Album Review

Living In Hell

Living In Hell

by Heart Attack Alley


Voodoo Rhythm Records
8 / 10
19th December 2012

Reviewed by Martyn Pepperell


Regardless of the lens you frame them through Auckland blues trio Heart Attack Alley and the thirteen songs collected on Living In Hell (their debut album) feel like, at crux, an exercise in doing a lot with a little. For example, take the band configuration: Karl Steven - harmonica and stomp box, Kristal Gallagher - guitar, Caoimhe Macfehin - vocals and tambourine. Working with earthy minimalist percussion, wild eyed voodoo guitar and harmonica, and Macfehin's rich, olde time vocal delivery, they create a fuzzed out take on garage rock infused blues. One which while paying homage to the original deep south traditions and motifs surrounding their form, also feels saliently true to the contemporary denim and leather Grey Lynn centric music scene they hail from.

Built from a small set of parts, the overall sound expressed across Living In Hell is huge and infectious, probably not huge and infectious enough to actually wake the dead, but huge and infectious enough to encourage event promoters and music writers to throw those sort of statements into the mix. And again, falling in line with the concept of "doing a lot with a little," since forming around two years ago, Heart Attack Alley have squeezed a lot of juice out of their music. Multiple national tours, multiple European tours, a seven inch record, a bootleg CD and now Living In Hell. An astonishing album, Living In Hell was recorded to tape at Inside Outside Studios in Italy by an old school audio engineer with thirty one Lightin Hopkins records; then released on cult Swiss label Voodoo Rhythm, for twenty years now the best in the business for primitive rock'n'roll and chainsaw massacre garage punk. With this fast momentum has come an almost occult fan following.

Speaking generally, this can be attributed to two factors. Firstly, Heart Attack Alley's impressively engaging stage show. Steven literally looks like the funkiest skeleton on the planet, and Gallagher and Macfehin both have attitude, sass and style for days. More importantly however, the songs they deliver live with such flair, really do stand up recorded. Steven's work on the stomp box generates perfectly primal rhythms, which worked in tandem with Gallagher's alternately fuzzy and shiny guitar lines, create easy and engaging grooves with a genuine unrestrained cool. Matched up with his evocative harmonica work and Macfehin's impressively powerful (and yet dynamic) voice, the styling of their soundworld is spot on.

Where things go to the next level is when the trio work collaboratively on MacFehin's lyrics. Tackling conditions of the heart in a manner that fits perfectly with their constituent influences, the outcome is a new spectral colour within the metaphorical sonic prism of blues, garage and fuzz informed rock music. On Living In Hell, Heart Attack Alley express blues stories which feel unique to New Zealand, yet still very much part of a wider international continuum and conversation. I look forward to hearing the influence of this record on musicians from ports overseas in the years to come.


I Put A Spell On You
I Put A Spell On You, by Heart Attack Alley
From: I Put A Spell On You/Cryin 7, (2012)
http://www.undertheradar.co.nz/review/771/Living-In-Hell.utr


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