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Heros Severum

Wonderful Educated Bear

Two Sheds Music

guest review by Doug Kabourek

I've never been into rap. Perhaps that's because all the rap I've been fed via the mainstream is so awful. This album confirms that rap and creativity can coexist.

Athens' Heros Severum sound like a combination of Rage Against the Machine and The B-52's. Eric Friar's style of speak-sing complements Sherryl Branch's background vocals much the way that Fred Schneider's did Kate Pierson's and Cindy Wilson's. It's all placed upon a bed of complex and extremely rocking guitar and synth work, thus leading to a pretty damn original sound. By the end of the first song, I was into it.

Two things could be improved. First is the lyrics, which are overwhelmingly positive -- something I really like about the disc. It seems the whole hip-hop genre was invented to bitch and act tough, so positive (and clever) lyrics are quite welcome. However, they can be a bit cheesy at times. The final chorus of "Hidden in the Words" is the chant, "Don't be afraid to be proud / Hey Hey Hey" and while that's a great message, it's a little high on the old cheese-o-meter (and believe me, I have a high tolerance for cheese).

The second improvement for next time is Branch's melodies. There are only two songs that make good use of a girl who can actually sing: "Grounded… Like a Prop Plane" and "From Foot to Foot." She is put on shout-out duty for the rest, which is a shame. A hip-hop band with a melody vocalist is a rarity; her voice should be given a great melody to sing on every song, just like Pierson's and Wilson's were given.

back torevhead.gif (1924 bytes)   Posted Dec. 2, 2002. Copyright 2002 Tim McMahan.
All rights reserved.

Rating: Yes

Obligatory pull-quote: "It's all placed upon a bed of complex and extremely rocking guitar and synth work, thus leading to a pretty damn original sound."


Tim comments: This ain't no hip-hop CD (and there's nothing here that resembles Rage). Friar has a vocal range akin to Stan Ridgway (Wall of Voodoo), which means it borders on speak-singing a la Fred Schneider or early David Byrne. It would take a rather large leap of faith to confuse what Friar (or Schneider) does as "rap," and there's nothing rhythmically on this CD that resembles R&B or hip-hop. Heros Severum are mining the same prog rock territory that Les Savy Fav are trodding 'pon these days -- power-chord fueled art-rock written in strange keys with weird time changes -- this is the next generation of prog, written by a group of indie rockers who grew up with The Pixies.

Tim's Rating: Yes