Hang The Bastard – Sex in the Seventh Circle



Picture the scene. It’s a slate grey sky and a howling wind. It’s a Saturday lunchtime and you have a hangover straight out of the lower reaches of Hades. Going to watch a band might be the last thing on your mind. But this is what I’m doing at the UK Hammerfest Festival in North Wales. And what a great decision this was. The band in question were Hang The Bastard who proceeded to tear me and all the lucky souls who had clambered out of their sleep pits a proverbial new one, rip our collective faces off and send our hangovers back to their sulphuric origins. Marvellous stuff.

It’s these fond memories of face-ripping and adrenaline surges that preface the listening of this new opus and this fledgling band’s second full length album. The charmingly monikered Sex in the Seventh Circle (SOAR/Century Media) is as pumped up as a steroid doping muscleman, as gnarly as an old tree branch and full of gusto and effervescent promise. If you wanted a decent example of what heavy metal sounds like today then you could do much worse than land here.

Sex in the Seventh Circle is respectful of its heavy metal lineage but not to the extent that it is a mere facsimile of a Black Sabbath album; on the contrary, there are more riffs here than you can shake a particularly sticky stick at; riffs that Crowbar or Down would be very pleased to call their own but there’s loads more going on than praying at the Iommi altar.

On the opening track ‘Keeping Vigil’, the band conjur such a spectacular cacophony of noise and bludgeoning intent that you worry that by throwing everything, including (if you listen hard enough) the kitchen sink, into four minutes of throat grabbing attention that they won’t have anything left for the rest of the album.

Ye of little faith, listener. Whilst ‘…Vigil’ is a serious statement of intent, it is by no means the high point of the record. The aural swampy stew that is ‘The Majestic Gathering of Goetia’ wears its New Orleans sludge like a freshly inked tattoo whilst I dare you – I absolutely double and triple dare you – not to headbang during the glorious title track. There, I can see you doing it already.

It would not be responsible of me to pass up this review without making comment on Tomas Hubbard’s astonishing vocal performance. To say it is marmite is an understatement. It is probably the defining sound of the record but also the element that will enrage as many as it delights. From guttural roar through to black metal-esque screeching, one can be in little doubt that there are not many bands that sound like this. To these ears, that is part of this band’s charm. It would be really easy to put together a record with plenty of clean singing, big choruses and so forth but then Hang The Bastard would end up sounding like every other band around who have a copy of Never Say Die.

It is testimony to their self-belief and their ambition that they have created a record that sounds this distinctive and so self-evidently contentious. It’s clear that Hang The Bastard want to sound like one band only- and that’s Hang the Bastard. ‘Sex in the Seventh Circle’ has echoes of stoner, doom, sludge and classic metal easing through its grooves- so what? At the end of the day ‘Sex in the Seventh Circle’ is, labels aside, proper, heavy, grown up fun.


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Slipknot – .5: The Gray Chapter


.5: The Gray Chapter (Roadrunner) is an album of some significance.

Not just because this will be the most high-profile heavy release of the year (probably by some distance) from the biggest current relevant band in metal; not just because six years and two months have passed since their last, the under-rated but far from classic All Hope Is Gone; but because this album will have to answer the burning questions over whether Slipknot, this generations’ standard-bearers and the largest and most impactful metal band since Metallica, can still raise the flag and deliver following everything they have had to endure in the intervening period.

So, is The Gray Chapter good enough?

The answer to that, and the questions above, is emphatic. The Gray Chapter is a statement of intent, a mountain-strong collection of hate-anthems to stand with Slipknot’s best.

All Killer, No Filler, And then some. .5 punches hard, deep and long, undeniably their most consistent album since 2001’s Iowa, with ten of the twelve full songs clear and valid options to be elevated to a set list already packed full of classics.

The Gray Chapter explodes to life as the venomous ‘Sarcastrophe’ launches with a roar over a trademark downtuned ‘knot riff, like a rattling rollercoaster with drums and taut percussion slamming under DJ Sid Wilson’s scratching, sirens and whirls as a stomping anthem of violence is spat out. ‘AOV’ follows in the same vein; a spiteful, claustrophobic pounding that opens out into clever hook of a chorus, with impassioned delivery from ringmaster Corey Taylor. Next, the excellent melodic insurrection of ‘The Devil In I’ raises the level of the impressive start to the album, a track to rival a ‘Duality’ or a ‘Left Behind’.

And then there is ‘Killpop’, a milestone track; beautiful, dark, venerable and vulnerable, a song of gravitas and reflection that continues down the left hand path of ‘Vermillion’ and ‘Snuff’, that reminds that, amongst the clatter, this is a band with genuine depth behind it.

Having visited anger and reflection, it seems the band finally reaches acceptance at the midpoint with the songs most clearly about the tragically departed Paul Gray, the melancholy ‘Goodbye’ and ‘Skeptic’, a catchy uptempo riot with Taylor hollering “The world will never see another crazy motherfucker like you, The world will never know another man as amazing as you”. That expressed, it’s like a weight off the mind of the album and things tear off, starting with ‘Nomadic’ and its classic grind-and-click-into-huge-chorus Slipknot.

Reaching the conclusion of their fifth opus the band hit the “moving on” part of the Kübler-Ross curve, delivering two immense slabs of Class A Slipknot. ‘Custer’, with its “Cut cut cut me up, fuck fuck fuck me up!” refrain deals out a pounding that is half Slipknot, half Subliminal Verses, Shawn Crahan showing how important his percussion is to the overall sound by tying their new (as yet unveiled) drummer to the Slipknot groove. Meanwhile there are further daemons shown to be exorcized in ‘The Negative One’, a song that despite protestations has to be about Joey Jordison, and it stomps out a syncopated battery and buzzing migraine of a low-slung riff, before ‘If Rain Is What You Want’, a sombre and pained conclusion.

The Slipknot sound has long been established, their influence is inherent, but what .5: The Gray Chapter achieves is unity – a pulling together of all the relevant bits of Slipknot. It may not have the vitriol and face-ripping point-proving of Iowa but it does amalgamate everything else that is Slipknot into one tribute to their past, and to those that passed. If there is a criticism it is that development seems to have ceased, as this is an collating and re-presenting of their previous endeavours, but the ‘knot still completely and absolutely pwn metal’s mainstream.

Nine may have become seven, but if you’re five five five, then they’re (still) six six six.

As I said before, .5: The Gray Chapter is an album of some significance.


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