After over a decade, Barrabus have returned for the release of their debut album. Lead by the mighty UK underground overlord that is Paul Catten of Medulla Nocte, Lazarus Blackstar and Murder One fame, Barrabus are a noise-rock band that draw comparisons to USA Nails and Chickenhawk-era Hawk Eyes.
The first thing you’ll notice on the band’s self-titled debut album is Catten’s voice. It’s as instantly recognisable as ever. Catten has a wonderfully unique, piercing scream that loosely flops around between low-pitched grumbling and spoken word sections accompanied by a bizarre, Southern-American drawl. Catten does what he wants and does it with passion. Similarly to Mike Patton, here’s a vocalist who could easily sound like he’s taking the piss, but thanks to how wonderfully heart-on-sleeve his performance is, it always sounds genuine even if it’s a tad unconventional.
However, we should move on from Paul Catten’s vocals because these are just a single element in this almighty racket. Frequent Catten collaborator Mark Seddon (also of Medulla Nocte and Murder One) is playing guitar on this album and my word does that man have chops. Despite this album being quite a frantic, often messy slab of noise, Seddon keeps the album grounded with big riffs that are memorable enough to get their hooks deep into you. Porn! is a real highlight in this regard (I mean with a title like that, obviously) and its punky guitar work is surprisingly catchy considering how unapologetically heavy it is.
Album highlights include the slow-burning, somewhat doomy opener of My Nightmare as a Reality TV Contestant and the no-nonsense thrill ride of Behind Closed Doors. This track barrels along at a devastating speed before breaking down into sheer lunacy. Let’s not forget the similarly structured Kleptomania which gets equally weird after its opening barrage of riffs. Then we’ve got songs like In League with Vader which decides to add a touch of black metal to the mix with its opening tremolo-picked riff. There’s just so much going on here that it’s difficult not to be enamoured by the sheer amount of ideas Barrabus have managed to include in such a short space of time.
Barrabus’ debut album is a fantastically weird collection of songs that don’t outstay their welcome. It’s all over in 29 minutes and rarely gives you a moment to breath. This is a noisy, sludgy punk album that isn’t too interested in showing any restraint. This album has certainly been a long time coming considering Barrabus’ last release was a demo in 2006, but its arrival is much like Paul Catten himself; unexpected and unrelenting. Long may he reign.
Barrabus’ self-titled debut album is out now and available to buy through Undergroove Records.
Grieving are a very new band with a single EP under their belt. Their twangy, angular emo is reminiscent of bands like American Football and Joyce Manor. After a nervous start they quickly prove that they’re a very accomplished and tight act, and their drummer was supposedly pretty ill throughout so huge respect to that guy for absolutely nailing it. On the whole, the band looks like they’re having a blast and seem very humbled to be playing to this audience. Grieving are definitely a band you’re going to want to keep on your radar because if this performance is any indication, they will be going onto bigger and better things very quickly.
If you aren’t aware, So-Crates are a new band featuring members of Hold Your Horse Is and Reuben and that’s a bloody exciting combination on its own. The band deal in an unpredictably, mathy post-punk which is nothing short of exciting when performed live. Their music twists and turns on a dime with aggressive drum-work, angular guitar melodies, chunky bass grooves and some surprisingly dreamy guitar leads. While it’s still early days for So-Crates, you can see that past experiences have allowed these guys to burst out the gates with some truly accomplished music and make it all look easy.
Grunge-punk duo Cassels are something really special. Sounding like a mix of God Damn and Eugene Quell, the two lads on stage make the sort of music that song-writers twice their age would be proud of. The word is clearly out on Cassels because they fill The Old Blue Last, and on a Monday night no less. The duo has a massive sound considering their limitations and they put on a friendly and engaging performance that sees everyone in the room hanging onto every note. Cassels love that quiet/loud dynamic and it was strangely weird to hear a crowd at The Old Blue Last be so quiet when the music became more introspective. Cassels are genuinely fascinating to watch and are definitely a band you’ll want to see as soon as possible because they won’t be playing venues this small for very long.
Plymouth-based hardcore act Boxkite harken back to the short-lived #UKSwell scene that encompassed bands like Bastions, Crocus, Pariso and Kerouac and like said bands, they have a wonderfully emotive approach to hardcore punk that ebbs and flows through passages of flat-out aggression and more introspective moments of respite.
In true punk fashion, Boxkite’s debut self-titled EP is over and done in 6 minutes which means that Boxkite deal in a dense yet visceral type of hardcore that grabs you by the throat and shakes you until you pass out. Opener Struggles begins with a devastating blast-beat that quickly establishes the no-nonsense approach to music that the band deals in.
Boxkite aren’t exactly breaking the mould on this record but fans of hardcore punk will still be treated to one of the most perfectly crafted punk EPs this year. What Boxkite do so well is temper their nasty, crushing riffs and snotty yelling with passages where they let the bass guitar ring out. Cycles and Red Skies are great examples of this; the bass is often used to drench the song in a nice bit of gloomy atmosphere before the band unleashes another ball-busting riff. It’s a simple trick that keeps the record diverse and makes the aggression even more impactful.
What really impresses is the wonderful clarity. No single element of the sound is lost in this mix; the guitar sound is more like traditional punk rather than the HM-2 hardcore that’s become so popular nowadays. The bass cuts through the action with a wonderfully dirty twang, the drums smack you straight in the chest with each snare and bass drum hit and despite the lairy, yelled nature of the vocals, you can actually understand the lyrics.
Boxkite have burst out the gates with a hardcore debut that doesn’t mess about. This is 6 tracks of solid, bouncy yet strangely forlorn punk that leaves a serious mark. Anyone looking for the next great UK hardcore band might want to seriously consider grabbing Boxkite’s debut EP while it’s hot; you won’t regret it.
Boxkite’s debut self-titled EP is out now and available to download direct for the band or buy on red or black vinyl through Tangled Talk Records or Boslevan Records.