I’ve listened to my fair share of punk, thrash, and hardcore bands over the years, from bands full of eager teenagers with sloppy fundamentals playing in community centers to watching talented acts with their neck-shredding guitarists and double-bass-pounding drummers perform at dangerous decibel levels. Yet, I will be the first to admit that these are not my native genres: while I respect the great groups highly and talk at an intelligent level about these sounds, I absorb my angst, fear, paranoia, and anger through other musical sources. Honestly, I listen because I supremely enjoy viewing the technical prowess that the best bands in these arenas evince (as well as hearing the resultant music).
So, when engaging the music of Hills Of Elysium on their debut record Cigadent, I feel slightly unqualified, mostly because I feel a bit uncomfortable with the ferocity and fervency of their lyrical content. I simply am unable to relate to it, even as I recognize that they are quite good at what they do and overtly display their immediate influences (Jack Off Jill and Marilyn Manson come to mind) with great attention to detail. The songs themselves alternate between driving pounding gothic rock tracks and driving double-time punk anthems, creating in my mind’s eye a glorious image of a festering, teeming crowd of fans as the mosh passionately and work the pit into a furious circle of barely controlled rage. Led by a lead singer whose voice spends time as a sultry croon before morphing into a painful shriek, the band’s music is at once profane and blistering, while never quite going over-the-top with the shock factor. And maybe the ultimate source of my discomfort is that this music is unsettling to me: I would be fine with a cheesy act who’s vainly trying to prove how edgy they are, but Hills Of Elysium seem to be the real deal, complete with an aggressive female lead and the intense gentlemen who provide her music. Cigadent is not for the easily offended, and I’m sure that the band would take that as a compliment.