For many bands, the departure of a pivotal member can result in a lack of momentum and deterioration in collective motivation. For West London’s Hang the Bastard the loss of vocalist Chris Barling, to investigate other interests, did nothing to diminish their impetus. Replacing Barling with former Deal With It vocalist Mike Carver, Hang the Bastard have forged ahead with plans to release a new album in 2013. This collection, “2009-2012” represents their complete catalogue from the Chris Barling era, including their first full length album release “Hellfire Reign”, the latest EP, plus a variety of demos and tracks from hard to come by, and therefore, costly, split releases. As an introduction to the furious being that is Hang the Bastard there could be no finer archive.
The first ten tracks are from 2009’s “Hellfire Reign”, and are characterised by hammering percussion and guitar, providing the foundation for Barling’s vocal attack. Material from the “Raw Scorcery” EP loses that distinctive thrash, and comes across with more weight and muscle. “Pillage Your Village” loses none of the aggression of the earlier releases, but gains something in a controlled majesty of performance. The tempo here may not be as swift, but the emotions are equally as visceral. The 2012 self titled release shows a band that have absorbed all the influences and experience of their catalogue up to this point and used them to put together a body of work that displays a sense of maturity. The production now is much fresher, allowing each instrument and subtlety the opportunity to shine through. The vocals appear to have increased in intensity, and the overall effect is one of greater authority and presence. “Interplanetary Portals” with its combination of spoken word passage, psychedelic arpeggios, fanatical screams and hectic pace, highlight a band who are comfortable in their surroundings and are happy to produce deep and grimy.
From the swirling synthesiser opening of ‘Acid Bath Vampire’ on “Hellfire Reign” to the brutal guitar riffs and hysterical soloing of ‘The Blackest Eyes’, the listener is taken on a journey through the development of the band, from early raw, naive energy on demos such as ‘Doomed Fuckin Doomed’ and ‘Awaken Ye Heathens’, through to more polished mayhem on the album and EP releases. The compositions here are not all about speed and brutality however. “Genesis”, for example, opens with aggressive agitation, but develops into a more considered display of majestic chord progressions. Thirty tracks may be a substantial commitment for the listener who is new to the material, but as a historical document “2009-2012” is a captivating education.
One of the highlights, for this bystander, of the early afternoon at the 2012 Leeds Damnation Festival, the tracks that make up this compilation will hopefully be indicative of how Hang the Bastard can maintain their energy and produce new candid and fervent material in the future.