Review Summary: Hurt's debut album is a bruising set of progressive and metal-tinged hard rock that despite minor flaws sets up perfectly for a sequel and stands more than well enough on its own two feet.
J. Loren is not the type of man I’d like to get in a fistfight with. For starters, his head is probably more than twice the size of my biceps, which is generally a deterring factor in such a situation. But passing over the probable physical differences between us, Loren’s major-label debut with his band (aptly titled Vol. 1
) drops more than a few hints that he is a very angry man (check the half-sung, half-grunted opening to “Forever”) and worse, displays very little self-control. His band name is Hurt for Pete’s sake--- subtlety is not going to be the man’s strong suit.
Loren is passionate though, there’s no questioning that, and that emotion adds a bit of spark to his unique vocal delivery and allows him to pull off the occasional clunker of a line (take “Everything just comes down and falls apart, because well, everything just falls apart,” an exceedingly blunt excerpt from “Falls Apart”). His rants are generally in the tune of progressive-tinged rockers directed towards one of two subjects--- distrust in religion and love lost--- and very rarely is the volume turned down or the optimism turned up, save the extremely effective acoustic cut “Danse Russe.” Sure, it’s not the most complicated of formulas, and tunes like “Dirty” and “Losing” really have nothing new to bring to the table, but it generally works. The weak moments occur when said blueprint becomes trite, which is easily the album’s biggest hindrance.
But when Hurt does click, the results are fantastic. The group’s classical influences are neatly distributed throughout Volume 1
, albeit hidden behind the Pearl Jam and Pink Floyd, as orchestral elements add another dimension to more than a few songs. The opening trio of “Shallow,” “Rapture,” and “Overdose” is particularly noteworthy, all three serving as slowburners that begin on simple acoustic riffs and build to epic climaxes. The latter two are chilling conceptually as well--- Loren first spins the tale of over-obsession in religion leading to the gruesome murder of his newly born son, followed by a slow trip through a hallucinatory fantasy in which he confronts his former lover during an epic, emotional chorus. “House Carpenter” is another standout, a nine-minute trip that begins with the sound of rain and ends with a ghostly voice pleading their love. The musicianship behind Loren and his countless violins stays consistently solid as well. Guitarist Paul Spatola does a fine job creating the backbone on tracks like the album's bookends, both of which utilize loud-soft climaxes where Spatola's wall of sound engulfs the listener.
At its best, Hurt's debut is a bruising set of progressive rock that stings with the emotion that Loren and company infuse into their music so well. At its worst, it's textbook hard rock with a little something special added (Sure, "Falls Apart" and "Unkind" are nothing new structurally, but they're far from unoriginal and more than enjoyable). Maybe it's partly due to the album title, but even with the exceptional "House Carpenter as a closer, Volume 1
pleads for a resolution more than it provides one. Whether that's interpreted as a positive or negative is up for discussion, but there's no denying the quality of Hurt's debut album or the potential for greatness it provides.