by Issac Scott
The first thing you notice about Hellships when they play live is their sheer brutality. Sure, a lot of bands play loud. Every high school metalhead has their Marshal half-stack of amplifiers turned to 11. But Hellships bring a new kind of intensity to their instrument that transforms the music into a physical force.
Fortunately, the music works just as well at normal volume on the band’s new debut EP, Leaden Hum. It draws from the trippy instrumental metal sound of regional favorites like Earth and Sunn O))), as well as the heavier but more accessible jams of Nirvana and Sleep. Everything on this tape sounds fresh. The solos are more face-melting, the bass is more thundering, and the drums are more primal than most albums you will hear around here.
And when they play live, they are louder than everyone else. This was apparent at their first show since the debut’s release last month. A small group of young Olympians found their way on a rainy night to see the trio in a dark room at the Track House. The band refused to even leave space between songs for applause, melting everything into the ecstatic noise of their amplifiers. Throughout, drummer Alex Frellich seemed intent on shattering the crash cymbal with his sticks. He later said he never felt the drums were loud enough.
“We started out as a noise drone band,” guitarist Robin Fischer explained after the show, “and we still have that going in a lot of ways.”
What they had going Sunday night was noise and drone and trance and ambient and loud. It was saturated with a sense of danger – from the volume and the anticipated shards of crash cymbal.
“I’ve noticed that sometimes at our shows people leave during the noise parts, but that’s okay,” Fischer said.
However, the songs on Leaden Hum sound remarkably refined, a fact that speaks to the long gestation they had. They say the recording process solidified their largely amorphous, improvisatory jams into 26 concise minutes of tape.
It is the group’s first real record, although they have played together in some form since 2008 after bassist Neal Jensen and Fischer met as roommates at Evergreen. The final product is available for suggested donation at hellships.bandcamp.com, and in stores at Phantom City Records. It has been received favorably so far, and has been featured on European music blogs.
“We had been practicing this material for a year before we recorded anything,” Fischer said, “It seemed like it took a long time, but in the end it was worth it.”