A decent comeback.
House Vs. Hurricane are a band that I have a long history with.
The very first time I saw the band live, or even heard of them to begin with, was when I caught Bullet For My Valentine live at what was then called the Hifi Bar in Melbourne of 2009. It was about 40 degrees that day as well, and I can remember it being stupidly hot outside and inside the venue as well. I walked in just as the then budding Melbourne locals kicked off their set, and they immediately had my attention. They coupled huge breakdowns, catchy choruses and plenty of synth/keyboard parts together and to me as a teenager, that was a completely new combination of heavy music. I was hooked on it!
Following those earlier years, the band went through various few lineup changes as time past. Most notably was a new frontman in the form of Dan Casey (from another solid local act called Nazarite Vow) by the time 2012’s stellar ‘Crooked Teeth’ full-length was released. That record signified a change in the band's overall direction, as they dropped the synths and key-mosh moments, and presented a more energised, rawer sound that managed to retain many parts of what first made them one of Melbourne’s better metalcore bands. Within 18 months, however, touring had taken its deep toll and they had thrown in the towel come 2013's end, and that simply seemed to be all she write. The members then joined existing bands like Hellions and Dream On, Dreamer, and it looked like we wouldn’t see any more from House Vs. Hurricane.
But then the band reignited the fires, played a few one-off shows in each city at the end of 2014, and then, of course, they had a prime arvo slot at this year's Unify 2017. Yet for the longest time, I personally thought that we wouldn’t see any new material, but seemingly from nowhere, the band announced ‘Filth’, their third studio album - whose title is derived from a catchphrase coined by deceased sound engineer and their close friend, Westley Higgins.
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It’s now since been five years since the last time a record bearing the House Vs. Hurricane moniker has graced the world, so what do they sound like after a four-year ‘hiatus’? Well, the initial signs are good!
The opening title track certainly doesn't lack in pace nor energy. Clocking in at under two and a half minutes, it’s definitely on the short side, and carries an intense punk feel to it, especially with its back half. Leading from into ‘Give It Up’, the band's brisker pace is retained but there’s a solid, uplifting chorus featured here; not unlike the strong choruses that punctuated ‘Crooked Teeth’. It also crams in a solid breakdown in the middle eight, and the ambient-like vocal section towards the end of the track is a real nice touch. It’s fair to say that even being just two songs in, this record was written whilst the band was spinning a lot of Every Time I Die (as long-haired guitarist/songwriter Chris Shaw recently confirmed to us). Everything from the faster, punk-focused riffs and quick, breakneck drumming to the aggressive, barking vocals feels very reminiscent of where HVH left us all five years ago. Not that that’s a bad thing!
‘She’ll Be Apples’, from a musical standpoint, is also as close to a ‘Crooked Teeth’-era track as you're likely to get here, which is nice to hear now in 2017 from the band. I do, however, feel that clean vocalist/guitar Ryan McLerie could have utilised a higher part of his vocal range in this song's chorus, but his lower and mid range vocals here are fine as is. This is also another sub-three-minute song which, combined with the faster tempos, gives the opening minutes of the record a pounding sense of urgency and aggressiveness. Likewise, ‘Pillowtalk’ packs one solid breakdown and a, shall we say... interesting pit call in the form of “You bought tickets to your own show? Sellout!” However, the track isn't all that memorable to me, sadly. This also applies to ‘Nerve Damage’, even though I find it's key riff to be far more interesting and ear-catching. 'Nerve Damage’ is also of the more frantic tracks on the album, which to be fair, does give it that extra sonic kick to the gut.
While decent, I feel as if the back half of the album drags a little bit. It’s not because the songs are bad by any means; I simply feel they tend to blend together too much at times. Songs like ‘Rowdy Jr.’ and ‘Peroxide’ are good tracks in their own right, and the breakdowns in the latter are great, but I wouldn't keep these songs on repeat. On the flipside, ‘Lobster Breath’ is a late game highlight, and the use of gang vocals was well done as is the song's fade-out. (A method of which I usually dislike).
See, metalcore is just one of those genres where repeated song structures and tropes can really affect whether or not a fan - longtime or not - is going to listen to the entire album from start to finish, or merely just pick out their favourite songs after one single listen. Certain bands are very good at writing albums with minimal filler and giving each track its own identity and feel. But unfortunately, I feel that House Vs. Hurricane just hasn't pulled that off with this new record.
'Filth' is far from a bad release, but my God does it wear you down. Considering that it clocks in a relatively short runtime despite its eleven tracks and the pace being so often absolutely unrelenting, that’s kind of strange to me. The band don’t repeat song structures frequently, but when they do, it’s very easy to suddenly think “Wait, I think I heard this part three songs ago!”. And hey, don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of "those" fans from the pre-breakup era that just wants this band to only play songs off the ‘Forfeiture’ EP and nothing else. As I’m still of the high opinion that ‘Crooked Teeth’ is still this band's finest achievement thus far; surpassing 'Filth' in the process.
Has 'Fifth' missed the mark? Yes, a little. It’s refreshing to hear House Vs. Hurricane - on what is their comeback album no less - try something new but still retain some of the sonic qualities that made them one of Melbourne’s best-loved metalcore bands. However, the lack of a truly defining, standout song does hurt this record overall. If 'Filth' had a song or two as good as, say, ‘Blood Knuckles’ or the mighty ‘Head Cold’ or even going back further and delivering a classic like ‘Furious George’, the album would be much stronger as a whole.
Nonetheless, it’s great to see these guys back playing shows and doing it all on their own terms no less!
2. Give It Up
3. She'll Be Apples
5. Nerve Damage
7. Rowdy Jr.
9. Lobster Breath
11. 80's Kids
'Fifth' is out June 2nd via UNFD.