HINDER – When The Smoke Clears

hinder when the smoke clearsThe last couple of years has been turbulent for the Hinder guys – to speak mildly. First of all, back in 2012 they had the ungrateful task to follow up a killer album like All American Nightmare (2010). That album was a 10/10 without any hesitation and of course, with that album and its brilliant predecessor, Take It To The Limit (2008), the backlash had come sooner or later. The backlash in question was called Welcome To The Freakshow and that album completely bombed quality wise and even sales wise, it was a disappointment. The reason was, of course, that the album was a complete sellout. Instead of going in the heavier and more hard rock direction they had been going since 2008, they decided to try to write a modern radio rock record. The absence of a huge hit single seemed to have made the boys question the ways to go for the band. After all, the last time Hinder had a fat smash hit was back in 2005 with “Lips Of An Angel”, a grand ballad from their very successful, but oh so overrated debut long player Extreme Behaviour. Well, that didn’t work because even though Hinder has always been somewhat ballad-happy, Welcome To The Freakshow lacked as well in heaviness and rocking vibes as in passion and conviction and the album was full of radio adjusted ballads, radio adjusted pop songs and even the rockier moments had been, yes you got it, radio adjusted. One thing that made love Hinder and the thing that got me to bother with the band at all since I never dug Extreme Behaviour, was the attitude. They have always have shitloads of it, but on Freakshow, there wasn’t a middle finger to be found at all – only subservient songs with a slimy production. Hell, they even added hip-hop and disco to their sound. It’s ok, to experiment and I have no problem with adding either of the mentioned styles, but it fails terribly when the overall sound is so cowardly and light weight. I gave that album 6/10, but today when I listen to it, I don’t know what I was thinking. 4/10, 5 tops, should have been more appropriate. I probably just wanted so bad to like that album. Next up, lead singer Austin Winkler jumps the ship. Apparently, Winkler’s hard living lifestyle had taken its toll on him and he had to abort the tour to go to rehab. Now, clips on YouTube shows that Winkler’s drug issues might not have been the only reason for his leaving, but they also tell us about a vocalist with a voice that was more or less shot. That’s what cocaine does to the vocal chords, kids. The band decided to keep touring using not one, but two replacements for Winkler, Jared Weeks in 2013 and Nolan Neal the following year. Now, Austin Winkler may not be Pavarotti or Ronnie James Dio, but the guy sure has a personal voice and shitloads of attitude and this is not a guy who are easily replaced. So when the tour ended, the search for a new vocalist began. Why they didn’t go further with Neal or Weeks beats me, but they didn’t. Enter: Marshal Dutton, a completely new name to me. But what I do know is this – the guy has some pretty big shoes to fill.

