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