EP Review: BELLHEAD - Remix With Guns


I'm pleased to be writing about one of the most interesting and unique bands to come out of the USA in recent times. Although they have a retro edge to their sound, it never feels out of place and always leaves you hungering for a little bit more. You can't get much more rock n' roll than this duo. You can read our previous articles on them here: Spotlight article

Unicorn Bones EP review

2020 was a year where most bands could be excused if they decided to take time off and hope for the best in 2021, but then again BELLHEAD isn’t most bands. The critically acclaimed duo of Karen and Ivan are following up their highly successful regarded 'Unicorn Bones' EP and subsequent "Sanity Assassin" single, with a new EP titled 'Remix with Guns' + an additional EP's worth of Bonus content for free. While 'Remix With Guns' will be available on all platforms, the bonus content ‘Remix With Guns: Part 2’ will be available completely for free only through BELLHEAD's brand new mailing list.


BELLHEAD burst onto the scene in late 2019 with the release of two strong singles released back to back, “Fire Control” and “Runaway”. They fast tracked their rise to prominence with the release of their debut EP, ‘Unicorn Bones’ in July of 2020. Crossing over fan bases and genres from the post-punk, gothic, industrial, alternative and metal scenes, ‘Unicorn Bones’ opened many doors for the band as they started to reach the mainstream with articles and reviews in such high profile media outlets as Bass Magazine, WhiteLight/WhiteHeat, Post-Punk.com and many more.

BELLHEAD were recognized with some prestigious awards during the summer and fall months of the year; “Band of the Month for August” by Music Eternal and winner of September's “Artist of the Month” award from the esteemed Deli Magazine. Their songs were featured on several radio stations including Q101 Chicago with many stations keeping BELLHEAD in constant rotation. BELLHEAD also worked with two very talented directors; John Weaver and Scott Fedor (who has also worked on multiple MCU films) for music videos in support of their releases. The “Unicorn Bones” video quickly garnered over 1,000 views in just two weeks time, while their cover of the Bauhaus fan favorite “Sanity Assassin” debuted on the highly respected White Light/White Heat website.


BELLHEAD completed a remix of their own song "Knife" for the Cancer benefit compilation 'Electronic Saviors Volume 6: Reflection (Metropolis Records). The band was approached to do further remixes throughout 2020 by artists such as Stoneburner and Attrition. After the release of the ‘Unicorn Bones’ EP, thought was given to putting together a remix EP to share BELLHEAD songs and shine a light on the talent of other related artists and ‘Remix With Guns’ was born.

‘Remix With Guns’ EP features not only the new title song “With Guns” but also a remix done by the band themselves of the previously unreleased song “Drugstore Keri”. The EP is rounded out nicely by remixes from musicians that BELLHEAD has hand-selected including artists from the esteemed Side-Line Music Magazine ‘Face The Beat’ Series. Across ‘Remix With Guns’ and ‘Remix With Guns: Part 2’ listeners will hear the work of contributors, producers, or members of: Chemlab, Sister Machine Gun, Pigface, Hip Deep Trilogy, Mnpltr, The Final Cut, Bounte, I:scintilla, Atomica Project, Missing In Stars, Emulsion and more!


As large corporations' algorithms throttle communication via Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter the band decided to take things into their own hands with an old school guerrilla mailing list. Karen and Ivan wanted to give something back to their long time fans and reward new listeners by creating an email mailing list kicking off with an EP of bonus material ‘Remix With Guns: Part 2’ The band describes their mailing list as: “Part mailing list, part free patreon, and part secret Santa. We want to be able to give our fans something special, so they realize they are important to us. You may get a random song emailed to you, an exclusive mailing list advance to our new releases, or stickers or holiday cards from us in the mail.” The band further states “We are thinking of making it monthly, we don’t want to fill your inbox. We may also take the opportunity to turn the spotlight on other creators both musical and visual. It’s very exciting to have a direct dialog with our listeners and let them know directly how much we appreciate each of them as individuals and their feedback.” For those fans who sign up to the mailing list now at the address below they will receive the Bonus EP ‘Remix With Guns: Part 2’ content for FREE in the spring.


