The history of power electronics is a cacophony of male voices. Recent years have seen the genre broaden, and welcome more alternative perspectives. That’s where HIDE stake their territory, with their new album Hell is Here.
Heather Gabel and Seth Sher, the duo peeping out from behind HIDE, explore themes of objectification, abuse and dehumanisation with a unique gothic vulnerability. Gabel's vocals walk a tightrope between Billy Joe Armstrong's iHeart Festival meltdown, and the inscrutable screaming of Pharmakon. The Baby Bear's porridge of extreme vocals, they fall into a great middle ground, in the domain of doom metal geniuses Couch Slut.
And like Couch Slut, HIDE wrap themselves around the skeleton of hardcore. Gabel's targets are clear, her lyrics no-nonsense. Sincerity and social consciousness go a long way in a genre overrun with theatricality and shock tactics.
Hell is Here swerves another noise pitfall, too. It's texturally rich, and demands to be turned up. 999 has a bassline that could as easily be mechanical creaking as a distorted vocal sample. The album's title track is rendered almost unlistenable (in the best way) by a relentless wail; half klaxon, half crying baby. The organic and inorganic collide, over and over again, with the force of a sledgehammer.
And some tracks offer respite. 'Grief' approaches industrial disco with the buoyant energy of a deep-fried Depeche Mode. Its lyrics are sardonic and creepy, with a sinister mundanity. 'Treat yourself/ you deserve it/ you've earned it' reads like something a half-asleep Mark E. Smith would have scribbled onto a lager-stained napkin (that's a good thing, for anyone unfamiliar with the man).
HIDE are living proof noise needn't be immature, boyish or mean-spirited. Hell is Here is a concise, righteous, and good-hearted release that tries to scream the world out of apathy.
Words by Andrew O’Keefe