After almost five years off the radar, Hansel returns! I received a promo copy of this album from Schizoid (proprietor over at DTrash Records) and was instantly excited. I've been a Hansel fan for 10 years now! Back in 2004 they sent out a hard copy cd "sub atomic particles" for free to people on their mailing list. That act of awesomeness solidified my fandom. Crude Matters does not disappoint.
It so happens my favorite track is probably track one, "One-Bad-Shoulder". It's melancholy synth lines sound as though the synth itself is crying out through delay and decay. A simple yet well written break stumbles prettily along behind it. With 31 songs total "Crude Matters" contains a lot you would not expect from the angst ridden aggressive legacy left by previous Hansel offerings. Vocals don't appear till track three, "We Refuse to Exist", where after being told to "Suck my dick" it appears Hansel hasn't changed too much! Glitched out string arrangements, slightly dirty beats and dark atmospheres all remind of the Hansel I grew to love. While Alan Flux's vocals are well done and the delivery on point, the lyrics are at times adolescent. Couple that with occasional squeals and/or guitar riffs that would fit well in a Marilyn Manson album. That being said its probably why I love Hansel. The combination of hard electronics mixed with sounds that inspire nostalgia because of its reminiscence of metal bands of my youth that combined electronics and hard rock/metal. This may put off some listeners, but I wasn't particularly bothered. There is much to positively balance out those short comings (if short comings they are, depends on your perception and preferences). On "Dividing Red" the song starts off with teenage sounding pleas and accusations filled with sad rage backed mostly by toned down guitar. I particularly like the vocals on this song. It reminds of a dialogue one would have with themselves in a moment of self pity. That is not all there is to "Diving Red". Three quarters of the way through the track, a pitched up sped up beat box break emerges that plays around a crunchy foreground breakbeat and beautiful synth organ outro.
Overall the production is superb. This is a record you listen to on headphones or a good system set up to take full advantage of stereo. Even though there are thirty songs no sound is over used. Every track is at least sonically unique. The vocals stay on the metal side of things. Previous releases like "Sub-Atomic Particles" had vocals that stayed mostly on the a hip hop delivery. One thing noticeably missing on this release is the amen break. This is not a bad thing. The amen is probably the most over used break in music (that coming from a guy who makes breakcore, a genre notorious for its excessive use of the amen). There are moments of psuedo-hip hop. "Halfsharkalligatorman (Dr. Octagon)" is an obvious homage to the great Kool Keith and is executed fantastically. "Leaving the Space Station" also has Alan Flux rapping over a hard drum and bass break. While the use of the amen break is missing, that doesn't mean there aren't parts that get fast and dirty. "Nutmegz" uses beautiful string samples mixed with hard, fast, dirty breaks which back fast distorted aggressive vocals. "Nutmegz" is only a minute and a half long leaving the listener wishing for more. I would have liked to hear it go on longer, but it is followed up quite well with "Time". If Orgy was a digital hardcore outfit it might sound like this. "Time" ends with a well placed harpsichord piece. That combined with the well edited drum and bass breaks that support the whole track, it is easy to think of breakcore masters like Ablecain.
"Crude Matters" is a fairly diverse album, though it does stay within certain barriers. While it is mostly definitely Hansel at heart there is a good amount of experimentation that came out positively. Old paths are retraced and new routes are uncovered. "It's a Shame" shows a less aggressive more vulnerable side to Alan Flux's vocal delivery. "G0odfist" dabbles in the love/hate genre of "Dubstep". A great return release from Hansel all and all. I wish alot of the tracks were longer and more fleshed out. "Soulless Men" is an acoustic track that took me surprise in the most pleasant of ways. The cover of "Eleanor Rigby" titled "Eleanor Big" very much reminds me of the 2000/2001 cover by the goth industrial band Godhead. "Eleanor Rigby" is a song that in my opinion has been covered far too many times.
The production is enviable. And while there is a tad bit of experimentation and exit from Hansel's 'comfort zone', almost every track still is comprised of a few key features. Dark string arrangements, angst ridden vocals, and mid tempo breaks are all key features although they do not appear together on every track. With this release, Hansel's sound has been refined to the point of perfection. I look forward to the next Hansel release. Hopefully they evolve beyond their current template. "Crude Matters" perhaps shows a want of a new direction. It feels like they have done all they can with their present sound but hey, they do it damn well.