It’s hard to believe that a band such as (Hed) P.E. has been around for 25 years at this point. Getting their start in 1994, this crew of the “g-punk” originators have managed to stand the test of time. This is unlike many of their rap metal counterparts at the time. What helps the Huntington Beach boys remain strong is their ability to uniquely blend a multitude of styles into each and every record. My first experience with the group was the 2000 album, “Broke”. I distinctly remember picking up an edited copy of that and System of a Down’s “Toxicity” at the Walmart 15 minutes out from Ocean City, Maryland.
While many of my friends would say that out of those two albums, SOAD’s is the true standout, there was just something about that (hed) album that stuck with me 19 years later. Perhaps it was Wesstyles hard hitting riffs, Mawk’s sweet bass licks, or Jahred’s infectious vocal stylings. Or, maybe it was the fact I hadn’t heard anything like it. The band managed to weave together groovy reggae vibes with hard hitting metal and, for lack of a better term, gangsta rap. “Broke” continues to be an album that I constantly find myself revisiting every single year. Since that time (Hed) Planet Earth has released 8 more albums, the 9thbeing the upcoming “Stampede”. I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed everything the band has released: I understand the purpose of “Only in Amerika” but woah…
Over the years, (hed) pe has continued roll the gauntlet by seamlessly blending genres left and right. The music has become noticeably more aggressive, taking a few steps away from the reggae blend and focusing on a speed/thrash meets hip hop smorgasborg. They continued to have a reggae track here and a hip hop track there, but the focus primarily became fast and heavy. This can apparently been attributed to the influence of guitarist Jaxon Benge. Well, both Jaxon and one of the only remaining original members, Mawk, left the crew in 2015. That being said, the following year’s release, “Forever!”, successfully continued that heavier sound the group had become known for. So, now in 2019, I can only expect that the band will continue with the sound they’ve pretty much perfected at this point. Founding member, vocalist Jahred remains the only original member. With the release of “Stampede”, does (Hed) P.E. remain complacent in playing as fast and heavy as they can?
Long story short? No, not at all. Quite the opposite actually. Prior to the album’s release, Jahred (Jared Gomes) put out a message to the world: “We here at (Hed) P.E. come to bring inspirational music for the worldwide family. I want my people to know its okay to fall, JUST GET THE F**K UP!” says vocalist and founding member Jahred. “Our mission: to go forward with our music and shine a light in the darkness. We’ve cultivated a worldwide underground following, inspiring revolution and reflection every step of the way.” I can’t think of a better way to describe this album.
Overall, the heavy/fast-paced punk and hardcore sound takes a backseat…er…isn’t even in the car when it comes to this release. This isn’t a bad thing at all though, it’s just a step in a different direction. That step is first taken on the opening track, “NoApologies”. A public service statement-like sample (a notable signature of the band) starts off the record and instead of the blasting sounds of a guitar we hear a heavy bass drop while Jahred autocroons about the dangers in our mind. Mind feels like a minefield. What follows is Gomes’s signature flow and rhymes. While I know the lyrics say otherwise, I can’t ignore the fact that I view the title “NoApologies” as a message to listeners. A message that states, we’re doing our own thing on this record, listen or not, we’re not apologizing for our art. I’m not putting words in their mouths, but this is just an interpretation.
Now, I stated above that the heaviness of past albums seems to have dissipated on this release, and I stand by that statement. There are moments throughout the album. “WhyNotMe” is sure to have many cruising for a bruising in the pit this summer. I’m hoping the band is in our area very soon so I too can take a trip around the circle to this track. That being said, these moments are few and far between within the album. This is a definite positive, as they make the moments stand out more and have a definite impact. When the instrumental shifts from beats to riffs, from groove to heavy you feel it. Jahred finds himself dancing through lyrical flows to angry growls.
The way it all blends together is a perfect mixture that allows for every move the band makes throughout the album to have an impact. While the focus here is definitely a more positive vibe and headbobbing groove, (Hed) P.E. hasn’t forgotten the raw, and dare I say, angry energy that has allowed them to remain a prominent force in the hard rock/metal world. As someone who always leaned more towards the hip hop and reggae moments of earlier (Hed) albums, this felt like it was custom made for my listening pleasure. The evolution of this band is pretty incredible, and with the return of Suburban Noize Records, I can’t wait to see where they go from here. — Dylan Lyles
Obsessed with all things horror, video games, comics and vinyl, Dylan has been surrounded by all things geek culture since birth. Along with writing for Icon Versus Icon he’s also the co-host for the year long Christmas podcast, “Christmas 365”.
“No wimps. No False Metal.”