• Zeke - Hellbender

    Zeke - Hellbender
    Released by: Relapse Records
    Released on: March 30th, 2018.
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    Seattle’s mighty balls to the wall rock and roll machine Zeke break a far too long fourteen year hiatus with Hellbender, their second album for Relapse Records (the first being 2004’s ‘Til The Livin’ End) and a very, very fine return to form for the four piece. Made up of ‘Blind’ Marky Felchtone on lead guitar/vocals, Kurt Kilfelt on bass, Dayne Porras on drums and Kyle Whitefoot on guitar, Zeke has been around since 1993 playing Motorhead inspired rock n roll with healthy doses of bands like The Dwarves and Turbonegro thrown in for good measure. Hellbender, which was produced by Jack Endino, might just be their most aggressive, face-ripping album yet. Fifteen shit-hot tracks of rock n roll fury in just over twenty-minutes? These guys aren’t fucking around.

    All The Way Back opens the album, white trash thrash at its most pure and uncut. The Dwarves influence is strong here but Felchtone’s vocals and pounding rhythm section set it apart enough so that it sounds like… ZEKE! From there, Two Lane Blacktop kicks you between the legs and grabs you by the throat for ninety-eight seconds of unbridled speed rock played fast and tight. It’s also catchy as all Hell and one of the more memorable tracks on the record (it’ll get stuck in your head pretty quickly). On The Road, the longest track on the album at a minute and fifty-three seconds, sees the band staying the course – if there isn’t a ton of variety here it doesn’t matter, this track kind of sounds like Danko Jones on Quaaludes, there’s a bit of a sludgier, garage rock sound to it, it’s not quite as fast, but it sure is a rowdy headbanger of a track.

    Moving right along, the eighty-eight second Working Man finds the band trying to set a new land speed record, just playing as fast and tight and rowdy as humanly possible. This is redneck, dirt track thrash as its best. The title track, Hellbender, clocks in at just forty-nine seconds but it’ll leave a pretty epic bruise on your ears as it’s just as fast and relentless as the last track. County Jail has a bit more of a cowpunk song, but only if cowpunk is played lighting quick and with a bad ass mini guitar solo in the middle stretch. Burn, which clocks in at eighty-two seconds, is a dirtier, nastier, grittier song than those that precede it but that can only be a good thing, even with the weird echo effects on the chorus (this might have been better without that but this is still good stuff). Goin’ Down, also eighty-two seconds, sees Felchtone’s vocals stretched to the limit, the twin guitar attack he coordinates with Whitfoot really front and center in the mix but man, listen to the precision in Porras’ drumming and the weight on Kilfelt’s bass. The rhythm section is easy to underestimate as this is such a guitar heavy band, but they sure do kick a lot of ass.

    White Wolf is more of the same – just super high energy rock n roll played with an emphasis on speed and nastiness, while AR-15, a title likely to cause some controversy on this day and age, shoots as fast as its namesake for seventy-seven seconds straight. No weak shit here, just seriously fast, intense and powerful musical madness. Cougar Rock is on the long side by Zeke standards at a minute-and-forty-six seconds, but it’s all killer, no filler. Again, the vocals have this stressed out urgency to them that really hammer home how completely bat shit Zeke’s sound can be – and hey, there’s a David Allan Coe reference worked into this one too.

    As the album nears its close, Devil’s Night slaps you in the face for eighty-five seconds with some rifftastic guitar work and more inhumanly fast drum and bass work. This is more of a hardcore track than anything else on the album but again, it’s got that Zeke sound to it that makes it sound less like something like Agnostic Front and more like Motorhead if Motorhead had played hardcore. Ride On, at eighty-one seconds, is really more of the same, though it does feature the album’s longest guitar solo, while Redline mainlines a seventy-nine second sonic speedball into your ear-veins and features the rowdiest ending of any track on the record. Big Rig brings everything to a close, also clocking in at seventy-nine seconds. It’s just as fierce and fast and dirty sounding as anything else on the album, though the vocals stand out a bit more on this one and you’ve gotta love that completely guttural howl that Felchtone unleashes towards the end of the track.

    Zeke is back and it’s as if they never left us! This album is exhausting in all the right ways, fifteen tracks of ultra-fierce RAWK on par with their more established classics like Kicked In The Teeth and Dirty Sanchez. The production here is spot on, bringing to the front of the mix the band’s sordid sound but never burying the quality playing that is makes Zeke so fucking fun to listen to.