Fear of Man

Londoners HAG work up a twitchy, Ritalin necessitating din on their debut full-length Fear of Man.  Though I knew virtually nothing of the trio going into this review, it’s without question that I came out as a fan.  The highly melodic, walls n’ waves of My Bloody Valentine-esque guitar squalor that runs lockstep with the dive-bombing doom riff impact of the title track opener was equal parts off-putting and mystically tuneful.  They leave large open spaces where twinkling, shooting star chords collides into fatter, thicker sludge riffs while drummer Tom drives the beat straight downward to hell while jittering up the mix with brutish tom-drum fills.  The bass is thick, fuzzy and engorged on lard in the finest tradition of yesteryear’s great Am-Rep bashers while vocalist/guitarist Ian places his howl somewhere betwixt an acerbic shout and an oddly catchy, tuneful singing style with a blown-out strain applied to his biggest hooks.  It’s the kind of opener that leaves you scratching your head as to what direction the album will take next.

“Kingdom O” is stoner-fuzz overdrive that sounds like the noisy fuck you of Today is the Day and Hammerhead, the sneering punk of Black Flag, the generator party stoner of Kyuss, the Floridian swamp sludge of Cavity and the blood on the street bulldoze of Motörhead fighting to the death for bragging rights.  The riffing is filled with shove your ass down the stairs, barely contained fury that intersects with trippy desert heat sun-scorch in the form of super smooth, melodic guitar leads.  The drumming is often nose to the dirt, homed in punk rock bashing but soon gives way to mathematically precise, polyrhythmic heart attacks that will have you reaching for your nitroglycerin pills.  Ian keeps the vocal antics in a constant frenzy; using spitfire, auctioneer spoken word one minute before hollering his head off until his tongue falls flat on the floor.  Squelching feedback sets the tone for the cathartic, stained glass window blowin’ riffs of “Rainbow Dust” which has that insane “start with the climax/catharsis first” tactic that’s the calling card for the finest, heaviest Am-Rep bands.  Eventually a doom-y, stop/start riff churn channels Sabbath via The Melvins as the crusty, haggard downstrokes receive ample artillery support from Tom’s misshapen, tricky fill patterns and Robin’s pork fat bass lines.  Numerous melodic guitar leads scalpel their way into the muscle of this material and even the vocals pull back some of the blatant abrasiveness for catchy, shout-a-long melodies (“Shadows cloud my mind, darkness takes my soul.)”.  The dirty palm-muted riff-sleaze only further grimes up this schizo creep jam.

If Am-Rep noise-rock was added as a fusion element to High on Fire’s thrashing Surrounded by Thieves and the sheer trash punk assault of Black Flag’s My War, you’d have something similar to the metallic noise overload of “Trauma Yauma.”  Drunken, rehab ready sloth riffs take the track down some darker alleyways where robbery and rape wait around every corner, the madness finally settling on a staccato instrumental breakdown where sharp, jagged spoken word erupts in free-form expulsions of consciousness.  The unadulterated, brain-damaged Sabbath riff churls only add more meat to HAG’s skeletal structure with even the crying guitar solos reeking far more of the blues than anything else in the noise-rock canon.  Robin’s propulsive bass line intro to “Low,” is a veritable battering ram of infernal stoner cum noise-punk groove that bashes its way into the front door of a slobbering drunk punk rock party where booze is in short supply.  Thankfully, HAG brought its own supply of brew to the kegger.  Whenever Ian isn’t riffing with all of his earthen might, he dissects his chord usage into sweltering noise deviations hellbent on sending the listener to the deepest reaches of hell.  “Metal Detector” makes no bones about dropping an elephantine sludge dirge riff from the get go and it only gets catchier as it goes along utilizing superbly hook-y Iommian progression to conjure up an industrial strength blues-doom boogie.  Angular, jagged redirections send the track into bouts of DUI-deserving, punk rock road rage and skin scalding noise-spires.

Feeling off-beat, hideously atonal and filled with 101 proof bad attitude right from the start “White Lion” balances radiation mutated thrash riffs with cosmic tempo hurdles and teetering sludge density that’s like the Melvins after a few good sniffs of coke…even Ian’s burly, hurdy gurdy vocals nod to King Buzzo more often than not.  Earhole fucking noise-guitar solos are short and to the point at first but later become quite extensive, accentuating the madness without taking away from the busy bustle of the off-kilter percussive carnage and the pulverizing display of batshit riffage.  “Beaten at your own Game” is the result of getting Tom Hazelmeyer to come in and produce a metal symphony production of High on Fire, Black Sabbath and Saviours.  Sure, there are huge dips into crater deep, mid-tempo doom grooves and throttling speed shifts where the drumming turns to a wall of thrashing toms as the vocals shout away, but everything is done up in this NYC noise-rock package that brings the very best elements from several disparate genres together in perfect unison.  Closer, the tongue-in-cheekly titled “Wrong Bar” lays waste to a throbbing tom-tom build-up with sparse, doom-y noise-chords ratcheting up the terror with each passing measure.  The scrape n’ peel, Chris Spencer-esque noise guitar licks soon construct a temple of granite tough doom riffs filtered through scowling howls of shouting, white wash guitar squeal and pummeling rock n’ roll beats.  If Hammerhead distilled their caustic, rabid mouth-froth into a semblance of bong-burnt stoner grooves it might sound something like this.

HAG means business and the sheer amalgamation of heavy sound heard on the LP debut Fear of Man is guaranteed to drag your senses into the band’s hellish nightmare, kicking and screaming all of the way.  They’ve got the anxiety of a great noise-rock band, a solid foundation of 70s/90s blues riff bashing, the middle finger punk of 80s, the thrash till deaf aesthetic of the heaviest metal bands and everything and anything in between.  This is absolutely worth a dedicated listen!



[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
February 3rd, 2016


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