December 22, 2014 (hed) p.e. – Evolution (Album Review)
Forming in 1994 in Huntington Beach, CA, (hed) p.e. quickly became pioneers of a new form of music. Combining elements of Rock, Metal, Rap, and Reggae, they came to name their own genre of music as “G-punk,” a combination of Punk and Gansta Rap. Originally named “Hed” for “higher education,” the band released their self-financed EP, Churches of Realities, in 1995; however, due to legal issues they had to change their name and added the “PE” for “Planet Earth.” After beginning their career with Jive Records in 1997, they would go on to release three albums with the label before parting ways due to contractual issues and eventually landing on Suburban Noize Records in 2006. Over the course of their career they have released two EPs, one live album and eight studio albums. Now, the band has returned with their ninth studio album and first release in four years, Evolution. The socially conscious compilation features trademark (hed) p.e. fusions with a new sentiment that touches areas in a lighter sense than some of their earlier work.
Opening up with “No Turning Back Now,” Evolution begins with a soft drum and rolls into their signature Rasta-infused sound tinged with an eclectic and raw edge. Frontman Jahred Gomes’ vocals pierce through the rhythm to lyrically shred this track and add the cutting edge that gives it its poignancy. “Lost in Babylon” follows and brings in (hed) p.e.’s classic combination of Rap and Rock to make this ode to partying in which Gomes sings and raps about the things people do to escape their reality. A quick jaunt through the hedonistic pleasure of drug and alcohol indulgence, this track features an upbeat and bouncy guitar that compels you to move along with it. Bringing in a smoky guitar and more soulful tune is “Jumping the Fence.” The bluesy guitar skills of guitarist Jackson “Jaxon” Benge permeate the track while Gomes’ gritty vocals lay overtop and provide an almost Rage Against the Machine-esque tone.
One thing (hed) p.e. has always done well is speak of revolution and much needed changes in society as viewed through their (at times blurry and red) eyes. Whether it is the legalization or use of marijuana and alcohol, or the reprehensible actions of big government and the desire for the people to compel change, Gomes and company have a way of stirring your inner hedonist and revolutionary. Evolution is no different in its delivery of strong instrumental support to Gomes’ vocal and lyrical tenacity. “No Tomorrow” grooves and grinds as a head-banging anthem of unity and support; “When it all goes down, you know I’m gonna be right there.” “Let It Rain” rolls in with a slow and heavy intro which prominently displays the bass skills of Mark “Mawk” Young and drummer Jeremiah “Trauma” Stratton. This song is one of the more unusual tracks on the album with its sonic similarities to Gospel music and the soulful and lamenting repetitive chorus.
“One More Body” breaks into the second half of the album and speeds things back up from “Let It Rain.” It features more prominent drums and the vocal grit and drive (hed) p.e. is known for while still offering an unexpected, pseudo-Gothic breakdown before rolling back into a Punk-like swell and more repetitive call and response in the chorus. Bound to be a personal favorite o fans, “Never Alone” is the unexpected love song on Evolution and speaks to the unfaltering power of love and its ability to surround and rescue a person. Its poignancy is in the chorus of voices that counterbalance the raspy vocals of Gomes’ and Benge’s uplifting guitar solo.
After a brief intermission with instrumental break “The Higher Crown,” Evolution rounds out with “Nowhere2Go,” “Let It Burn,” and “Hold On.” Displaying proudly their Rastafari and Reggae influences, (hed) p.e. rolls out the instrumentally eclectic “Nowhere2Go” and its body-swaying sounds that will make even the stiffest body in the room move along with them. “Let It Burn” continues this trend with its upbeat, eccentric, and synth-laced opening. Silky smooth in its delivery, “Let It Burn” is about maintaining happiness, the power of community and love, while also, of course, alluding to the source of this joy being plant based (read: marijuana). Basically, to paraphrase, “let’s all be friends and pass the joint. Spread love not hate.” Finally, “Hold On” closes out Evolution with the message du jour, love. “Got to hold on one love will find a way!” It speaks to the need to propagate messages of love and understanding in society today to teach the younger generations to appreciate, respect, and come together as world community instead of the common practices of isolation and judgment.
Evolution is not only the most recent addition to the (hed) p.e. catalog, but also possibly the most sentimental and communally involved in years. It speaks to their evolution as musicians, artists, and even Gomes’ evolution and experiences as a father with the focus on making a better world for “our sons and daughters” as he sang about in “Hold On.” As a collective they have pioneered their avenue of Rap/Punk/Reggae/Metal and, regardless of what you call it, it is infectious. While some might find the second half of the album less edgy than some of their older work, the point is not always about edginess or controversy and they demonstrate that beautifully here. CrypticRock give Evolution 4.5 out of 5 stars.