Back in the day, when all was well with the world, and all that mattered was the next Death gig, or a new Megadeth t-shirt or having enough money to get the bus to school and have enough left over for a bag of proper chip shop chips (wrapped in newspaper if you please and just enough vinegar so it disintegrates said paper and leaves you with chips on floor/lap) things were simple. To stop this missive becoming an unholy parody of a Peter Kaye routine, I’ll get to the point. Back in the day I loved metal (still do) but it was a very narrow parameter that caught my eye and as a 15-year-old if it wasn’t thrash, death, or Iron Maiden, it was met with a furrowed brow, a narrowing of eyes and a disdainful tut and mutterings. The 15-year-old me at that time, wasn’t given to scene expansion and as such, genres such as Hardcore and the myriad of sub genres spinning off from the Hardcore supernova were roundly ignored and actively pilloried.
And that’s the way things stayed for a good few years until a very good friend of mine (who writes for this very website…take a bow Matt Mason) blagged me tickets for Sick Of It All when they were playing the Electric Ballroom in Camden, being what in Matt’s eyes was very much a last ditch effort to correct my narrow-mindedness when it came Hardcore/Punk et al. As you can guess, it worked. I won’t lay claim to be a world authority on Hardcore (certainly not punk either which is a genre I still struggle with slightly) but I know what works in my eyes (ears) and this latest release from Danish D-Beat protagonists Halshug is what you would hear if you were to ask Alexa to play crusty punk saxophone infused dirty hardcore. Alexa would play ‘Drom’ (Dream) back to back and make you spin kick round your living room for 12 hours until you begged for mercy and requested something from Fleetwood Mac’s back catalogue to soothe your aching ears.
This isn’t 100MPH hardcore though, it sits back and takes its time chugging along like a latter day Doom, all fuzzy, dirty Danny Liker inspired bass and guitars from the Ramones school of riffing whilst the vocals and overall song compositions do recall Discharge/DBH at time. If that’s not praise I’m not sure what is. One of the great joys of getting to review music that you wouldn’t necessarily choose on a day to day basis (my most recent playlist on Spotify comprised of Isis, SOD, Crowded House, The Cure and Alien Weaponry) and so this isn’t something I would necessarily hunt down and actively listen to but when forced to sit down and listen to an album like this three or four times in order to make sure you’re giving a body of work the respect it deserves (or not in some cases) you realise that through blood, sweat and tears, Halshug have delivered what is a great album. It may not reinvent the wheel and it doesn’t stray too far from the Hardcore/D-Beat playbook, but Halshug come with just enough invention, skill and production, that it’s hard to resist being slightly effusive.
(6.5/10 Nick Griffiths)