I came to this band cold. I hadn’t heard their first unimaginatively titled Vol.1 so I had no pre-conceptions except a certain trepidation which comes from being given a promo band shot with a moody bloke in a dodgy bandanna. Vol.II could be painful, alt-metal/post-grunge by numbers.
Hurt is J. Loren Wince, (vocals, guitar, violin, banjo), Evan Johns (drums) Joshua Ansley (bass) and Paul Spatola (guitar, dobro, piano) and Vol.II is, funnily enough, the follow up to Vol. I (06), linked musically and lyrically to its predecessor, as the sleeve notes testify. As with Vol. I, Eric Greedy is the producer who lends his polished touch, letting the rich and varied sound come forth.
The album starts with a whimper. “Summers Lost” builds from babbling water, gentle acoustic guitars, and gentler vocals lulling you into a false sense of security. Then it builds, in come those guitars, the drums and the bulge of J. Loren’s powerful voice until we have a track that whips your ass. It’s a voice which he tempers according to the mood of the song, daring to let it crack emotionally on the heart-ripping “Aftermath” and affecting a folky warble on the beautiful melodic ballad of “Assurance” and powerful “Alone with the Sea”.
That’s something Hurt does well; builds you up, teases you, calms you down, then whammo! whacks up the adrenaline again. They’re not afraid of their sensitive side, but their not afraid to let their testosterone flood out either. “Ten Ton Brick” belts along, as does “Loded” and “Better”. “Thank You For Listening” is a good old fashioned hard rockin’ song with a very satisfactory guitar break. What sets it apart lurks at the end of the track; the most astounding, impassioned howl of anguish. It brought me out in blood-stirring goosebumps even in the privacy of an overheated car.
I have to admit it; I was brought up in the smoky pubs of the folk singing tradition. It’s left me with a nasty cough and a marked love of a good melody. Vol. II has good tunes and enough hooks to furnish a busy abattoir. And they certainly aren’t afraid to throw in a banjo if it needs it (“Alone With The Sea”) or the aforementioned la-la-la-ing. Indeed, the track “On the Radio” has an excellent fiddle break, which is, I will admit, not a sentence I expect to write in an alt-metal review. Variety of instrumentation and style is evidenced throughout the album. "Talking To God" is a bitter tale of rejection in the face of unquestioning religiosity and J. Loren spits and screams his frustration against a backdrop of exultant choirs. In all this is a wonderful track which doesn't let the lush orchestration stop it from having the grit it needs.
Indeed, the album is redolent with tales, all delivered with intelligent and emotional lyrics. This is ably demonstrated in “Abuse of SID" — a rising crescendo of a track — aping the ebb and flow of the violent relationship it describes with such searing honesty.
Listening completed, I guess I’m left with the unpalatable fact that at my advanced age I should know better than to let my dislike for bandannas colour my judgment. Vol. II is far from alt-metal by numbers and my trepidation proved unfounded. This Hurts good.