By Connor Mathews
When DIY hardcore punk band HECK announced their split last August, it was a heart-breaking loss felt throughout the entire scene and community. They were an incredible band who deserved more attention than they ever got.
Not too long after they split, HCBP was formed by two of the boys from HECK, later dropping the BP and becoming Haggard Cat. Signed to Earache Records, this new band strips away the more mathcore attitudes of their previous work in favour of garage rock, slick rock ‘n’ roll riffs and a fuzzed-up guitar reminiscent of The White Stripes.
Being that there are two out of four of the same band members there are some similarities to HECK, the playing style is distinctly similar – still being eclectic and frantic – but with a laid-back tempo & cooler charisma to it rather than the on-the-fly feeling HECK songs had.
The first two tracks ‘The Patriot’ & ‘American Graffiti’ seem like weak choices to open the album, feeling similar in pace and seeming to plod along. When the songs drop and get going that HECK brilliance shines through, albeit for a short amount of time. Despite being a similar pace to the first two tracks, ‘Grave Digger’ is a lot better, with a harsher riff and a much more interesting chorus that audiences will easily pick up for live shows.
‘Challenger’ manages to experiment with a few different styles throughout its relatively short 33-minute runtime, with songs like ‘Grave Digger’ evoking memories of ‘Powerboat Disaster’ from the HECK back catalogue to the strongest song on the album ’Bone Shaker’, a song reminiscent of bands like Clutch.
Check out the brilliant video for ‘Bone Shaker’ here:
However, it just starts to feel as if each song is treading familiar ground and the truly great bits don’t last for too long. While it could be called unfair to level criticism at Haggard Cat by comparing them to their previous band, it’s really hard not to when you know what they are capable of from songs like ‘The Breakers’ or anything from the HECK back catalogue.
‘The Legend’ starts strong, being even slower pace with almost crooning vocals, oozing with charisma and character. This is until the two-minute mark, where the song becomes a 3-minute-long jam session that is neither interesting or inspired, and drags on for way too long.
‘Challenger’ is by no means a bad album and while uninspired, these guys who are known for writing eccentric energy fuelled punk rock songs can do so much better, and there is potential for them to do just that with Haggard Cat – these songs just don’t show off their skills as much as they could.