How many second chances is to many? Most would argue, any more than one. (hed) p.e. is a band that I'm pretty certain I gave a few too many second chances to. After seeing them live during my college years and playing their early efforts incessantly, I wanted so badly to think that the band, after releasing horrible album after horrible album would eventually return to the form that I remembered. It hasn't happened yet and I am quite sure it never will. This review was me giving them, I hope, their last second chance. This was originally published on December 7, 2010.
Every album that this band puts out continues to amaze me for one gigantic reason—I can’t believe people still buy anything they put out. After their 2003 album Blackout, which was pretty good for what it was (a rap-metal, nu-metal combo), they put out 4 albums in a row that were all simply unlistenable. You can really chalk that up to Wes Geer leaving the band and taking all of the band's talent with him. Once he left the fold, what was left was Jahred Shane trying to continue on as, essentially, a new band, which led to bad songwriting, cringe-worthy lyrics, simplistic song structures, reckless stabs at experimentation, and an overwhelming aura of suck. (hed) pe tragically turned into a joke band but didn’t realize that they were the punchline.
With their streak of badness in full effect with last year’s New World Orphans, I fully expected Truth Rising to be a continuation of their desperate attempt to somehow regain any of the popularity they had in the early 2000s. Needless to say my expectations were low, so when I didn’t immediately loathe the album, I had to think hard about whether my expectations were somehow just that low or if (hed) pe had improved in the last year. On one hand, the band seems to have actually tried to write some good songs, but on the other hand there are also some truly horrendous tracks.
Just to be clear, there are many things that are really, really easy to hate about this album. The biggest that you’ll notice just from glancing at the track list is the sheer number of tracks, but there aren’t nearly as many songs as there are tracks. The band employs 8 intro/outro tracks to “set the stage” for songs, but the only thing they do is annoy the hell out of you and break apart any flow the album has. Then you have the token misogynistic rap tracks, such as “Takeover” and “Murder,” that dare you to keep from hitting the skip button. It’s hard to imagine a grown man in his 30s writing such juvenile and putrid lyrics. Lastly, there are some punk-infused metal tracks that feel very forced and just as out of place as the rap tracks, but not nearly as terrible to listen to. They’re moderately tolerable, actually, except for when you listen to the lyrics, but that’s really a general problem this band has had their entire career. However, it is somewhat frightening how much worse their lyrics have gotten with each new album.
That’s a lot of really terrible downsides to an album, so any upside is going to need to be extremely redeeming for the album to warrant your time. Unfortunately, even though (hed) pe have grown, they haven’t grown enough to truly be worth devoting your ears to. Knowing that, though, there are some tracks that you should give a listen or two. “Forward Go!” is catchy as hell, balancing on a fine line between the heavier end of radio-friendly metal and non-radio friendly aggro metal. There’s a perfect blend of aggression, vitriol, and catchiness on this track that, if the band could do similar things on other tracks, they’d meteor back into relevancy. “Stand Up” is also notable, and not just because Lajon Witherspoon of Sevendust makes an appearance. It is another well put together metal track that has the band sounding both energetic and in command.
It’s frustrating to see a band continue down a path of mediocrity and irrelevance, especially when they have glimmers of brightness and talent. These moments are so few and far between, though, that you at times wonder if they are more the product of luck than of talent, but on the off chance it is talent shining through, we can continue to hope for better things, but the smart money would be to bet on continued unlistenable output.