Hydrogyn began in the early 2000s behind the talents of guitarists Jeff Westlake and Jeff Boggs. Hydrogyn has delivered a string of hard rock and heavy metal albums since then. It’s a catalogue I’m not super familiar with but is already drawing me. The years have taken their toll on most of the original members and only Westlake remains. He is clearly the glue that held the band together. He seems to have found some tremendous backup in the wife and husband vocalist and bassist team of Holly Hines-Freed and Jacob Freed. Scott Clayton and Ryan Stepp round out the band on drums and guitars respectively.
This is another album that has 2020 written all over it. It’s coming from a highly creative, not super happy place. The songs cover broken relationships (fingers crossed this isn’t bad news for the Freeds), pain, anguish, and fear. It’s a dark album but performed with passion and incredible craft. Westlake‘s talent forms a solid base for this album. His production is tremendous and his vast experience in the studio for Hydrogyn, his other projects, and a host of other bands shows big time. For all Westlake’s talents, the vocals of Hines-Freed shine on this album. She’s an incredible talent.
Now on to some of the standout songs on the album. We’ll cover a few of the treats, and then talk about the three, yes three covers.
The art of the first track is not easy to master. Albums win and lose on that first track. AC/DC and Van Halen are two bands who really knew how to kick off an album. Hydrogyn seems to have it figured out too. “Disappeared” comes off like a great opening song at a concert, hard and fast guaranteed to get people on their feet. It’s a great introduction to Hines-Freed‘s vocals, and Westlake nails a great solo to boot.
That second song is pretty important too and “Bats in the Belfry” does an admirable job. “Disappeared” wasn’t overly dark, but “Bats in the Belfry” definitely takes you on a bit of a descent in the mood department. It’s catchy, like Alice Cooper at their creepiest, but it’s also a riotous metal song. Hines-Freed does a great job of exuding a bit of a psycho vibe without overdoing it. I love a cool breakdown, and there’s a nice one towards the end, with Scott Clayton‘s drums holding court. Westlake‘s overall composition and studio treatment of the song is another highlight.
Title Track and “Widowmaker”
The title track, “The Boiling Point” is the culmination of the angst and anger building up in the first three songs. This is a song that patiently grows into a really pissed off sounding chorus. All band members shine on this one, with Hines-Freed getting a chance to demonstrate what an incredible set of pipes she has. The guitar work is phenomenal by both Westlake and Stepp.
“Widowmaker” chugs right from the start and might be the most metal song on the album. With a name like that, it better be right? It’s certainly one of my favourites. The guitars take the song to the next level, with Westlake and Stepp hyping up the energy and driving the pace. I also love the subtle percussion on this song with its occasional clanks and clangs. “Widowmaker” clearly has a story to it that would make a great video someday, hint hint.
I love a good cover; they’re a great way for a band to connect with their fans by showing that hey, we’re fans too. I love albums full of covers. My favourite Van Halen album is Diver Down. I know, fight me. When a band decides to include three covers on an original album, I’m interested in who they’re covering and how well they do it. For me, the covers on this album hit two out of the three times. The two that hit are beauties though.
“One Way or Another” is certainly one of Blondie‘s big ones. It takes guts to go after a song like this. Hydrogyn does it brilliantly. This cover just kicks ass. It sticks close to the original, but as if Joan Jett had filled in for Debbie Harry. It’s a snarling ode to a fantastic song.
So, Blondie is a pretty big deal, and you might think Hydrogyn would take on something a little less well known. Nope, instead, they take on The King with “Suspicious Minds“. “One Way or Another” was played pretty much straight forward. “Suspicious Minds” in the hands of Westlake and Hines-Freed becomes a soaring, anthemic reimagining of Elvis Presley’s last #1 hit song. It’s a timeless song treated with reverence here, and a heavy dose of metal.
These two tracks, back to back, were an interesting decision that really paid off. Showcasing two different approaches to iconic songs, Hydrogyn pulled off both flawlessly.
While “One Way or Another” and “Suspicious Minds” are album highlights, “Mad World” didn’t really do it for me. The original by Tears for Fears was a synth-pop, somewhat up-tempo new wave song. Not really my thing, even though I have a soft spot for synth-pop. Hydrogyn‘s approach was to slow it down and play it as more of a ballad. It’s decent enough but didn’t really hit me the way the other two covers did.
HYDROGYN – The Boiling Point Final Thoughts
Overall The Boiling Point is a solid entry in the Hydrogyn catalogue. It’s dark but in a good and approachable way. The songs showcase Hines-Reed‘s amazing voice. She brings a raw, emotional presence to songs like “Tragic“, “Worthless Love“, and “Damaged Goods” that really bring to life the relationship difficulties covered in the songs. Of course, Westlake‘s thumbprints are all over this record and he should be proud. His guitar work is phenomenal and the job he did on the album as a whole demonstrates his attention to detail. This is definitely worth a pick-up and will likely be looked at as definitely a product of 2020.
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