Hot Milk - 'A Call To The Void' Album Review
1. Welcome to the…
2. Horror Show
4. Party on my Deathbed
5. Alice Cooper’s Pool House
6. Zoned Out
7. Over Your Dead Body
9. Breathing Underwater
10. Amphetamine (featuring Julian Comeau and Loveless)
11. Forget Me Not
As an American, I have always felt an affinity to bands from across the pond with my brother introducing me to Def Leppard’s ‘High n Dry’ on vinyl in 1981 which quickly became ingrained in my brain. Whether it was later bands like the Dogs D’amour, Wildhearts, Kerbdog, XC-NN, Die Cheerleader, or others moving up to the recent explosion of incredible bands like the Mysterines, James and the Cold Gun, Wargasm UK, and Hot Milk; the affinity has never felt stronger. I heard Hot Milk for the first time several months ago when the first video (‘Party on my Deathbed’) from this album was released and immediately started seeking out everything I could find by them. For a band that is releasing their full-length debut album, they have already assembled a catalog of great songs. The old adage that you have your whole life to write your debut album really doesn’t apply in this situation as my Hot Milk playlist has 19 songs that are not on the album. Much like the Wildhearts did at the beginning, Hot Milk has released some EPs and didn’t duplicate any of the material when the time came for a full length album. James and the Cold Gun released an incredible debut album a month ago that is a high contender for my album of the year, and it has serious competition from this one by Hot Milk, who have delivered a killer release.
Easing into the album with ‘Welcome to the…’ providing a short introduction with a nice soundscape that incorporates beautiful vocals by Jim and Han which are awesome on their own but magical when they come together in harmony. It provides an uplifting musical start to the album even with the ‘Am I the darkness’ refrain which is brilliantly countered with the hard hitting ‘Horror Show,’ the second single released from the album. Whether you call it rock or power pop with an emphasis on the power, Han’s vocals on the first verse are full of venom with the band slamming into an infectious chorus. Jim moves into the lead for the vocals on the second verse with equal effect. The third single from the album follows with the catchy pop of ‘Bloodstream’ proving irresistible. I am not sure what the writing process for the band is in terms of how they decide who is singing which part, but it definitely works. This song should have been all over the radio and in danger of being one of those songs that years from now people never want to hear again because of how much it has been played. Ironically, this was the one early release song that took a few extra listens because it was a lighter musical touch than the first two songs. Hot Milk’s evolution has shown a gradual increase in the overall intensity of their music with more and more teeth shining through the pop elements.
First single and my introduction to the album follows with ‘Party on my Deathbed’ being one of my favorite and most listened to songs of 2023. The guitar introduction and sampled voice introduce a brilliant rager that showcases Jim’s vocals with Han providing a melodic counter and a hook that my 11 year-old son knows by heart. One of the things that I really love in the song is that it feels like it gets more and more chaotic vocally as it progresses through the second verse with the band then returning to the killer chorus. The break at the end of the song provides even more dynamics to set up the final chorus. Hot Milk has already developed this incredible knack of dancing between and over genres to give their songs different flavors while always sounding like themselves. They have developed a sound that should see them reap the benefits of building bigger and bigger audiences if there is any justice in the universe. ‘Alice Cooper’s Pool House’ provides an unusual song title that reads like it could come from an Alice album. It even features a spoken piece by Alice after the song with the song itself being another melodic power pop diamond of a song. Lyrically, Hot Milk address some dark themes across the album, but they feel more like rally cries to move forward when the universe may be against you. I have always admired when artists can take darkness and create a cathartic release for the listener.
Staying in their power pop vibe, ‘Zoned Out’ continues with a bright sheen and feels like it is designed to compete with the other pop acts on the radio. Han’s vocals in the bridge are beautiful, and I feel like this song will take on added intensity in a live setting which I have seen online with some of their other pure pop songs. The end of the song provides a great opportunity to allow the rest of the band to develop an extended jam to lead into a more intense song in a live setting. On the album, the band turns up the intensity again with ‘Over Your Dead Body’ incorporating emo elements and a cool staggering rhythm effect that leads into the chorus. I can see this one having a similar intensity to their song ‘Split Personality’ in the live setting. Jim’s screaming vocals are extremely effective in adding another layer to an already rich song. Han’s vocals introduce ‘Migraine’ where the band deliver another power pop blast that incorporates some cool effects, a super catchy chorus, and a great scream by Han at the end.
The band launched a campaign supporting ‘Breathing Underwater’ before the single was released and highlighted how important the song is to the band. It seems the video has gathering viewers at a high rate and with good reason. The hook in the song is huge, and it hits hard lyrically. The first bit of the song starts as a quiet ballad and explodes when that first chorus hits. Again, in a just world, this song is hitting the charts and staying there for an extended amount of time. I imagine there will be a day when Jim and Han will sing this with just acoustic guitars, and it will induce tears. ‘Amphetamine’ details a battle with mental health and trying to get help. I love the rhythm in the song, and the special guests here bring some different ingredients to the song which include another chorus that will take up permanent space in the listener’s head. Closing out the album, Jim’s vocals introduce ‘Forget Me Not’ with the song’s mellow beginning giving way to a slow looping rhythm. I can already hear the crowd singing the words back to Jim and Han. It provides an understated but magnificent end to the album.
Hot Milk have crafted an awesome debut album that builds upon their earlier releases and shows a band that appears to have unlimited musical avenues to incorporate into their DNA. When I first heard them, it was one of those magical moments where an artist’s songs feel like they come from somewhere inside yourself as a listener. The songs exist in the soul and find the memories or experiences that channel into a song and give them more depth. The dual vocals of Han and Jim provide the band another musical element where they can trade off lead vocals to give them extra dynamics and form some great harmonies where they make each other’s voices even stronger. Perhaps the biggest recommendation I can put forward on this album is I have ordered it three different ways, including the Japanese version for the bonus tracks.
‘Party on my Deathbed’ video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YH8xucLawCM
‘Breathing Underwater’ video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNxff61oyqo
Website - https://www.hotmilk.co.uk/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/youlikehotmilk
Review - Gerald Stansbury