HELLIPHANT – Another Glorious Exercise in Horror
The inclusion of keyboards on a rock album can elicit considerable apprehension. Is it the type of keyboards that often accompany psychedelic or 70s-style music, or is it something from 80s hair metal? In this case, thankfully, it is the former. Helliphant‘s debut CD, Another Glorious Exercise in Horror, seems like an inaccurate name for a band’s inaugural disc, but it boasts a veteran polish.
The cover artwork by Matt Molloy would suggest we’re dealing with a Misfits clone here, but that would be a tragic misinterpretation; a merging of several different decades of music can be found on this disc, but the 50s aren’t one of them. On the one hand there is the keyboard-infused rock of the late 60s and 70s, as evidenced by a rendition of the Crazy World Of Arthur Brown’s 1968 hit “Fire” (known to most of the world as the song where that guy shouts “I AM THE GOD OF HELL FIRE AND I BRING YOU…”) and by the presence of, yes, a cowbell in the drum kit. And there are also modern-day heavy-metal riffs, bordering on stoner rock. It’s a retro fusion that puts them in the company of bands like the Darkness and Turbonegro, but Helliphant’s version seems more rooted in psychedelia and rock-meets-psychotic-circus-music.
Tying it all together is Deacon Dr. Joe Schmoove’s vocals. His style of preaching sounds like what an evangelist might shout after a few bong hits and a couple of hits of acid. He contributes a welcome measure of unpredictability, as it’s impossible to determine what kind of voice he’ll be using for the next line. His vocal range varies wildly from evil screaming to a bellowing falsetto in a manner somewhat reminiscent of System of a Down. Although the lyrics might sound glib at first, a closer look reveals more profound meaning; “Seas of Vinegar” tackles disgust with politics, and “To the Divine” is particularly anti-religion.
If you’re not interested in delving too deeply into what Schmoove is saying, the song “Bullshit” is straightforward enough, with its cathartic invective spewed at anonymous targets (“What the fuck is this?! / What the fuck is this?! / This is fucking bullshit! BULLSHIT!”). It could well become a local anthem.