Review: TSO ‘Hellcare’

Sometimes you can listen to a band, and instantly be compelled to draw comparisons with a similar artist, to such an extent that no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get away from having that belief set in stone in your mind, even from the offset.

I will put my hands up, and admit that usually whenever I hear anything new, I will try and relate it to an act I’m more familiar with, and then form my opinion that’s often based off whether I like them or not. Mostly I will draw on something positive and try to mention other bands that you might hear within the music to give the reader a starting point.

TSO 'Hellcare' Artwork
TSO ‘Hellcare’ Artwork

For me, this is especially true for the subject of this review, and that is the new album by TSO, Hellcare. After reading the press release, and some of the bands being dropped in, which included Soundgarden and Quicksand, two bands who I know incredibly well. Armed with this, I hit play and readied myself for those elements jumping forth from the speakers, and right into my imagination. While I did spot the similarities on a couple of the tracks, for me, it very much leaned on that Foo Fighters sound in a more overall experience.

Now when I say Foo Fighters let me expand. I don’t mean the late nineties Foo Fighters, when they were a little bit lightweight, and it was all quite fun, what I’m suggesting is a more latter-day Foo Fighters. A more solid and grown-up sound. This in no way implies that there isn’t any fun to be had with this album, quite the opposite in fact. What I mean by this is that if you took those early to mid-2000s Foos sounds, perhaps the albums One By One, and In Your Honor, and paralleled with them, that’s where I see this.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t at all a bad thing, I am a casual Foo’s fan, I own the albums, I’ve seen them live and they are a solid band, who put out consecutively solid albums. The beauty of the Foos is that they have a universal appeal, and it would make sense to aim towards that demographic if you wanted to make a name for yourselves.

This is where I want to interject that TSO are far beyond merely being a straight copy or have used a blueprint of that bands dynamic, it’s more a case of the fact that for me, the vibe I get from the TSO album is the Foo Fighters. So, moving on from this, let me talk a little about the album itself…

Hellcare is a foundation shaking eleven tracks of full on, hard rocking, quality, courtesy of the Italian trio. It conjures up energetic ’90s-tinged good-time grunge hard rock. The clean vocal throughout makes a welcome change to a lot of what I am used to, and equally, each instrumental part is skilfully executed, these guys are absolute fire, and that shows over the course of the album.

It conjures up energetic ’90s-tinged good-time grunge hard rock

The vibe throughout doesn’t overly change, this band obviously are in full control of things, and the sound they are aiming for. It also gives the feeling that the band members aren’t doing this for anything beyond a love of playing music together and such is the atmosphere, you can sense they have had a fantastic time recording it.

As I said earlier, there are comparisons to the likes of Soundgarden at times, and this is probably most evident on tracks such as Slant and Scotch, as both tracks seem to push at the more intense nature Soundgarden had, awkward and abrasive. There’s also a touch of the Cornell vocal style, again, no bad thing, the ‘90s were a big era musically for me, and grunge was monumental in my musical foundations.

Tracks such as the opener Already Knew, Brodo, and Getting So Real are the most comparable with the Foos, maybe it’s the Grohl style vocal mixed with that hard rocking honesty in the soundtrack that the Foo Fighters do so eloquently, which has me leaning that way.

I love this album, but the standout is Despise Enterprise. Right from the opening seconds, it is a pulsating beast. It’s hard not to love this track, it has everything you could ever want in hard rock. The drums are venomous, the guitars are on fire, and the vocals are on point.

Coming away from the album, I really hope that the comparisons with a certain Dave Grohl fronted band don’t cheaper the experience, as this album is such a great breath of fresh air, which needs playing loudly. Expertly executed, this is the sound of a band who obviously love what they do, and it pours out of the speakers in swathes. Check them out, you won’t be disappointed…

Label: Independent
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Spotify | Instagram

Scribed by: Lee Beamish