Back in 2015, Hardcore Superstar managed to almost throw everything they had worked so hard for right into shit creek. Their then brand new album HCSS was underwhelming, an album where they decided to fix something that wasn’t broken and go out on an experimental journey with some kind of spaced-out, trippy version of themselves with songs that didn’t make many fans happy. I didn’t like it when it came out and it hasn’t grown on me at all since. When HCSS comes under discussion at forums and among friends, it stands pretty clear that their fan-base is divided in three camps. Camp one is for those who love their first four albums the most, before they split up. Camp two is for those who prefer their 2005 self-titled black comeback album, Dreamin’ In A Casket (2007) and 2009’s Beg For It and camp three is for those who dig their more nuanced, more melodic side of Split Your Lip (2010) and C’mon Take On Me (2013). But what all camps have in common is that they all (almost) seems to dislike HCSS.
Me, I’m in camp three first and camp two second. I don’t have much love for the first four albums and I do dislike HCSS. It has now been three years – three pretty quiet years – since HCSS came out and the band have had some time to think about where to go next. Was the last album just a phase, was it something they just had to get out of their system to get the flow and desire to rock out for real again or was it the path they would stay on? Was this how they wanted Hardcore Superstar to sound like in the future? I really hoped not. The band’s first sign of life came almost a year ago when the single “Have Mercy On Me” was released and if that song was anything to go by, Hardcore Superstar was back with newly charged batteries and ready to party like rock stars again. The single really made me breathe a sigh of relief – and it also made me look forward to a new album, an album that is now finally released.
The album opens with what came to be single # 4, “ADHD”, that after a soft-ish start it turns into an energetic, fast and even thrashy rocker in the verses but turns into a groove-laden, crunchy belter in the refrain, a refrain that’s catchier than glue. It’s a quite intense song that lives up to its title – very HCSS. By that one, the album’s off to a very good start. “Electric Rider”, single # 5, is up next, a song that’s built on a big groove and lots of hooks, a more Melodic Rock version of classic HCSS, if you will. It’s a direct and distinct rocker that’s pretty kicking and a holds a brilliantly catchy refrain. No wonder it’s a single. Two songs in and this album is already better than their last one.
“My Sanctuary”, not a single – at least not yet – holds a good, meaty groove. It brings an acoustic guitar twang that blends just great with more raunchy electric dito to give it an edgy Hard Rock swing and the song sends more than one nod towards Classic Rock. The chorus is total Arena Rock from back when music was fun and dirty. Killer tune. “Hit Me Where It Hurts” is a very rhythmic and groove-laden rocker with an experimental twist. It’s a bit spacious and both their last album and Aerosmith comes to mind. That said, this song is way better than anything on the last record – a very memorable and convincing tune.
“The Others” is a punchy, crunchy and edgy kick-ass rocker, very in-your-face in a faster pace. It’s still a very nuanced and melody-laden rocker but quality wise I don’t find it as strong as the previous ones. First single “Have Mercy On Me” is a straight forward party-rocker with a good punch and it comes with a Pop-laden refrain that will get inside your head no matter if you like it or not which has made the song a hit on Rock radio here in Sweden. It’s a killer tune with a classic HCSS sound. “Never Cared For Snobbery” is the “Kick On The Upperclass” of this album. An aggressive yet melodic middle-finger that rocks, kicks and bites with a dirty and punchy groove. A good track that don’t quite reach great.
“Baboon”, the third single is a fat, groovy and rough rocker with an edge – and a whole lot of attitude. The refrain hits like a fist in the jaw with plenty of hooks and the rhythm is shaking groover. But with all it’s catchiness I find the song a bit fussy and even dorky. It’s not bad but I find it only ok at most. Second single “Bring The House Down” comes with verses obviously borrowed from Slade’s “Run Runaway”, a pre-chorus that’s full-on Melodic Rock and an insanely catchy and sing-along laden Stadium Rock refrain that’s very 80’s sounding. No live gig will be complete without this tune, believe me you. This is brilliant.
On “Medicine Man” HCSS takes their black album style and mixes it up with a bluesy influence and the the whole tune shakes and tumbles with raunchy Classic Rock vibes. The punchy beats marries fine with the melodic and catchy melodies and the tune is a catchy one without being single-material. A good, meaty album track that could work very well live. Closing track “Goodbye” is a pretty grandiose Melodic Hard Rock ballad with a very hands-in-the-air sing-along chorus that holds shitloads of hit-potential. Another one that will work great live. A brilliant closer. Single #7?
To compare this to their last album isn’t fair as the records doesn’t even play in the same division but what I can say is that HCSS are back – with a damn bang. Which fan-camp this album will jump into, I can’t tell, maybe it will please fans from all camps because on this album we get a little bit of everything but what’s more important, HCSS sounds like HCSS again – and they haven’t forgotten how to write great songs either. To me, this album sounds just like I want HCSS to sound – sleazy, dirty, aggressive but still very melodic with lots of hooks and catchy, hit-laden choruses. HCSS are as energetic, powerful and hungry as ever here and that there’s a huge passion to rock is obvious. Welcome back, guys and a high-five for a job damn well done! Solid!
More Hardcore Superstar reviews:
2. Electric Rider
3. My Sanctuary
4. Hit Me Where It Hurts
6. The Others
7. Have Mercy On Me
8. Never Cared For Snobbery
10. Bring The House Down
11. Medicine Man