Suffering & the Hideous Thieves – Ashamed

Suffering & the Hideous Thieves – led by Jeff Suffering formerly of Ninety Pound Wuss and Raft of Dead Monkeys – treads a fine line between over-the-top melodrama and dramatic rock music. The beauty of this band is in how well these folks tread that line. It would be easy to give in to the morose, almost haunting lyrics Suffering delivers in his almost wailing voice, but the Thieves provide such a powerful and inventive rock grounding that the lyrics and their delivery seem all the more intense and empowered.

On Ashamed, the band may be at its most rocking, pounding out propulsive rhythms, wailing (almost Dinosaur Jr-esque) guitars, and moving basslines. And Suffering’s voice, which is surely one of those love-it-or-hate-it voices in rock, gives you more to love than to hate, drifting like a carnival ride from moody and haunting to intense and powerful, able to go from almost gentle singing to nearly screamed wails. And for all the rocking moments here, the band embraces a gentle pop sensibility as well.

The great, cacophonous assault of wailing guitars and crashing drums of the opening title track provide a nice counterpart to Suffering’s moaning vocals, as he sings lines like “You will know what it’s like to die alone” with a kind of morose sincerity. If that sets the stage ominously, “Dora” follows it up with the band’s most beautiful song yet. More of a pop song, the melodies are gentle, the backing vocals strong, and Suffering’s voice more sung than usual. The strings on “Don’t You Stop Believing” lend this song a similarly gentle feel, and Suffering’s vocals are given an echoed approach that mixes with some more layered guitar work.

“Babylon” brings back the rock, and the percussion here is absolutely astounding, driving this song on at its powerful beginning. The song slows down as Suffering moans out a lyric and begins to sing gently, but it explodes again in the album’s most definitive rock moments. “I’ll give you eyes of God / I’ll give you lungs of steel,” he almost moans before the song explodes and he continues in shout, “To inhale all this bacteria spilling from the loins of Babylon.” The enigmatic “Believe” is a post-rock gem, changing styles, blistering at times and breaking into a complex, rhythm-led flow at others. Suffering draws out the word “believe” in his howled “do you still believe?” in a way that sounds as if he’s going to break down at any second. Even better is the powerful mid-tempo rocker “I Am Tomorrow” that may feature some of the album’s most intense moments. At its conclusion, the guitars and drums get ever faster, and Suffering repeatedly shouts “I am, I am tomorrow!” If the album ended here, I’d be thrilled, but the album closes with the soft and gentle “1975” that proves the band can be as good this way as in its intense moments.

There’s assorted short interludes here, and they vary from the gorgeous (the gypsy-style flow of “Peltron Wheel Suite, I”) to the absurd (spoken-word on “I Will Always Find a Way” and discordant mayhem of “Awake”). Although not an interlude, the five-plus-minute instrumental “Sleeping” shows what this band is truly capable of in shameless, swirling rock glory.

Suffering & The Hideous Thieves isn’t one of those bands most people will love instantly, but these guys will grow on you, guaranteed. The production here is immaculate, drawing out every brilliant guitar riff, rhythmic change, sweep of strings, and, most importantly, Suffering’s truly original vocals. The songs are powerful in their own right, and if they’re a little melodramatic and morose, that’s the band’s charm.