Hung Jury on Hang The Bastard

With their change of vocalist in 2012, Hang The Bastard transitioned from heavy hardcore that swung like King Kong to something I could never quite fathom with Tomas Hubbard’s black metal screeching. I saw them just after this change, and whilst it had been a great show, and I am yet to see a moshpit double in size so quickly as River’s Edge began (or see someone do push ups in the pit), but on record, whilst the riffs were still there, the vocals never meshed in the same way. But hearing of their break up, which was a bit of a shock after being around for seemingly forever (actually only since 2007, but that’s still 9 years of plugging away), it would have been a missed opportunity not to go to their last headlining gig on Monday 11th April at the Old Blue Last.

Opening support act Sodomised Cadaver had their strengths and their moments, but were never really able to move me. They had some good riffs and dynamic drumming, but the lack of a bass left a hole in the group, and the vocals were straightforward death metal high screech/low growl/higher screech/lower growl, although it was funny to hear frontman Raymond Packer say ‘Cheers, we’re Sodomised Cadaver from south Wales, this one’s called (switches to death growl) ‘Tortuuuurrre’ in a thick valley accent. They reminded me a bit of seeing local bands whilst studying in Canterbury; the ideas and the technical ability were there, the songwriting not so much.

 

Second band Harrowed sounded furious. It was great. Comparable to Nails, they played thick heavy hardcore, and when they slowed down it tended to get fast again very quickly.

 

Hang The Bastard got the crowd nodding it out as soon as the riffs came in, but it never really picked up from there. Perhaps the unreconciled mix between the screeched vocals and two–step riffs is the issue, but the energy, despite the writhing of guitarist Sam Rice, never really translated. The sound was strange, with the vocals often sounding as though only the reverb channel was coming through, making for an ineffective mix of high, bodiless screeching and thick riffs, which on records and at prior gigs could’ve churned a year’s worth of milk.

 

I feel bad to be criticising a band I love (Hellfire Reign spent eight months in my car CD player getting played very loudly to and from a job which I need to steel myself for, and then wind down from) who seemingly never got the attention they deserved, but this was not that great a gig for them, and the sound quality certainly didn’t help. I feel like a bit of a bastard (pun not intended) (well, now I’ve said it, maybe a bit) to blame vocalist Hubbard, but when they play at Holy Roar’s 10th anniversary gig on 21st May for their final gig, with original vocalist Chris Barling due to join them onstage, I’m hoping they can bring the hardcore hellfire one last time and send the bastards out with a bang.

 

The Winter of Our Content XV: I Looked Before Me, and There Was a Pale Gift Horse.

Mose Giganticus.

Mose…Giganticus.

Mose. Giganticus.

Stupid band name.

Fully appropriate.

Listening to Gift Horse in a warm room, I imagined how awesome it would sound on headphones whilst staring at the night sky, watching the falling snow thickening, feeling the wind grow. So despite the lack of snow, this is what I did. And given the incorporation of synthesizers and a vocoder into a traditionally guitar–centric genre, I’m sure in terms of sonic properties this isn’t black metal (synthcore? vococore? The possibilities are endless), yet a vast power, indifferent and unfathomable, shapes Gift Horse’s lyrics and is alluded to in the swirl of chugging guitars, slithering electronics and vocals that alter between booming deity and vocoder yowl, all played (or yowled) by one Matt Garfield.

 

Opening track The Last Resort starts as the album means to go on, by sounding like like an angry god finally set on that rampage. Squiggly little lead breaks on the synth are backed by chugging guitars, and the vocoded vocals start with

Master of light
creator of sky and sea
suffer and die
conditional mercy

Even if they had been stripped of lyrics, Mose Giganticus’ sound allows for these songs to form a narrative, much in the same way as Born To Run or School’s Out. Of course, this narrative is not hurt by the lyrics; second track The Left Path opens with

the hand that feeds you holds you down
your will is broken
crack the switch to split the hide
maintain the order
one thousand generations long these days are numbered

As you might have figured, the lyrics are the interplaying words of a decidedly Old (Testament)–skool God and post–eviction–from–Heaven Lucifer as the Battle of Armageddon approaches. Appropriately, as the narrative builds so does the music; this battle, this moment, is nigh, and to a reckoning we draw, by hoof, wing, the shifting of the earth. The lyrics, switching between the two perspectives, are delivered in mostly–intelligible vocals, and I love how key words ring out at just the right moment to tell the story in Biblical turns and phrases. In particular:

respect, patience, sincerity
incensed, justice, nevermore
Outcast, wanderer, criminal
exiled in the days of yore (Days of Yore)

and

dark sun, black flame
biding, waiting
watcher, titan
judgment pending (The Great Deceiver)

The band name seemed less silly and more and more appropriate as Gift Horse charged on, with Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, which is in part an inverted retelling of Paradise Lost, coming to mind; lofty stuff for synthcore indeed. And as song names for closing tracks go, The Seventh Seal takes the top spot, deposing Fairies Wear Boots in the process. It is the only track to take its time coming in, and builds and repeats wonderfully, with the guitar solo being absolute top of the cliff material. And then I am in the silence, in the dark, by the cold lake by the woods, a soft wind ruffling my notepad. And did not Lucifer climb out of Hell?

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