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HB3: Defender

Defender may well be the eighth album since 2007 from HB3, but it’s also their first for some seven years! Hence, while the band led by Hugh Bonar may have been quite ridiculously prolific in a six year burst, things have considerably slowed since then. What that level of workload did for the band’s output, in all honesty, I’m not too sure, after all Defender is my first encounter. And as initial impressions go, it would be fair to suggest that this eight track outing knows how to get you onside.

The outfit’s bandcamp page, rather unhelpfully, describes HB3 as Retro-futurist Bicentennial ultra-rock. Yes, I don’t know what that means either but I do understand a killer riff when I hear one and “Evel” powers that side of things home with such force that you simply can’t ignore it. On first encounter I thought that the guitars here were flanged to within an inch of their lives, until I realised that there are no six strings on this album at all. Instead, Defender is propelled by a four string piccolo bass as its main source of direction and as such it gives HB3 a decidedly different set of colours from which to paint. Vocally Bonar takes things into an Ozzy meets stoner rock vibe, his melodiously droning timbre the keen counter to the phasing bass sounds and solos. “Fire Man” heads that attack down a more spaced up, stoner slide, where surprisingly accessible constructions remain resolutely far from the norm.

These cuts, and everything else here, are still hung round a simple verse/chorus instruction but in such a way as to feel distinct and different. This approach, while impactful, was just about to strain the boundaries through repetition until “Bugman” veered off track, stripped back voice and drums (courtesy of Brendan Etter) only making way for the bass thrum-a-hum when the mood takes hold. But when it does there’s a strangely danceable electro-feel taking place where no electro elements illicit any dancing whatsoever. It’s a contradiction and in many ways this whole album is, because it just shouldn’t hang together in the way it does. These unusually bonded concoctions arranged in such a way that they make for a sonically memorable experience. Strangely, on “The Dream Of The Sea”, and indeed elsewhere, the (non) guitar tone can remind of the much missed Eddie Van Halen, even if the results bear little resemblance and with a mildly progressive edge slicing through a stoner/space basis, it’s difficult to find much else that sounds the way this floatingly heavy explosion does. A prime example arriving in the hammer smash and sparkling keys of “Star Beast” which is almost Motorhead like in its throat slitting intensity.

Let’s set things straight though, HB3 haven’t suddenly unearthed a brand new sound but then neither are they aping anyone else. Combine both those factors and Defender becomes a reassuringly daring, yet welcoming experience and one that has continually drawn me back into its world.

Track Listing
1. Evel
2. Fire Man
3. Odyssey 2
4. Beauty’s Punishment
5. Bugman
6. The Dream Of The Sea
7. Star Beast
8. The New Gods

Added: November 21st 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: HB3 @ bandcamp
Hits: 1209
Language: english

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