steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion

Hilltop Distillery

"...Died in the Woods" CD

State Bird Records

Genres: instrumental rock, experimental rock

e-mail the band

Dec 2 - 8 2002

Instrumental music is not easy to create. Many audiences aren't willing to get over the fact that rock music without vocals can't be good. As superficial and unfair as that may be, it's the reality, and thus a band like Hilltop Distillery may not receive the attention they certainly deserve. It's complete bullshit, I mean REALLY, but that's the way it works.

And for that reason I want to let you all know that this band, though primarily instrumental, is not one of those other, bland instrumental rock bands. Oh, no. With warped, angular chords and frustrated guitar gouges, HD know what they're doing, and do it dang well. And ...Died in the Woods is the perfect example of what they can do. Right from the oddly warped starter, "Host of a Chance," the album's off to a great start. Boasting bizarre, almost discordant guitar chords, it puts you into a bizarre world of intergalactic moodiness. "Mach Studder" continues this trend, introducing unintelligible static-drenched voice transmissions into the mix (very GYBE!-esque, y'know?), and "Ky. Suite" keeps it going as well.

"1st of the Month," meanwhile, sees a more energetic side of the album. With angular, crunchy guitar sounds, swift drumming, and frantic vocals, it brings to mind a sax-less Sweep The Leg Johnny. "8 Ohm" shares this mood, except with a more jagged, dark feeling to it that really gets a nice atmosphere going. "To the Damn!", the album's final track (excluding a brief hidden song), is an engaging nine-minute finale that will leave you breathless. Starting off with a blast and then moving into a haunting drum-and-guitar assembly line, it works best in the dark, where it plummets you into a creepy musical netherworld of fear and brain-numbing hallucination. The sound is intense, the track gradually plodding along, building up to a crashing, apocalyptic climax that will send you flying through the window. It's the album's best track by far, and is worth the price of admission alone.

All things considered, ...Died in the Woods is the perfect introduction to this Kentucky experimental rock band. While definitely not for everyone, those who think a more experimental version of Sweep The Leg Johnny would be appealing will find a lot to like here. Even for just the last track, this is an album I urge you to check out.


Matt Shimmer

[Vitals: 9 tracks; distributed by the band; released 2002]