Australian Guitar - - Technique -

It was never go­ing to be easy for Hel­lions to fol­low their 2016 mag­num opus, Opera

Oblivia. The dra­ma­core debonairs reached a peak with the rich and rav­aging the­atri­cal­ity of LP3, and their sud­den rise to global star­dom re­flected that. So rather than strive to re­pro­duce its anoma­lous spark, the Syd­ney crew have taken a well-de­served leap in a new di­rec­tion with Rue.

Bright, bouncy gui­tar lines and em­phat­i­cally chanted gang vo­cals pil­lar the record at large, the group leap­ing hic­cup-free be­tween hot and heavy dance­floor an­thems (“Odyssey”, “X”) and op­er­atic scenes of song­writ­ing bravado (“The Lo­tus”, “Rue”). There’s an am­pli­fied sense of en­ergy that vo­cal­ist Dre Faivre rev­els in – you can al­most hear the smile he un­doubt­edly had pasted on his face when rip­ping through the verses of the ‘90s flavoured “Get Up!” (a sure-to-be setlist sta­ple).

But where Rue stands out most from Hel­lions’ back cat­a­logue is that Faivre isn’t the band’s de­facto ‘front­man’ on it. Rather, all four members throw equal weight into the mix, stand­out mo­ments gifted to each of their di­verse and dy­namic tal­ents. Such means that even though Rue is Hel­lions’ first al­bum as a quar­tet, their sound is larger and more fully re­alised than ever.

The gui­tars ben­e­fit in spades from the el­e­vated in­ter­play be­tween Matt Gravolin and Josh Campiao, too. Lead sec­tions pum­mel through the mix with un­wa­ver­ing brawn, cuts like “26” and “X” de­fined by their ever-fa­mil­iar chugs. But rhythm is where the al­bum’s real back­bone lies – look to “Fur­row” and “Harsh Light” for proof, where clean, tran­scen­den­tal noodling reigns supreme. Rue as a whole med­dles this con­trast beau­ti­fully – it’s a salty-sweet ca­coph­ony of melody and melo­drama, un­der­pinned by Hel­lions’ sig­na­ture brand of sear­ing grit.

At times play­ing to strengths they’ve em­bod­ied since 2013’s DieYoung, and at oth­ers rein­vent­ing them­selves en­tirely, Rue is a true evo­lu­tion for a band once known for lit­tle more than their noise com­plaint-spurring shows. It’s metic­u­lous in struc­ture and de­fi­antly ma­ture, but it’s also what hap­pens when a band just goes, “Hey, what if our en­tire al­bum was a banger?” Es­pe­cially given its pro­duc­tion trou­bles – Hel­lions ini­tially fin­ished the LP in 2017, be­fore de­cid­ing months later to re­haul it – we have to give the band their due ap­plause. MATTDORIA

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