Erik Hinds - _Reign in Blood_
(Solponticello Records, 2005)
by: T. DePalma (8 out of 10)
For all the accolades and blather bestowed on Slayer's 1986 masterpiece _Reign in Blood_, its longevity and endurance as a hallmark and precursor of the coming decade, Athens, Georgia native Erik Hinds explains the appeal succinctly and in its most perennial context:

"It became a perpetual soundtrack to late night underage beer runs and failed attempts at suburban witchcraft. Those were the days. Twenty years ahead, the album has lost none of its integrity -- still a powerful indictment of the evil that men do in a soundscape bordering on complete transcendent anarchy."

Hinds is the founder of Solponticello Records and a self-taught musician / composer who has designed the H'arpeggione -- a cross between a Hardanger Fiddle and the Arpeggione. This unique creation is composed of two sets of strings situated parallel to each other on top of the instrument's body (eighteen strings in total, designed for fingers and bow) and is the sole tool with which Hinds interprets his infamous subject.

Ever since Finland's Apocalyptica became somewhat notorious for playing Metallica on cellos, the possibility has invited more people to wonder "What would that sound like?"; yielding recent orchestral renditions of similar artists like Tool, System of a Down and Mudvayne. Absorbed, I'd imagine, subliminally in some unintended repose. The reality of most string tributes is as a novelty that satisfies only minute interest; curio that provides a safe and often dull translation of the principle work -- if you know what a violin sounds like and you know the riffs, it's rather easy to guess how it all unfolds since not much (structurally) has changed. Not so here. Hinds has approached each track with an open perspective of tone and atmosphere and, taking liberty with tempo, makes each track his own while maintaining the root of their original composition. The singularity of this performance is belied by a strong technique and full percussive sound of the H'arpeggione itself. Combining intuitive jazz with death metal acciaccatura, _Reign in Blood_ is transformed into a collection of tribal dances that deviate on a whim from loose rhythms fostered by low-tuned dunks and new age scimitar sonance into furious scales that unwind like vines drunk off their own fruit. Here as in the original copy, the primitive soul finds equivalence with the able timing and dexterity in each track.

Because of the lack of lyrics, the music is able to be approached with more balance and leeway in mood. With this, "Raining Blood" becomes but a weeping interlude; "Necrophiliac", springtime vertigo. But the dark root is ever protruding. Though for the most part we catch only pieces of these original riffs, Hinds is no less daring in his more faithful (however warped) adaptation of Slayer's style, nailing it in ways unseen: one gapes at the proximity in which he renders King and Hanneman's leads along with Lombardo's drum patterns on "Angel of Death". All the same, it's safe to say that no song is more interesting than it was before being re-imagined. While finding parity with the album's stand-out tracks (to be clear, that's over half the album already), the bottom trio of "Reborn", "Epidemic" and a barely altered "Postmortem" show a gradual loss of impact before ending the set proper.

As an album based off of Slayer as much as it is based on their actual writing, its very premise stands against the grain, defining the powerful continuum of influence and expression. Hinds matches the anticipation of his wild creation with sincerity, skill and direction that represent not only his own talent but is a fitting homage to these immortal tremors.

[Fred Carlson, the craftsman who actually built the H'arpeggione, maintains a website dedicated to his work as a luthier and features pictures and text on the instrument in question as well as dozens of other interesting designs over the years. For this fascinating look into the art of hand-made guitars visit www.BeyondTheTrees.com.]

Contact: http://www.erikhinds.com

(article published 17/10/2005)


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