Hellbastard – Feral

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It’s rare to find a band that are still a) interesting and b) experimenting after three or four decades. But UK crossover legends Hellbastardhave managed to do just that.After their original run from 1985-1991, the Geordie four piece reformed in 2008. Feral (Patac) is just the fourth album from the band – “Scruff” Lewty (Vocals, Guitars), Pete Salvage (Guitars), Laine Pearce-Rees (Bass) and Nathan Ellis (Drums) – and second since they regrouped.

Hellbastard are seen by many as the pioneers of crust punk, and reinforce the heritage with guest appearances from fellow UK crusties; Amebix’s Rob “The Baron” Miller and Andy “A. Droid” Wiggins, as well as Sabbat’s Andy Sneap. The PR guff describes Feral as “primal, back-to-nature shit,” which translates as “pretty simplistic, but still heavy”. Which is strange, because for the most part, it’s not particularly crusty.

For much of the record, it’s pretty route-one thrash album chock-full with political observations and snide phrasing from Scruff’s spat lyrics. Or at least it seems that way on first listen.Outside of the Year’ or ‘And the Point of Your Being Is…’ are prime examples of classic crossover the likes of Municipal Waste have taken to a wider audience. ‘Social Hand Grenade’ features some classic squealing guitar work while ‘Engineering Human Consciousness II’ is the kind perfect mosh pit fodder WarBeast would be proud of.

After a few listens however, you start to realise there are some surprises. The switches between raw aggression and a melodic chorus on opener ‘In Praise Of Bast…/Feral’ catch the listener off guard, while the impressive 8-minute three-part epic ‘We Are Coven’ strays into progressive territory. The left turn of4-Paws’ could pass for a gothic power ballad with it strings section and spoken word passages. The extra twists that are thrown into the traditional thrash/punk mix ensure that what could have easily been a tired rehash remains fresh.

Feral isn’t perfect and it’s not all quality or inventive. ‘Shame on Us’ is a passable mid-paced stomper, and though ‘Wychcraft’ has plenty of menace it meanders without going anywhere. But two duds isn’t bad for such a surprisingly varied album. For a band celebrating their 30th year, HellBastard still sound as angry as their name suggests. More impressively though, Feral shows a band willing to experiment and expand their palette into new grounds. There’s enough nodding back for legacy fans, but more than interesting enough material to make them worthwhile for anyone looking for a new spin on thrash.

 

7.5/10

DAN SWINHOE

Fistula – Vermin Prolificus

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The opening lazy riff and bass line of Vermin Prolificus (PATAC), the sixth album from Ohio scuzzbuckets Fistula, is so volumed up that the resonance is staggering, and is probably the lowest and heaviest rumble I’ve heard since Ramesses departed our world. It’s typically bloody nasty this, despite guitarist Corey Bing being the only remaining member from their last effort six years ago. New vocalist Dan Harrington possesses a largely guttural scream which drives opener ‘Smoke, Cat Hair and Toenails’, the message of which is forced home by an overabundance of archive recordings, including an apparently televised drugs intervention which reappears throughout.

The ensuing ‘Harmful Situation’ is grind-like punk, one of a few short and snappy moments slightly belying the sludge tag but remaining heavy and very hostile. There’s a certain dangerous irresponsibility at times with the glut of sound-bites at the head of ‘Pig Funeral’ also serving a purpose: to paint a purulent, diseased message of police hatred and murder, and lay the path for a tune that would doubtless gratify any number of cop-murdering scumbags festering behind their iron bars. Frustratingly, the track itself is a largely glorious wade through a thick, fizzing morass, picking up pace in the last third to a filthy grind diatribe dripping in grimy goop. It will have you squirming in your seat or screaming bloody revolution, depending on your point of view.

Given the seemingly puerile messages here it’s easy to dismiss this mob as sensationalist noise makers but there’s more substance beneath the shocking veneer. The brief ‘Upside Down’ displays the usual genre mantra of “Hell is other people” and is played with a real menace, but there’s a sense of pity that stirs as well as unsettles. The title track, a rumbling, oozing undercurrent, picks up on that intervention amid other narcotic messages, and the samples are often so full of despair that the band’s intent is somewhat inscrutable.

Whatever the intent, through sound alone this is an uneasy yet captivating listen, full of disgustingly dirty throbbing noise and malevolence, and despite that reliance on sound-bites, it demands your attention.

7.5/10

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PAUL QUINN