The Hell - Southern Medicine [EP] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Hell

Southern Medicine [EP] (2013)


The Hell's first EP Sauve Les Requins took a lot of folks by surprise, not because the songs were necessarily bad (they weren't) but because of how similar they were to a lot of Alkaline Trio's earlier, rougher work, both sonically and musically. Matt Skiba has never shied away from diverse side projects–the moonlit goth of Heavens, the anthemic rock of Matt Skiba and the Sekrets, his own gaunt solo work–so The Hell's debut, laced with hype, ended up feeling more like a superfluous exercise or a fun diversion than a game changer.

But then again, maybe that was the point. At this point of his career, Skiba is a professional songwriter and, living in Los Angeles far, far away from Dan Andriano (St. Augustine, FL) and Derek Grant (Chicago), probably needs new outlets for his music in order to stay busy. It doesn't mean he doesn't take these other projects seriously, but maybe it means we as listeners should check our Alkaline Trio tattoos at the door and take them a little less seriously.

Skiba and Atom Willard's second foray as the Hell, Southern Medicine, isn't terribly different from Sauve Les Requins; it has the rugged sound of a demo hastily blasted out in an afternoon, but Skiba's perpetually strong voice sands out a lot of the edges. His voice, intentionally and impressively raw, echos over fuzzy guitars and Willard's personality-driven percussion on the catchy "Singles Night" and the Stooges-esque "Emerald," the latter of which is also carried by delightfully dirty bass work by Pat Smear.

Moving forward, "Transients" throws in a couple of freewheeling guitar moments and an odd voiceover, but is otherwise largely unmemorable. Closer and title track "Southern Medicine" is the longest song here at 2:57 and with some darker, buzzsaw guitars interacting interestingly with Willard's drums, succeeds a little more.

At just under 11 minutes, Southern Medicine has a small window to leave an impression, but enough quality moments to make it a worthwhile listen for Skiba superfans.