Hella 

The Devil Isn't Red

Sacramento's Hella (guitarist Spencer Seim and drummer Zach Hill) make tinnitus-inducing barrage rock that has inspired many a noise connoisseur to draw comparisons to another power duo, Lightning Bolt. Like that Rhode Island outfit, Hella mostly proceeds at two speeds: helter-skelter and pedal-to-the-metal. (When the guys do slow the pace, Hella still ratchets up the intensity like G.W. Bush increases the budget deficit.)

On The Devil Isn't Red, the proper follow-up to 2002's justifiably worshiped Hold Your Horse Is, Hella takes punk to prog-rock grad school for an accelerated course in chaos theory. The disc's opening track, "Hello Great Architect of the Universe," instantly establishes the band's hyper-aggressive agenda, as it conjures the image of the Minutemen flaunting their chops after immersion in King Crimson's progressive touchstone Red. There's no pseudo-virtuosic wanking here, though -- just clangorous whoop-ass energy and sinewy, concise songs that flood you with adrenaline.

On an album of many peaks, the title cut stands Himalayan: This is prog rock that isn't afraid to shatter its horn-rimmed specs or jostle the pipe from its gob -- a ceaselessly accelerating and escalating rock exercise, ascending the sonic mountain with inhuman endurance. At 33 minutes, The Devil seems longer, because of each track hurtling by like Speedy Gonzales on a Red Bull bender. It's a draining listen, though there's something absurdly heroic about Hella's upward-spiraling helices of guitar and frantic drum rolls. Taking it all in will require heroism from you, as well.

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