I've seen Hank 3 play in the corner of a small bar when there was no stage. And I bought a bootleg CDR from the man himself when Curb Records refused to release his newest material. So I appreciate both the raw energy and fearless experimentation that he has been developing since day one.
His DIY work ethic has opened up a entire world of experimental music from Assjack and Cattle Callin to Hank 3's Attention Deficit Domination. But these albums are often recorded in a virtual vacuum with Shelton personally writing, recording, engineering, mixing, mastering and playing practically every instrument by himself! And while that is certainly an impressive feat, the albums seem to suffer for it... and "A Fiendish Threat" is no different.
The album is full of great songs that are sure to sound amazing when performed live. Unfortunately the actual recording sounds like a collection of unfinished demos. And this isn't the raw, frantic fuzz of a classic punk album or the blistering sound of bands like Guitar Wolf or The Jim Jones Revue who often record "in-the-red." This simply sounds like it was recorded on sub-par equipment in someone's basement.
Acoustic guitars are oddly peppered with distortion, the vocals seem to have been recorded through a cheap Radio Shack microphone, the stand-up bass is all but lost in the mix and the drums sounds shallow, muffled or tinny. It's almost like listening to a friend's old demo tape on a cheap boom box. "A Fiendish Threat" is certainly upfront and raw, but not in a good way.
The saving grace of this album is the energy and driving rhythm of the songs themselves. Occasionally they meander, drone on a bit too long or sound like a man jamming alone with a drum machine. But Hank 3 is truly an artistic genius, and I regard these recordings as sketches or promises of brilliant performances to come. Of course if you're not as forgiving, this might not be the album for you.