As made blatantly obvious in my first review of 2015, last year left me drained, beaten, and more fucked over than a single person can stand. After losing my job in December and not securing something until May, I finally started a new job and moved the family. After a few intense months, I find myself overcome with a variety of emotions that include thankfulness to all friends for their help, excitement for my new life, and indescribable pain from the people that left me in this predicament. So, it is only fitting that Hellbastard‘s brutally honest and extremely pissed-off Feral allowed me the opportunity to let everything go, smash shit, speed recklessly down the highway, and drop a big “fuck you” to all the bullshit. Maybe not exactly the type of “closure” I’ve been searching for, but when these crust-punk legends drop their heart and soul at your feet, it sure is therapeutic. So, grab your pooper-scoopers, dear reader. It’s time to clear out the crap.
The moment opener “In Praise of Bast” begins, you’re hit by the overwhelming sense that vocalist Scruff may have rediscovered that ferocious, punkish passion from ’88’s Heading for Internal Darkness. Not that the band lacked this passion on sophomore outing Natural Order or the 2007 comeback, The Need to Kill, but the anger, honesty, and believability of the debut was undeniable. However, Natural Order buried this passion in more Slayer riffs than I can count and The Need to Kill suffered from “comeback fever,” and the distraction of a half-dozen re-recordings. But Hellbastard pulls all the stops on Feral. As the opener transitions from it’s beautiful piano intro to a balls-out thrash attack, it becomes clear that its purpose for existence resides in its brilliant chorus (which includes the haunting atmospheres of ex-Amebix‘s Andy “A. Droid” Wiggins). Not only does “In Praise of Bast” open Feral the way all great openers should, but it also makes it very clear to the listener that once you’re in, there is no getting out.
After the opener, we get a straightforward punky platter in “Outsider of the Year.” It’s harsh, it’s angry, and it’s concise and the kind of song that leaves you pissed and wishing for the kind of seclusion that can only be satisfied by an abandoned toolshed in the Alaskan bush. “Shame On Us” is another clear-cut moment full of beefy, groovy, crossover riffs, and the Testament-like duo of “Social Hand Grenade” and “Engineering Human Consciousness II” pull their weight with some Bay Area influence. The latter songs aren’t exactly standout tracks but their to-the-point approach is much appreciated. Also, the placement of “Engineering Human Consciousness II” toward the end, caps Feral‘s aggressiveness before the soothing, sad “All Our Sorrows” leaves you with the worst kind of closure; an utter hopelessness for the world.
Interspersed between the somber bookends and the aforementioned angry numbers, rage is abundant in the bass-popping “And the Point of Your Being Is…?” and the sinister groove-machine, “Wychcraft.” The former employs some killer guitar work (courtesy of Andy Sneap) and an attitude that could have easily been included in the latest Darkthrone album. “Wychcraft” sports an insanely addictive riff, an interesting Dave Brockie schizophrenic midsection (think Dave Brockie Experience rather than GWAR), and some vocal contributions from Rob “The Baron” Miller. But for the standout twist on the album, go no further than the sullen “4-Paws.” With nothing in the world to trust, nothing to believe, and no one to turn to, at least we have our four-legged friends. Odd song but a powerful one nevertheless.
Unfortunately, the eight-minute, three-part “We Are Coven” is a bit much. It may sport some great Metal Church-meets-Mercyful Fate clean guitars and some crushing riffs, but ditching the second part would have made this an easier listen. Additionally, lovers of Natural Order won’t be impressed with most of the thrashy riffs as Hellbastard backed way off on the Slayer worship here. But Feral is unforgiving and inspiringly honest. A year of hell behind me and a release that uses “fuck” almost as much as I do, this is just what I needed.