June 4, 2018
Thumbing through a stack of records, someone coming across the cover of Hectorina’s Muck for the first time may mistake it for a metal album. The black background with heavily stylized text, on top of the album name itself, project a very dark and dense image. Although the band flirts with some of the hallmarks of the genre, including heavy distortion and an emphasis on atmosphere, the latest album from the Charlotte trio is definitely more of a post-punk/experimental rock record.
Hectorina has been around for six years and has accomplished a substantial amount in that time. They have released four full-length albums (including Muck), two EPs, and even worked on transforming one of their records, Collywobble, into a fully fledged theatrical production. Their latest work emits the confidence of such a seasoned group, as the trio works their way through some complicated, epic works (closing track “Smoke Stack Smoke Stack” clocks in at over eight minutes). The group gels together as one cohesive unit, as the bass and drums maintain the groove, and the guitar provides licks that establish the mood. Lacking much conventional song structure the tracks meander, ebb and flow, creating a sense of unpredictability and improvisation.
“Our future’s bleak, isn’t it?” questions lyricist Dylan Gilbert on opening track “Ellipsis.” The track builds with a frenetic energy that is carried throughout the album. The rhythm section gets gradually louder and more vibrant, and the vocals more shrill and erratic. This sense of unease continues onward, even during some of the more jubilant sections of the album. In a truly magical moment, the end of “Crown of Holly” finds the guitars ramping up the distortion while playing a repetitive descending riff with angelic harmonies repeating the word “sprawling” over the top.
The band plays with some contrasting styles on Muck, from bouncy and funky “Lighting the Lanterns,” to pop-rock “Patience vs. Progress,” to experimental “Smoke Stack Smoke Stack.” Most of the tracks on this record find Hectorina unable to stay stagnant. Almost every song finds a way to shock the listener with abrupt changes, which keeps the audience entertained and engaged. This type of songwriting is truly risky and ambitious but the payoffs are substantial. Although tending to stay in dark, moody themes, they are able to move with agility from heavy, plunking riffs to soaring, high-energy motifs.
Hectorina has been a leading force in the Charlotte rock scene for a while now, and Muck exemplifies exactly why they deserve to hold that position. The band is powerful on this album and maintains an attention to their craft that keeps even their most lengthy songs from becoming a bore. Despite the images that the title may conjure, Muck is actually filled with lots of alluring moments and never leaves you feeling like you’re stuck in the mud.
Check out Hectorina’s album release party on Saturday, June 9 at Snug Harbor with Patois Counselors and Taxing. Listen to the album Muck and watch the video for “Beyond the Tree.”