Sound — 8
For as many bands that love singing about women and beer, the polar opposite of that perspective exists in the music world. The Los Angeles quartet Hurt would represent the latter, and has proven it isn't afraid of using a choir (much like Pink Floyd's Brain Damage) or string section on it's latest release Vol. II. There is no lack of introspection or thought-provoking lyrics on it's latest CD, and for some the whole thing might get a bit too deep. The album does start out extremely strong in the opening track Summers Lost. There is minimal instrumentation at the beginning, with basically just a clean guitar, a simple beat, and vocals as the focus for the first few minutes. While other bands might just explode into your traditional metal song, Hurt takes it's time. When you might expect for the electric guitars to take over after the first minute, this band pare things back even a bit more, with one section featuring acoustic slide work. As simple as it seemingly is, this is the kind of atmosphere in which Hurt shines. About halfway through, the song does take a more metal route, with some very cool effects work and the introduction of frontman J. Loren Wince's grittier side. There are times when the song actually has a Tool feel to it, which is always a plus. In terms of pure metal, Summers Lost marks one of the most intense tracks on Vol. II, but there is a different kind of musical experimentation going on in the rest of the record. Alone With The Sea begins with what sounds like the moaning of a ship that's about to capsize. It's hard to say if that is a bass, guitar, or synth effect, and that's what makes it so fascinating. That moaning introduction has very little to do with the actual musical format of the song, but it does draw you in. Alone With The Sea is a ballad, but it has a dramatic, cinematic quality that separates it from being just a typical slow song. Guitarist Paul Spatola is either playing a banjo or an acoustic that sound like an acoustic as well, and it helps to break the typical ballad vibe. Much of the rest of the CD takes a more laid-back approach, and switches over to more of a Staind acoustic sound rather than Tool. There are a few songs like Ten Ton Brick that absolutely have rock appeal, but the majority of the other tracks are practically ready to be turned into an unplugged session. If you enjoy a little more distortion or double-bass pedal in your music, Hurt will leave you feeling unsatisfied. But that audience is obviously not who Hurt is geared toward, particularly with so many songs discussing personal emotions and lost love.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics are likely inspired by personal relationships that have gone awry, and it's rare to hear a frontman lay out so many emotions in one album. Hurt even goes so far as to touch on the subject of domestic abuse, which you don't hear too many rock/metal bands sing about. In Abuse Of SID Wince sings, You know it won't stop; So you make an excuse to confuse the issue and later expresses that he's abusing you. Wince injects his own personal stance by proclaiming, I'll kill him, and the music builds at the same moment. It's impressive that Hurt chose to take on the topic of domestic abuse, and it's obvious there is a backstory there. There are more than a few songs that revolve completely around love in some way, shape, or form. Sure, millions of songs have been written by rock bands involving love, but for some reason it just feels more intense with Hurt. It's likely because the band isn't masquerading heartfelt lyrics with distorted guitars, and have decided to boldly use the ballad format for the sentimental lyrics.
Overall Impression — 8
Hurt doesn't take the easy route in any song on its latest album, and the choices made do make an impression on the listener. While some bands might choose 1 or 2 songs for their epic masterpiece, Hurt has about 5 or 6 to choose from. At times, the epic nature of it all can get exhausting and you end up wishing you could hear a few more rock-oriented tracks like Ten Ton Brick. Guitarist Paul Spatola hopefully will be getting more attention after the release of this record. What is impressive is the way he is able to execute some fantastically cool effects that are reminiscent of Tool's Adam Jones, and then in the next moment deliver a thoughtful, sedate acoustic solo that would make Jerry Cantrell proud. His riffs are sprinkled throughout Vol. II, and at times truly bring the record to a whole different level.