Hellbot’s Debut Album is Here – But is It the Way We Want It?

For me, the Pacific Northwest has been a melting pot of ethereal talent for over three decades, and whilst I couldn’t be there to witness the birth of ‘grunge’ and alternative music in Seattle back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, it’s an upmost privilege to behold wave after wave of exceptional creativity surging amongst the local music community today.

With that said, I don’t tend to be easily sold on modern music and checked out of keeping up with mainstream rock and metal years ago, so with Hellbot’s highly anticipated debut album arriving in my hands, would my faithful Emerald City deliver another gem?

From L to R. Bass – Bobby Steenrod, Drums – Jake Jovanovich, Vocals – Triston Bracht, Guitar – Mark Huber. Photo by Kurt Clark of Nehi Stripes Seattle

When I first heard American Son which serves as a perfectly powerful opener and sets the bar very high for this record, I was immediately taken aback. Not just a casual ‘this sounds kinda interesting,’ but a punch to the gut with instant clarity; I was done. Won over. Transfixed as I watched a live performance, my brain had an orgasm. I cranked that song some 30 times over the next 24 hours and downloaded all available tracks desperately aching for more with each listen.

Hellbot performing American Son.

This was an anthemic, classic rock hit in my mind. Powerhouse vocals bursting with old school and new flavours. Like sipping a refreshing cold drink on a hot summer’s day; that first taste is so damn satisfying and it’s exactly what you needed.

‘Blood, sweat and tears, we don’t give nothing less. Never gonna follow with the ones who trend-set…’

Whilst there is a comfort and familiarity to Hellbot’s artistry, it’s evolving, fresh and born out of consistent quality; this isn’t a Greta Van Fleet situation. With each song brings unexpected nuances, cut with both deep gravelly and soft melodic moments. Not only in vocal variation, but the harmonious relationship between Mark, Jake and Bobby’s locomotive driving force which alongside Jake’s back-up vocals, supports and enhances Triston’s behemothic voice. The tonal changes and special effects utilised within Mark’s guitar armoury are incredibly versatile and have surprised me from song to song. There isn’t predictability here, and when you compare consecutive songs Backbone Slide and Beautiful as one of many examples, you’ll certainly prick up and notice just how much of an experimental tech wizard Mark is.

The high pace and energy from start to finish never wanes, and I was most looking forward to hearing this story be told in order as one piece of art. Prior to full release, we’d been trickled 7 of the 11 songs; American Son, Heavy Chevy, Slide Tune, Beautiful, GTO, Cool with the Devil and That’s the Way We Want It. Separating the remaining for a moment, there’s a tough battle between Attention and Broken Man becoming my new stand-out favourite.

As soon as American Son ends and Attention starts, you’re catapulted into this highly addictive, head banging rhythm with meandering melodic verses… You’re just along for the ride and have no choice but to hold on and relent to wherever you’re being taken. Broken Man brings us down into a Western flavour; I can feel the dry desert air and whisps of rolling tumbleweed pass by as the bottleneck opens. We’ve been given a taste of this vibe and sound earlier on in the album with Slide Tune and Cool with the Devil, but this mood is rather different.

Broken Man audio.

‘I just want to do my part and play some rock ‘n’ roll…’

The album even sees a special duet with GTO; Triston’s father and renown local favourite, Travis ‘Titanium Tonsils’ Bracht makes for a perfect pairing as the two share such strikingly similar abilities. Their storytelling works perfectly between verses and the chorus has your body moving whilst screaming ‘Get up in my G T O’ as an attempt to channel the duo’s profound, energetic delivery. Their differences are clear however, and in this case, you can never have too much of a good thing! Experience and maturity see’s both Bracht’s possess the ability to project soulful and emotive melody from one line and rip into dimensional textured screams with the next. I certainly hope this isn’t the last father-son partnership we’ll see in Hellbot’s future!?

Bobby pulsing his distinctive licks whilst looking over in amusement as Triston and Travis work their magic. Photo by Neil Lim Sang.

After we’ve been hitting the highway in our GTO and having danced with the Devil along the way, we’re now rediscovering ourselves, pulling ranks from the depths of hell and wrestling with those demons that sit upon our shoulders. However, ‘legends never die’ and the tempo is raised seeing us through to the other side with an abandon and pure dose of rock ‘n’ roll. With an angst ridden, crazed and surmounting solo that crescendos to the closing, this record can only leave you; Thunderstruck.

‘That’s the way we want it. That’s the way we need it…’

Discovering Hellbot struck a chord within me, and to touch upon that familiarity I mentioned earlier, we’d have to step back in time to around 1990. Picture the scene; Alice in Chains at the Central, Vogue or Off Ramp coming in hot with Facelift about to break… When I watch those shows for the umpteenth time, what I see and feel is sheer hunger and energy. A passion and drive by these young men delivering their talent to and sharing it with the world. It’s those same qualities that resonate with me when Hellbot take to the stage.

The production and mixing on this album draws on bringing forth the complete package that Hellbot are and doesn’t sugar-coat or manufacture any element of their individually talented attributes. This labour of love should be landing straight to number one on the billboard charts.

There are no filler tracks, and it’s unequivocal each song has been methodically composed with multi-faceted attention to detail. The album takes you on a ride to hell and back with unrelenting steam… Any cons? Nah… I’m Cool with the Devil.

Cool with the Devil.

Many of the artists I adore are no longer with us, and likewise when at the pinnacle of their fame, I didn’t witness that unravel in real time… Thank you to Bobby, Jake, Mark and Triston for bringing me the opportunity to be present and fall in love with your music from the very beginning.

Striking a pose… Photo by Neil Lim Sang.

‘Born a Rebel.’

Whenever you are ready and able to hop on across the pond, your guide and aid is ready and waiting to kick some rock ‘n’ roll ass with you in the U.K!

For merchandise and to purchase a CD, please visit www.Hellbotband.com. To keep up with their latest show schedule and news, you can follow the band on social media; Facebook, Hellbot – Instagram @Hellbotband. The new album can also be streamed via music platform services such as Spotify and Apple Music etc.

Photo collage by Cindy Cavins Nehi Stripes Seattle – Photos by Kurt Clark Nehi Stripes Seattle

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