I’ve been waiting for this album for awhile, and I am incredibly excited to finally hear it because it’s dark, deep, and very emotional. Let me preface this review by saying that Beta Camp frontman Hunter Lukas is an incredible songwriter and every track is very raw, very hard-hitting, and one of my favorites to be released this year. The band released one EP under the name Ellis prior to changing the name to Beta Camp and reworked the three songs on the EP into their debut Violent Honey which is so much different than I imagined it to be.
Oddly enough, I’ll start with things I wasn’t a fan of: the reworked version of “Words Unsaid” – the production sounded crisp, but the mix levels between the instrumentation and vocals didn’t line up to an easy experience. There was some opportunity throughout that song and others on the album. Something that came as interest to me is that the only reworked song I did like is “Run” since it being acoustic was a much better feeling than the original song.
One of my favorite tracks to watch live as I saw Beta Camp perform through the last couple of years is “Asleep At the Wheel,” so it’s an instant song to love and a wonderful way to greet the listener. Nothing hits me hard again like that until later in the middle of the album in “Tight Rope” when Lukas sings “I sold my soul on the corner of heaven and hell, I was so close.” There’s a very weary sense of self the song has and it’s a bit dark, something Beta Camp hasn’t encountered with their other songs.
Overall, Violent Honey sounds like a Brand New record (just listen to “Robe of White”). The album is acoustic, which I thought was a nice touch, but the full band instrumentals fall short of everything this album could be. What’s unfortunate is that most of the issues I have with this album are in the production themselves. Though most of this review may sound negative, I do want to point out that a lot of these tracks are incredible. It isn’t even a question that the talent they bear goes without hesitation. “Settle In” is one of the best songs I’ve heard over the course of the entire year. Most of my feelings towards Violent Honey come from disappointment on the inconsistent production for the most part.
Regardless, Beta Camp’s debut album is definitely one you should check out, and maybe decide for yourself if you enjoy it. I hope this doesn’t hold you back because their live show is infectious.
September 30, 2017 (Independent)
7/10 (Brad LaPlante)
Replay: “Tight Rope”