reviewed by Chris Matei
Vancouver-area trio Hill Beast claim to be inspired by “post-everything,” though their heavy, layered rock sound might be more specifically influenced by the likes of Dinosaur Jr., Slowdive, Kyuss and Incubus. On their debut full-length, which follows the jam-space EP, Brunch, released in 2013, the band employs the skilful production and mixing talents of Jesse Gander, whose work at Rain City Recorders has lent crushing weight and power to a long list of local rock releases. The result is an album of densely crafted rock songs that show a marked evolution beyond bog-standard loud quiet loud structures, while avoiding headiness or cerebral pretense.
For an album with such an animalistic title, it seems almost serendipitous that the best songs on Son of Hill Beast are those with similarly taxonomic names. Though it starts a bit shakily with “The One Above” and “Alamogordo” (the latter of which goes for a much more live-sounding aesthetic and doesn’t quite hit the mark) Son of Hill Beast hits its stride with “Owls.” The tight groove, growling bass, heavy riffs and powerful bridge section make the song an early standout.
The shoegazey “Hypergraphia” exudes “Pennyroyal Tea” vibes, creating anticipation and tension by delaying the wide-open break that throttles its bewitching chorus guitar variation into a furious high-gain statement. “More Eagles” continues the animals-as-winners trend, with its mix revealing a deep and sonorous set of guitar textures and a ripping, J. Mascis-esque solo section. “Deerman” brings the Desert Sessions to mind, a rambling instrumental drone interlude with copper-coloured acoustic rattling away in the background.
One of the album’s few missteps occurs late, on “We Itch.” As in the album’s opening track, the structure seems repetitive. Aiming for a tired, strained Cobain timbre and including a relatively unsubtle sprinkling of feedback squeals in lieu of soloing, the track is rescued by the breadth and power injected into its mix when it kicks into its louder gear – grinding, dark stuff in the fine Kurt Ballou mould. Fortunately, the pace picks back up on yet another animal-themed cut, “Giraffi.” A grungy, dark blues sound makes its appearance here, and this black ballad wrings particular emotion from its dynamic and clear drum performance.
Overall, Son of Hill Beast makes a mark of its own among its rock peers, aiming for kineticism and weight and largely succeeding. This beast has a real bite.
Top Tracks: “Owls,” “Giraffi,” “More Eagles”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)