If there's a true maverick of the underground aside from Mike Patton, no doubt it's Hank 3. While his bloodline indirectly calls upon him to stand worthy of the Grand Ole Opry, if you know anything about the Hank Williams lineage, you know the youngest would just as soon level the place down to cinders until they reinstate has grandfather into their hall of fame.
Frankly, everything Hank 3 has done in his crust-punk-doom-country-collided career has been a veritable spit upon the pavement of the Opry, be it his involvement in ASSJACK and SUPERJOINT RITUAL to his own spread of entities ranging from HANK III to 3 BAR RANCH to ATTENTION DEFICIT DOMINATION and now his latest venture, the simply-named 3.
By no means to be confused with the pop-tinted prog unit of the same name, 3 comes to play this year as an outlet for Hank 3 to shove out a pair of simultaneous albums, the cowpunk slapper, "A Fiendish Threat" and a pure country double album, "Brothers of the 4x4". Recording both albums in a span of four months with the same stable of like-minded backup players, "A Fiendish Threat" is the album that will gain the bigger attention.
Hank 3 describes "A Fiendish Threat" as an album that took some years off of him and for certain, there's a refreshing vigor punching out of it. Hank 3 fields the guitars and drums on this thing and yowls through a voice filter, giving the new joint a hellbilly punk-industrial texture to it. All dashed by devilish fiddling from David McElfresh and Billy Contreras plus stand-up bass thwacking from Zach Shedd. Most of Hank's guitars are acoustic, which lends a cheeky if pretty damned impressive air to the punk feel of the record carrying hints of the MISFITS, RAMONES, SUBHUMANS and STIFF LITTLE FINGERS.
Many of the songs here speed like a thoroughbred stud in fear of having its nuts shorn off, in particular the galloping duo of "There's Another Road" and "Broke Jaw". The latter is the faster of the pair and before you're settled into the breezing chord switches, an out-of-nowhere slide guitar solo is heaped in, carrying a hallucinogenic echo you'll feel punch drunk from. While you're hanging dazed, stand by for some monster fiddles in the midst of it all. Then there's the full-on blitzes of "Face Down" and "Full On", songs that fly at such a crazy fast pace it's a wonder Hank and Zach Shedd didn't break their raped strings in the process. Considering most of these songs were done in a single take, the chop-slop feel of "Face Down" and "Full On" are remarkable in their fierce execution.
Some of the songs of "A Fiendish Threat" are on the mid-tempo side, but they carry serious clout. "Watchin' U Suffer" is the most ass-kicking number on the record with the nastiest groove, the fiercest beat and violins that taunt behind the knuckle-brawling heft of the song. "Breakin' Free" is wrangled in the same manner, albeit there's a wicked breakdown segment leading into another warped slide guitar wave, followed by a sedate section of chimes and then another razzing fiddle rip. A presumed personal anthem, Hank 3 bellows on this track about busting out of music conventions and (assumedly) those who continue to dog him for not remaining pure country. The finale of "Breakin' Free" is set up with a downhome country swill in the flavor of Hank the elder that's torched in the final seconds. You just know the grandson is, in his own way, saying "fuck you" to the Opry committee, much as he always has. In direct answer to "Breakin' Free" comes the uppity "New Identity" and "Fight My Way", both of which address Hank's domestic hullabaloos as much as his musical controversies.
"Different From the Rest" is Hank 3's definitive self-ode as much as it's one for the entire Eighties punk and hardcore ethos he draws from on "A Fiendish Threat". It has a decided MISFITS slide that burps straight out of the psychobilly shuffle of "Can I Rip U" in the beginning of the album, the latter complete with hilarious distorted response calls.
Not as over-the-top zany as the death grind scorching overtop the cattle calling loops in 3 BAR RANCH, "A Fiendish Threat" yells giddyap out of the chute and the listener is expected to grab on for life beyond a mere eight seconds. Go ahead and cheat with both hands. By the time you reach the swarming fiddles nattering throughout the heavier tones of "Feel the Sting" and the doom-flavored ballad of "Your Floor" (where Hank shoves out a broiled Ozzy impression and the fiddles are mutated into something befitting of a nasty peyote trip), you've been flung through quite a ride which prompts a few laughs and a lot of slams.
For a reported ADD-dyslexic, Hank 3 is one of the most prolific artists of this generation. Whether or not you appreciate his weird ways, there's no denying he has balls of steel. Hank mockingly hollers through his voice scrambler that he's a big disgrace on the title track. As if. More musicians should follow this guy's lead and stand true to themselves. A Grammy seems as likely as an induction into the Grand Ole Opry for Hank 3. What's coolest about the cat is that every move he makes is done against those grains with a callused middle finger in the air.