This supplemental EP to ‘Remix With Guns’ sees the band deliver a more throwback industrial dance remix EP that will be right at home for old school fans of import singles. Seven tracks available directly to listeners stylized as an exclusive European import extended play. You can sign up for the mailing list here: http://eepurl.com/hndoUr


For “With Guns” BELLHEAD returned to their trusted production team of Neil Strauch (production / technical assistance for Counting Crows, Iron and Wine) and Car Saff (production / technical assistance on Acid Mothers Temple, Smoking Popes, Red Fang, Guided by Voices). BELLHEAD are a Post-Punk duo made up of two Chicago music scene veterans who have left their mark across the tattered music landscape. Consisting of High Bass/Lead Vocalist Ivan Russia, formerly of the infamous Ahab Rex, Mr. Russia, and Sheriff Scabs; partnering with Low Bass/Vocalist Karen Righeimer who has been a member of bands such as Fashion Bomb, Team Cybergeist, W.O.R.M, and Bethany Thomas. BELLHEAD’s releases are for download and streaming on all major platforms.


Review

'With Guns' returns to that creepy horror ambience BELLHEAD seem to be establishing themselves in rather well. It instantly puts me in the mind of films like 'House of a thousand corpses' Or 'From dusk 'til dawn'; In fact the moody 90's feel would probably have done well in classic shows like 'Buffy the vampire slayer'. Whereas in a modern show, it would be the track playing over the final few minutes of montage for a shocking TV thriller.

The pace is slow and seductive, dangerous yet enticing and makes for an impressive opener. The remix makes it even more sinister like a haunted fairground theme but also adds an interesting effect that makes the brass wind instrument they have used sound almost dub-step like to a certain degree and to quite a slow paced song this is something much different to what I've ever heard before.

It's almost like BELLHEAD want to be 'THE' go to Halloween band and I'm all for that!


'Drugstore Keri' is a dark ballad with a great vocal effect at the start of the chorus. Definitely one for the darker, slower, more edgy nightclub dancefloors to which the night time denizens would no doubt join in with singing 'She's my Drugstore Keri!'


In contrast 'Fire Control' has a nice - fast and filthy cyberpunk edge that adds some real fist pumping, boot stomping rhythms and loops. The lyrics work so well in the aggressive undertone mixed with chaotic electronic samples creating a digital art piece exploding in your mind through the medium of sound. I imagine this is what an Android's dreams might sound like.


That quintessential and all American voice that was on every horror and blockbuster film trailer since the 70s and 80's (And As recent as the film Machete I think) introduces us to 'Snuff Film'. The nostalgia and feel good factor is instantly off-the-charts. What an incredible choice of sample to include in a song!! This is a flaming dragster race of powerful rock and metal that only the USA can produce. It is by far my favourite track on the EP.


Finishing off is a remix of 'Sidewinder' from the 'Unicorn Bones' release. It has a smooth and mellow vibe that brings a wonderful relaxing and fresh end to the EP. Like a pallet being cleansed after a meal by an expensive drink. A rather impressive and somewhat more industrial pop angle that proves BELLHEAD will throw some curve balls now and then to keep you guessing with each release!


Tracklist


With Guns

Drugstore Keri (BELLHEAD Remix)

Fire Control (Ordinary Mammal Remix 2)

Snuff Film 1974 (Sister Sarin Remix)

Sidewinder (Bounte Remix)

With Guns (Afterbirth Remix 2)


Conclusion


If there really is another 'Nightmare before Christmas' film being made then BELLHEAD neeeed to be on the soundtrack. They have the perfect level of grit and spine chill levelled out by easy listening. Rock and roll, punk, metal, and spike of industrial make for a unique and rather charming EP which is at direct odds with the lyrical horror content.

BELLHEAD do far more than impress with every release, they also set the foundations for a very strong future with a great variety of direction. I really hope I get to see them perform live one day. Whether that be with them pacing around fancy lounge bar tables playing to the horror concept and bringing the audience in to their performance, or be it a packed out venue in a much heavier setting; Either way Karen and Ivan would slay any performance for sure!


Scores:


Technicality: 7/10

Dance factor: 7/10

Energy: 8/10

Vocals: 7/10

Re-playability: 8/10

Overall score: 7.4/10

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