HURT have come a long way in the last twelve years. From recording the first album in its entirety with two vocal microphones, to releasing the band’s fourth heavily-textured studio album – they have come a long way.
As the brainchild of vocalist and song-writer J. Loren Wince, HURT have earned themselves a reputation of creating bold musical innovations, with incisive and gut-wrenchingly painful lyrics. With ‘The Crux’, they most definitely bolster that reputation.
The album begins with a playful piano melody, and echoes of guitars surging into ‘So When’. Mere seconds pass before J. Loren tears the music apart with his raging vocals, and the rhythm section mercilessly bursts in shortly after. It’s very clear as the harmonic chorus rolls forth that every inch of this album has been carefully gone over with a fine tooth-comb, and what lies in wait can only be something spectacular.
Storming into ‘Eden’, the signature guitar-work of Michael Roberts manifests in the form of a gargantuan and tasty riff, this gentleman knows how to satisfy the riff-hungry masses. Roberts is not just a talented guitarist it seems, as he runs his own mastering studio and produced ‘The Crux’ himself. The most recent member of HURT, drummer Victor Ribas, is also proving himself on this album, showing remarkable finesse and power – check out ‘Cuffed’ to have your mind blown and your pants in need of changing.
However, I find myself constantly drawn to the charged vocals of J. Loren – this is, after all, the man who taught me to sing the way I can today. You see, HURT have had their fair share of troubles (and perhaps someone else’s share as well), with numerous line-up changes, personal and financial issues, and being drawn into the harsh realities of the record industry. After being signed up to Capitol Records, they soon discovered how executives couldn’t give a damn about their opinions, finances or worst of all, their art. Constantly coming to blows, HURT left the mainstream label, created ‘Goodbye to the Machine’, and set about moving forward with their music. It was between this point and ‘The Crux’ where I came in. J. Loren had been offering vocal, violin and guitar tuition to pay the bills – over Skype no less.
Really, it would’ve been rude not to.
Having been in constant conversation with the man for 6 months, I feel I know him relatively well, which brings me to the influences of HURT. Though there are many shared influences between the band members (Tool, Taproot), J has influences of his own (the likes of Vivaldi and Puccini), but the one that really stuck with me was Soundgarden. The musical inspiration of tracks like ‘Sally Slips’ and ‘Caught In The Rain’ became instantly clear, but by no means are the band becoming copycats. The latter of those two tracks is actually what I would describe as vintage HURT, bursting into colour with frankly insane vocals.
There are a mere two tracks which I find difficult to grasp on ‘The Crux’, the first of which being ‘Links & Waves’. It’s a beautiful, passionate, uplifting piece of music with lyrical imagery being thrown at you with every word; you never want this track to end. Unfortunately after just one minute and fifteen seconds, it does. I, along with many of my HURT-loving peers couldn’t help but scream “WHYYY!?” as the track feels unfinished, and purely because of its length, you are left unsatisfied. The second of these ‘difficult’ tracks, is finale, ‘The Seer.’ While this song is catchy and heart-breaking as ever, it somehow feels misplaced on this album, as though it belongs elsewhere. However, it is still a great track and deserves merit.
The lead single ‘How We End Up Alone’ was shockingly nearly dropped from the album, before the execs at Carved Records deemed it awesome. How right they were. With a searing violin melody to draw you in, catchy vocals above acoustic guitars soon ensure you can’t stop listening to this mammoth track. Building slowly, you can feel something big is about to happen. After a challenging chorus, the second verse storms in with distorted guitars and the vocals tearing through – it decimates all. A common theme throughout ‘The Crux’ is building a song up to breaking point, re-constructing it, and breaking it down only to bring it back bigger and better than before. It works every. Single. Time.
Overall this album is extremely heavily-textured, and cleverly composed. And with the not-too-distant departure of guitarist Paul Spatola, I have to wonder how the sound translates live. Perhaps I’m not yet to find out, as HURT have never toured the UK, despite the massive (and growing) fan-base they have over here. I have, however been informed that J. Loren does intend to come over at some point; he wants to try our curry. I suppose we may have learnt a few things before Ghandi righteously handed our arses to us.
The other reason being that he believes he can out-drink me. I am oh-so-desperate to show him the folly of his ways, so take note Carved Records; Bring HURT to the UK. If you do, I promise I’ll go easy on them.
Well, maybe only a little…