(Hed) p.e.’s New Album Evolution Shows a More Polished, Mature Version of the Band
By Alyce Hayes
Let me start off with a confession: When I was first exposed to (Hed) p.e about a decade ago, I quickly wrote them off as the type of band that loved to push buttons, partied a little too hard, and kept an eye to the sky waiting for the famed “Mothership” to take us all back home ~ you know, Red Hot Chili Peppers meets Bob Marley and Sun Ra with a healthy dose of NWA. Mind you, I dug the music, I just didn’t get the guys making it. But alas, I was young, still shaking off the boy bands and manufactured pop princesses of my preteen years and barely beginning to fall completely in love with metal and punk and [almost] all of its iterations. So, what I’m saying is that I probably wasn’t ready to listen to them, and also that while I’ve since matured (well, for the most part), so have they, and their newest album, Evolution, which hits stores July 22nd, is very accurately named.
If you’re expecting all the tracks to sound super-similar to songs like “Suck it Up” (a personal favorite), “Bartender,” or “Swan Dive,” prepare to be surprised. Pleasantly surprised. Of course, (Hed) p.e is no stranger to changing it up ~ they’re known for constantly switching up their look and sound from one album to the next, but Evolution seems less like experimental musicians trying to impress you by playing everything they know and more like a group of seasoned, passionate professionals knowing exactly what they want, approaching their work in a cohesive and eclectic manner, and creating something really good as a result. And “eclectic” is definitely their m.o. ~ the band mixes punk, funk, metal, hip hop and reggae to form a kitchen-sink chili of hard groovin’ sound on their albums. And while their newest release is continued proof that these guys have no problem being their trademark hardcore selves (even after 20 years in the biz), it also displays some much-needed maturity.
The album hits you in the face with its first two tracks, “No Turning Back” and “Lost in Babylon.” Vocalist Jahred still touches on familiar subjects ~ self-empowerment, social issues, cannabis, women ~ but his lyrical content is less chaotic and succeeds in maintaining its impact. While it’s true that Jahred’s vocal style can be a bit of an, um, acquired taste (much like the entire band ~ people either love ‘em [Jahred on the mic, Mawk on bass, Jaxon on guitar and Trauma on drums] or hate ‘em), there’s no denying that his ability to combine singing, screaming, death growls and rapping make him one of the more talented vocalists we currently have in the music community.
The music quality this time around is undeniably more focused than that of their older songs, and you can hear influences of Rage Against the Machine in “Jump the Fence,” and some heavy Led Zeppelin stylings, especially in the intro ~ reminiscent of “Stairway to Heaven” ~ in “2Many Games.” The last three tracks, “Nowhere2Go,” “Let it Burn,” and “Hold On,” have a great, chill reggae style to them ~ Jahred’s vocals included ~ serving as a proper comedown from the intensity of the first half of the album. Although influences from other artists are prevalent in many of the tracks, the songs don’t come off as contrived; (Hed) p.e. knows how to take something and make it their own.
But even with the noticeable differences in Evolution ~ mostly in the polishing of the group’s sound ~ you still couldn’t possibly mistake (Hed) p.e. for any other band. They remain pioneers in fusing musical genres and in doing things their own way. Evolution shows just how far this band has come, thanks to an insatiable desire to push itself and blur the lines. If you want to listen to one of a few bands trying to create rather than barely update their musical status quo, I highly suggest you pick up this album (you can grab a copy at iTunes).
For a list of upcoming tour dates, head here.