Album Review: HellBat! Puts the Fright in Fright Night

Yay Freedom! by HellBat!

Yay Freedom! by HellBat!

Yay Freedom!, the debut release by Los Angeles rock quartet HellBat!, is an ambitious convergence of punk, classic rock and jazz.  Transcending the dry ice, leather studded outfits and heavy metal imagery that the band’s name might imply, HellBat! challenges listeners with a frightening blend of influences, dynamics and exceptional musicianship.  Founded by Los Angeles underground music luminary Vince Meghrouni (Atomic Sherpas, Bazooka, El Grupo Sexo, Mike Watt, Fatso Jetson), HellBat! builds upon the Southern California punk/jazz genre that melds post-Bitches Brew Miles Davis with 1970s King Crimson and early 1980s South Bay punk.  Reflecting a dizzying array of influences that include the Minutemen, Black Flag, Edgar and Johnny Winter, early Rush, and Rocks-era Aerosmith, Yay Freedom! is a fun, white-knuckled, genre-defying, roller coaster ride.

Vocalist Steven Kopp demonstrates impressive power and range, floating between Humble Pie’s Steve Marriott and the Dead Kennedy’s Jello Biafra.  Ken Lasaine is an extremely versatile guitarist, dialing up tension with edgy and blistering crescendos and then kicking back with deep tones and more relaxed classic rock riffs.  Multi-instrumentalist Vince Meghrouni’s fingerprints are all over this oeuvre as a composer and DRUMMER.  Most recognizable for his tireless work as a saxophonist, flutist and blues harpist with the Atomic Sherpas and many other groups, Meghrouni demonstrates the swinging and driving percussion skills that made him a go-to stickman for indie music icon and bass maestro Mike Watt on several tours.  Bassist Michael Alvidrez does an enviable job providing the bottom end and playing traffic cop to the diverse expressions of this dynamic band.

Yay Freedom! is appropriately named, celebrating HellBat!’s demonstrated ability to blend seemingly divergent genres and do it well.

HellBat! performs at 10:00 p.m. on Halloween at Café Nela with The Gypz, Saccharine Trust, The Gears, and Los Issues.

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