On Aug. 30 Hella will release its fifth full album, Tripper, marking their first time officially releasing music as a group in four years. Hella’s core members, gutiarist Spencer Seim and Zach Hill, have been anything but reclusive, though. Seim has released solo material as “sBach”, while Hill has worked with musicians such as Joan of Arc and Bygones, and has even released some of his own solo material.
Looking at Tripper solely as a Hella album, there is nothing fantastic about it. Hella is known for playing very complex compositions incredibly fast. It changes time signatures at will, abruptly stop whenever it feels like it, and sometimes ditch a groove right in the middle and jump headfirst into something completely different. On this release it lives up to that reputation in full. Each song sounds like it’s on the verge of collapsing at any moment. Hill’s drumming and Seim’s guitarwork interweave totally, resulting in a chaotic, cluttered maelstrom of sounds that conceals a logical underlying theme. Sometimes Hella might sound like it has no idea what it’s doing, but in reality it is obsessively attentive to every detail.
What’s interesting about Tripper, though, is that it is the follow-up to There’s No 666 in Outer Space. That album marked the first, and only, time that Hella would feature Aaron Ross (vocals), Josh Hill (guitar), and Carson McWhirter (bass, keyboards). The result sounded more prog rock than math rock, with the intricacy of the compositions scaled back to accommodate Ross’s wailing. In all, There’s No 666 could’ve been released by the Mars Volta. Tripper did away with all of this. Ross, Hill, and McWriter are nowhere to be found and all of the songs are instrumental. But this wasn’t some misguided attempt to assuage fans and critics who were less than impressed with the pretensions of the group’s previous album. In fact, when Spin, a music magazine, trashed There’s no 666, Hella printed Spin’s review on a shirt and sold it in their merch store. The transition into Tripper is a testament to a band that plays whatever music strikes them at the moment and is uncompromising in its musicianship.