I didn’t really know if I had big expectations on this album or not because there really is a tie here, great albums – not so good albums 2-2, but I was hoping that they had now learned their lesson and decided on not giving a shit about hit singles or air play and instead just go out there and have fun and rock! But when I heard two of their new songs – “Rather Hate Than Hurt” and “Hit The Ground” (I’ll get back to them later on)  – for the first time online, I became a bit worried. They weren’t bad, but they sounded too safe, too un-rock and what’s worse, I didn’t even reflect over Dutton’s voice, I hardly noticed it. To say that this album is a real important one for the band is to put it mildly – they need to show everyone that they still can rock with the best of them and that no one has to be worried about Winkler’s departure, that Dutton is the voice and frontman that Hinder really need. Playing the album for the first time at home, I could state early on that this would be a much better album than its predecessor and that first spin made me look forward to really plugging it into my ears with my headphones on. “Rather Hate Than Hurt” (ain’t that the truth…) opens the album and it is a bit of an unusual choice and I wasn’t sure it’s a good one. The song is a ballad, see – at least it starts out as one – and Hinder is a hard rock band – hard rock bands should never use a ballad as an opening track. But! The song gets heavier and in the end, I wouldn’t consider this a ballad at all, more a slow rock song. It also reminds me of “All American Nightmare”, which is a good thing. To sum it up, a really good song, way better than the first time I heard it online. Luckily, the same has to be said of “Hit The Ground”. It’s really not that safe at all, more a heavy rocker that has adapted the All American Nightmare sound and all of a sudden, I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe the guys really has learned the lesson from the last album. Maybe they’re really making a statement here. “Wasted Life” follows and the song is a pop, but heavy pop, the kind of pop songs that Hinder does so well when they want to. Anybody knows of the band Cavo? Well, if you do, this sounds like a mix of them and Hinder – awesome! But unfortunately, “If Only For Tonight” goes back to the safe and dull way that was Welcome To The Freakshow, a modern rock/pop song aimed for the radio and exactly the stuff I don’t want to hear on a Hinder album. Skip button alert! But by the looks of it, that song was just a temporary set back because the next track, “Intoxicated”, is a total killer. It’s a classic hard rock song with a major groove and a chorus catchier than a STD. I bet this one will be a new live killer. “Dead To Me” must be a future single. It’s a heavy ballad with a classic Hinder melody and I would believe anyone that told me it was written for Take It To The Limit – I’m not saying it was, but it sure sounds that way. “Foolish Eyes” is another pop song, but this one is a bit too light weight, but I’ll let it slip because I love the melody and the Def Leppard influence. “Nothing Left To Lose” is another hit. It sounds like the heavier ballads on All American Nightmare, which gets the thumbs up from this guy! With “Letting Go”, they take me back to 1989 – 1991. It’s a power ballad and I have no problem at all hearing Warrant, Slaughter or Bon Jovi performing this one. It does have the unmistakable Hinder melody sound all over it, though. The last song off the record is called “I Need Another Drink” – and frankly, who doesn’t. Writing this, yours truly is sipping on a fine IPA, so there you go. It’s an awesome hard rock song with a really groovy blues feel and I’m sure this will be included in their future live set.

Again, Hinder is just a bit too heavy on the ballads – they have always been like that – but, fortunately, they are really damn good at writing them and arranging them. On the bright side, Hinder has found their way back with this album and the whole Welcome To The Freakshow (which was as far from a freak show you could get, really….) debacle seems to be long forgotten. Instead, this album musically and style wise has more in common with their finest moment All American Nightmare, which suits me just fine. Although, this album is not as heavy, but the songs are similar arranged and the way the melodies sounds, it seems like the guys have been ogling towards that album. This is – to me – the natural follow-up to All American Nightmare, but the production could have been a bit more heavy, but that’s trivial when the guys has come up with such a great album. How about Marshal Dutton, then? How has he grown into the part as Hinder’s new vocalist and frontman? Well, he’s actually very good. Here’s the deal, as a singer, he has a much wider range than Winkler and he can reach notes Winkler never could. But. Winkler had a much more personal voice – you can hear it’s Winkler singing by the first word and he was a huge part of Hinder’s sound and for that, he will be missed. Dutton isn’t that personal, he’s a bit on the mainstream side and his voice isn’t raspy enough. But, he does his parts very well and now that Hinder has taken their sound aback, Dutton really hold up and I’m sure that he will be an asset live. The Hinder that rocks hard is back and if you haven’t already, give them a chance now. This is modern hard rock at its best.

Jon Wilmenius (8/10)

Tracklist:

1. Rather Hate Than Hurt
2. Hit The Ground
3. Wasted Life
4. If Only For Tonight
5. Intoxicated
6. Dead To Me
7. Foolish Eyes
8. Nothing Left To Lose
9. Letting Go
10. I Need Another Drink

4 comments on “HINDER – When The Smoke Clears

    • I’m not a fan of Lips Of An Angel either. As I wrote in my review, I really don’t like their debut at all.
      But have you heard Take It To The Limit and / or All American Nightmare?
      I dare you to give those albums a shot. They completely turned me around.
      Both are fantastic hard rock albums.

      • I actaully like the old one better. More personality and he does the sleazy hard rock on those album really well. But the new one’s really good as well.
        Yes, do check them out if you got the time. You might just be surprised.

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