Half Shell – The Great Truth

It can be easy to find yourself bogged down by the relentless stream of progressive rock and metal releases, and so sometimes my mind becomes desperate for something refreshing, something restorative.  That is exactly what Half Shell’s new album has been for me.  The album is called The Great Truth, and it released on February 3rd.

Half Shell are a trio from Connecticut.  The lineup includes Nicole Hogan on vocals, Caitlin Kullberg on bass and guitar, and Jesse Guterman on drums, keys, and synths.  Each member provides a vital layer to their sound.  I’ll admit that, when I first heard them, I was a little bewildered.  Something drew me to their music, however, and now I can’t get enough.

The band labels themselves as a mix of progressive rock, alt rock, and electronic music.  I think those three things do describe them to a certain point, but the band simply has a sound unlike any other.  Yes, they have progressive structures and odd rhythms.  Yes, they have the alternative quirk and raw lyrics.  Yes, they rely on synth heavily, so much of the music is electronic in tone.  There is also a certain pop element here, too, especially from the 80s and 90s.  When it all comes together, the sum is much greater than its parts. There is certainly a magic at work here in the way these three work together.

The band uses almost no guitar at all, if any, on this record.  The music is driven by fantastic and inventive bass grooves from Caitlin and powerful yet nuanced drum work from Jesse.  He also provides atmosphere with his synth work and potent melodies with his keyboards.  These elements are already very strong, but then Nicole adds her unique and confident vocals, and the band becomes something truly distinctive.  Add to that Nicole’s dark and personal lyrics, and the band grabbed my attention.

I love The Great Truth.  It feels like every song has its own character; has its own bobbing, grooving, fascinating style.  There is a vulnerability to it, but also a brash faith in itself that feels like it both desires to be known and also is satisfied in what it is without anyone’s approval.  The more I listen, the more I appreciate these musicians and the balance between nuance and power that they offer here.

The album has thirteen songs, and they are all great.  I love the opening trio of “Suspension of Disbelief”, “Prometheus in the Flesh”, and “With Answer in Hand”.  The first is a kinetic oddity that is full of color and life, and it draws in the listener.  The second is one of my favorites overall, with a bass-heavy style that is so excellent, and the chorus has such familiarity and yet individuality within it.  The third is one of the singles, and it is a go-to for me.  It has a great, attractive rhythm that will sink into your skin, and that rhythm gets stronger and stronger as the song progresses.

I hate skipping any of the tracks in this review, but I suppose it is better to keep it short.  I would highlight other tracks like “Shot Messenger” with its exquisite keys and aggressive chorus; “To Be the Bearer of Bad News” with its catchy chorus and voluptuous groove; and “Clutching to…Clinging to…” with its terrific, winding keys and casual chorus that becomes infectious after you hear it a couple times. The album hits hard right out of the gate, so to speak, but there are no weak parts to this album.

I like how the band released one single from each half of the record; that always helps me absorb an album.  “Too Many Wrongs to Right” is one of them, and it hits in the exact right spot in the record.  I love it for how unorthodox, yet compelling the vocal delivery is, as if I’m hearing brand new vocal ideas.  There is an urgency and depth within this song that keep bringing me back.  The album ends with two very strong tracks, “Sisyphean Nightmare”, a dark and melodious piece with relatable lyrics and deep authenticity; and the closer “Repeats Itself”, a song that sounds different than the rest of the album in its use of piano and a slow burning song structure.  It is also the longest song here, and it gets a little raw at times, in a good way.  I think it closes this journey very well.

Half Shell have definitely created something original and intriguing to my ears.  There are so many nuances and colors that make this The Great Truth work, and they are contrasted up against captivating components that will stay with you.  For me, this is one of the best albums I’ve heard so far this year; and, seeing how memorable it has been thus far, I don’t think I’ll be forgetting it any day soon.


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