40 Hells feature ex-Black Cougar Shock Unit personnel (drummer Joel Perdue), a band I didn't really enjoy on record but thought were pretty good live. So now you get a chance to find out what Joel is doing on this split release from the band's own label Anything But Radio and the Welsh-based Newest Industry Records (home to the aforementioned BCSU).
Whilst 40 Hells have a similar "dirty" sound to BCSU, which was often likened to Black Flag, overall this is a much more straightforward group of songs in terms of their structure and delivery, including an element of tunefulness and even a hint of melody. 40 Hells take on a more Hüsker Dü-type (before they hit the big time) approach but were adding more melody and cleansing themselves of some of the noise.
Kicking it off is "Overtime," which has a Dischord feel to it, something akin to early Fugazi and a bit of Rites of Spring, without aping that sound. Next up is my clear-favourite track, "Broad River," which opens with some great guitar work and is a rambunctious run through another song with a touch of the Dischords about it.
"All Is Lost" starts off with more guitar work that marks it as a song that grabs your attention from the off and has a calmer feel than the other tracks and yet comes across as a song steeped in a late '80s punk sound. "Broken Bottles" brings the 40 Hells experience to an end and it does so leaving me just turning the record over to play it yet again--it's just a shame this isn't an album's worth of material, saving me trips to the turntable.
The guitars sound choppy and edgy, the drums are less crisp than on some band recordings and both of these elements combine to provide a large part of what I enjoy about this four-track EP. There is a retro feel to the music without the impression that it was contrived and it easily transports me back to the mid-to-late 1980s whilst retaining a freshness that marks it out as a damn fine release.
I can imagine 40 Hells playing in some dingy basement somewhere, cranking out their songs, sounding much as they do on vinyl. That is in no way meant to indicate a sub-standard recording--more a case of them getting down on record the sound they produce when actually playing the songs. I, for one, would welcome being in that basement watching them ply their trade.
It's hard to say anything other than that this is a punk record--not your EpiFat strain, but more along the lines of some of the bands on labels like Kiss of Death and No Idea. The key thing that comes through, though, are the nods towards the sound of a few Dischord bands, including Fugazi and Rites of Spring. This is a band capable of taking the word "punk" and not needing any other adjective added to it in an attempt to define their sound. This EP whets the appetite and if there is any justice in the world will soon be followed by a more comprehensive collection of songs to pleasure people aurally.