Kal Marks: My name is hell | album review

Not so long ago, Kal Marks sort of broke up. After a decade together, the three members of Boston’s post-hardcore band have wrapped up and gone their separate ways. What if the last document left by the band to seal the band’s legacy was that of 2018 Universal care, furious and explosive album of loud rock anthems that it is, it would still have been a remarkable closeness to a catalog – a catalog that few people have heard, yes, but that we can be proud of all the same. But vocalist/guitarist Carl Shane wasn’t ready to drop the name just yet, and it wasn’t long before he found a whole new band of musicians for a second phase of Kal Marks: drummer Dylan Teggart, bassist John Russell and second guitarist Christina Puerto, marking the dawn of a new era with their best album to date, my name is hell.

The frenetic, driving rhythms and abrasive, distorted sonic approach of old Kal Marks records still define the sound of my name is hell, but the band uses these elements in the service of bigger, more sophisticated rock anthems. With a new lineup comes a new skill set, and where there’s more than enough chop and piercing volume for everyone, the restlessness and tension of Kal Marks around 2022 translates into a set of songs which seem more imposing, even hovering.

While Kal Marks often opts for subtlety or slow burn, it almost never translates to anything. quieter. Where a track like “Everybody Hertz” uses a sort of larger-than-life Springsteen-style urgency, it still screams with commentary and roars with a thick blanket of fuzz. There’s a similar tussle between the title track’s laid-back strut and the flurry of guitars cascading over its intro, like a black metal band jamming “Werewolves of London.” There are also moments like “New Neighbor,” which emit a transcendent glow, completely bypassing the more grounded punk and rock sounds as they pull off an act of shoegaze levitation, or the ominous slow burn of “Who Waits,” a freezing cold in the eye of a searing storm.

While the band aims to bring both more nuance and grandeur to their muscular noise rock rippers, these songs still carry the inevitable feeling of anxiety and dread that often lingered on Kal Marks’ previous records. In the first verse of “My Life Is A Freak Show”, Shane laments, “We’re all fucked from the start.” It doesn’t get much more hopeful from there; he wrestles with religion and ideas of less-than-charitable greater power on “Ovation,” singing, “I know the wrath of God, like the lines in my own palmwhile the arrangement of the song is far more hellish than holy. And “The Future” seems to represent a tomorrow that brings more than greener pastures: “The future came today, I hope it doesn’t scare you.”

my name is hell doesn’t exactly offer solace in the literal sense – Shane is just as confused and scared as any of us, and Kal Marks works best when he elicits such a big ruckus that the void would complain about the noise. This urgent, restless sonic onslaught may not be soothing, but it offers a form of catharsis that feels more like a form of strength. Reborn, with a new range and an even more powerful approach, Kal Marks looks more ready than ever to weather the storm.

Label: Explode in sound

Year: 2022

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kal mark my name is hell review
kal mark my name is hell review

Jeff Terich

Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He’s been writing about music for 20 years and has been published by American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and a few others he’s forgotten about right now. He still never gets tired of it.

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