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We need to talk about organs. Not as in heart, lungs and intestines, but the keyboard instrument. Once the cornerstone of the 70's hard rock and proto-metal sound, the organ is now often just a supplemental instrument. Created by a preset on a synthesizer, modern bands tend to use organs in order to lend a vague classic rock sound to a specific song or part of a song. nostalgia's cool, but I take issue with this kind of superfluous organ usage, because it reduces the instrument to a kind of signpost. You hear an organ and think "oh, [insert band] likes Deep Purple too!"

Of course they do. Everyone does. But Deep Purple's John Lord, like fellow organ gods Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson, were interested in the organ itself. they loved the sound of the instrument, and its connection to classical music. They saw rock - and by extension metal - as directly connected to the traditional organ music of the past. Modern bands only see their music as connected to Lord, Wakeman and Emerson.

But not Hellwell. The most interesting thing about this band is not that it's the de facto solo project of Manilla Road mastermind Mark "The Shark" Shelton - even though that alone makes it worth listening to. no, the thing that sticks out about Hellwell is that Shelton is best known as a vocalist and guitarist, but the organ takes absolute center stage on his new record, Behind the Demon's Eyes. Shelton's artificial pipes sometimes sound like something from the Phantom of the Opera, and other times explicitly quote classical music the way that Wolf Hoffman's guitar in Accept does. It shows off chops and knowledge, but never feels pretentious, and that alone is a triumph.

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Behind the Demon's Eyes is available on April 14 via High Roller Records. Follow Hellwell on Facebook.

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