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Music Review: HDK – System Overload

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I must say that HDKs System Overload is an interesting album. Although I don’t love it, there is still a lot to like about it, and it is an album I am glad to have experienced.

I am not quite sure I knew what to expect upon entering this pact, I was certain it was going to be metal, but what I did not expect was the tight musicianship and first rate production.

The album cover seemed to indicate heaviness with a little touch of a technological side, perhaps a bit like an uncontrolled Fear Factory. In some ways, this is what I got. The metal with a side of tech is definitely there — what is different is the level of control that the musicians exert over the songs, which is considerable.

HDK — the band was originally called Hate Death Kill — have created an immensely calculated and planned collection of heavy metal. With machine-like precision the drums beat out their pre-planned patterns, keeping the songs surging forward, and never becoming repetitive.

On top of that are layers of guitars that proceed to bash your face in with their brutal rhythms, counter-balanced by a few melodic portions. Add some bass to keep things chugging along, some atmospheric keyboards, and a variety of singers and you get a record that you will be able to listen to over and over, each time with a slightly different experience.

In the course of looking into HDK’s origins, I learned that they are not a band, but a project. More specifically, this is Sander Gommans’ project. He is the former guitarist for After Forever, a band that recently broke up. It appears that Gommans was looking for a way to express himself following his burn out in After Forever.

I checked After Forever out on MySpace and really liked what I heard. I was also taken aback by how different that band is from HDK. If I had been familiar with After Forever and Sander Gommans’ involvement in both, I would have had completely different expectations going in.

After Forever has a very strong orchestral metal feel — gothic, epic, and not extraordinarily heavy (although there is heaviness there). With that knowledge, I would have expected HDK to head more towards progressive metal territory. Instead, it would seem that the burn out factor left Gommans with excess energy to burn, making HDK a brutal, in your face affair as well as Gomman’s particularly heavy vision of the future.

System Overload begins with the title track, a thrashy affair that gets right down to business. The track punched me in the face, smiled, then went back for more. From there, the energy is kept up in “Request,” which is not quite as heavy as its predecessor, but is nonetheless intriguing for its heavy heavy riffing and cleaner singing.

The project moves forward through such gems as “Terrorist,” “On Hold,” and “Fight or Flight.” The more I listen to this, the more I think I could learn to love it. There are many layers to peel through, with a variety of voices and guitars all working towards the end goal of Sander Gommans vision.

Bottomline. Not what I expected going in, and considerably different from Gommans work with After Forever. HDK is heavy, does not let up, and is endlessly intriguing. If you like your music crisp, calculated, and brutal you are definitely going to want to check out System Overload.

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