Hemlock releases Mouth of the Swine, tours with DevilDriver
These days it seems as if there are too few quality artists emerging in heavy music, and fewer still are incredible bands that have been around for years that have somehow flown under the radar. A prime example of the later is Hemlock. The groove-heavy metal quartet is an overnight sensation 20 years in the making. The band’s germination began in the heat-addled mind of 15-year-old Chad Smith who formed the band in 1993 with his brother, drummer Brian Smith. Chad, who plays bass and handles vocals, has helmed the quartet for 23 years. Hemlock’s debut album, Controlance dropped in 1996, followed by five more studio albums up through 2012’s The Only Enemy. The band celebrated 20 years of Hemlock with a live album, Viva ‘Lock Vegas, in 2013.
Musically Hemlock falls somewhere in the groove thrash area. The band’s vibe sounds like what one might expect if Max Cavalera roofied Faith No More on a Spring Break bender and had his way with them for a week: You bad boy, Max. Hemlock’s sonic signature features lots of bouncy riffs and chugging rhythms that manage to balance heaviness with melody. This is exactly what can be heard on the band’s latest studio effort, Mouth of the Swine.
Hemlock are absolute road warriors, spending a huge chunk of each year loading in and loading out of venues all around the globe. They’ve toured with Slayer, Slipknot, Lamb of God, Korn, Ministry, and Meshuggah among many others, and are currently tearing it up with DevilDriver and Holy Grail. The band is an absolute high energy juggernaut on stage. Guitarists James Gelber and Jezy Ward are often leaping in the air while wailing away. Brian is a thunderous beast behind the kit while Chad is a mildly unhinged psychotic onstage, smacking his head, pulling at his dreads, and beating his chest, all while playing the bass (often one-handed) and spinning the crowd into frenzy with his gregarious personality. Regardless of the band’s heavy sound and serious DIY business acumen, the guys are all about fun on stage, and many of the band’s lyrical themes are delivered with tongue-in-cheek satire.
Chad Smith talks and sings openly about the corrupted state of the music industry, taking the record companies and industry reps to task on the band’s latest single, “Scam Artist”;
“One for the music, two for the show, you give your entire life while you’re inflating their bankroll; three for your money and four for your soul, they live high on their hog while they are killing rock and roll…”
Gelber, who is the band’s newest member, adds fantastic depth to the band’s sound with his own vocal contributions.
Frontman Smith, and the rest of the band encourage crowd participation at all of their shows, often starting a “wall of death” to incite a circle pit in the crowd. The singer will often call for the fans to bounce in place and shake their fists in the air. It’s all a part of the heavy metal celebration. The magic of these electrifying live performances are somehow captured on the band’s studio efforts, a task not easy to accomplish, especially in the era of Pro Tools and digital recording. While Hemlock are not necessarily creating anything new stylistically, they add their own stamp to the music they create.
If you have yet to experience Hemlock, they are a band that must be caught live to truly appreciate.
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