Hang the Bastard – Hellfire Reign

Hang the Bastard - Hellfire Reign cover

According to the short biog on their label’s website, Hang the Bastard “sound like Eyehategod, Electric Wizard and Sabbath learning Slayer riffs whilst listening to Integrity and Ringworm“. Alas, I’ve never listened to Electric Wizard, never heard of Ringworm, am only passingly familiar with Eyehategod and Integrity, and don’t care for Slayer – although I do dig Sabbath, mostly since being genuinely blown away by how good a show they put on live. Still, by the sounds of things I’m about the worst person to review this record, but hey, I’m always up for a challenge…

So, throwing aside for a moment sub-genre definitions, what you have here is really aggressive and speedy chugging metal, replete with heavy palm mutes and fat riffs loaded with low-end sound, and some occasional sweet lead strung over the top – plus the occasional bit of synth. A little while ago, before writing this review, I described the band as “big, brash stoner metalcore” which I don’t think is too unfair; from the comically grotesque imagery (in the artwork and in those lyrics I’ve been able to make out – digital review copy, unfortunately) to the fact that the music sounds like it would knock you down, pick you back up and press a joint into your hand before flailing off to thrash its fucking neck some more.

That said, you’d be absolutely wrong if you took my use of the stoner label to mean that this record is meandering or self-indulgent. So don’t think that. This is an album which demonstrates restraint; the integrity of the song takes primacy over individual showing off.

In terms of individual songs, I’d pick out ‘Hell’s Teeth’ which boasts some particularly sick riffage, ‘The Blackest Eyes’ for its synthy intro and kick-arse vocal interplay (chanted group vocals from the rest of the band interposed with throaty roars from the singer), and the sinister-sounding tremolo guitar in ‘Genesis’, which also boasts some classic metal-esque soloing – without straying into masturbatory territory, of course.

Probably my favourite song present is the closer, ‘Farewell Leicester Square’, which is a good tune to end on. It alternates smoothly between mournful guitar licks and solos and chugging riff-heavy segments replete with the machismo that characterises most of this record, before ending with feedback and sampled bong-smoking.

I have an earlier EP by Hang the Bastard, last year’s Raw Sorcery, and while that’s a decent slab of metal itself it lacks the kick, variety and sheer power of Hellfire Reign. And while I’ve not grown up with metal and metalcore (a pre-requisite if you want to know what you’re fucking talking about – it’s hard as hell to properly grasp these scenes as an outsider or Johnny-come-lately) I’ve heard enough to say with confidence that this is a strong album from a promising band. I can’t wait to see them live and watch them let rip.

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