Fireworks

Hydrogyn - 'Judgement' Hot

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Written by Central Electronic Brain     September 05, 2011    
 
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Lack of cohesion with too many songs worthy of the 'filler' tag.

When the first Hydrogyn CD, 'Bombshell', was released in 2005 I was impressed by the package as a whole (both songs and playing were very good) but have to admit the first thing that grabbed my attention was the cover photo, which turned out to be lead vocalist Julie Westlake. I'd never heard of the band before but because the legendary Michael Wagener was at the production helm I figured I couldn't go wrong with their straight forward approach to melodic rock. Since then we've had a live CD, 2007's 'Strip Em Blind' and and another studio album, 2008's 'Deadly Passions', both capitalising on Julie's visual attributes to provide striking cover photographs and relying on guitarist Jeff Westlake to provide the bulk of the material songwise. Though neither was as good as the debut, I still found myself attracted to the band and Julie's vocal capabilities proved she was more than just a pretty face. 2011 sees Jeff & Julie Westlake return with another set of songs recorded under the Hydrogyn banner, but if I'm totally honest, even after repeated plays it's hardly going to raise the band's profile above that of a support act. From the very brief explanation from Jeff after the CD's final track, it seems that the songs were gathered together from various sources and had been partially created in the past, or were fragmented ideas that had failed to come to fruition.

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Unfortunately during the course of playing 'Judgement' this becomes all too apparent. First impressions revealed a lack of cohesion, with too many songs worthy of the 'filler' tag. I've no doubting the band's ability, this was evident on the debut, but there has been no real development during the last few years to suggest Hydrogyn is nothing more than a time filler for Jeff and Julie. At times the playing is just too loose ('Big Star') and the production values a little on the thin side ('Too Late'). Guest appearances, by Doug Pinnick from Kings X and former guitarist Jeff Boggs, can't raise the quality above a mediocre level and overall the most overwhelming fault is a lack of melody or anything remotely immediate. The biggest culprits are opener 'Lost Reality' and 'Self Destruct', covers of songs by a little known band called Suffer, which are too repetitive.

Though riff oriented they are not overly heavy but the song structures struggle for an identity and the music seems to be searching for any sort of groove. Michael Wagener still maintains a very small involvement and it's his two tracks, 'Alone' and the melancholic 'Don't Be My Judge' that stand-out the most alongside an alternative version of 'Candles Light Your Face', which first appeared on 'Deadly Passions'. Even an extended cover of Fleetwood Mac's 'Gold Dust Woman' is just bland and meandering. If Hydrogyn are to progress they should look to collaborate with one or two recognised song-writers outside the band, or re-enlist the services of Jeff Boggs, who was an integral part of the song creation process when he was still in the line-up. Alternatively Julie should continue with a solo career as I believe she has a voice that suits songs of a more commercial nature. If you find yourself with a spare tenner and nothing to spend it on then the 'Judgement' CD is worth a listen ... make sure you get at least a fiver back in change though!

Dave Bott

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