Bastard – Rotten Blood Review

What we have here is the devil’s own bar band. After a seven-year layoff and a slew of lineup changes, Bastard swaggers back onstage with sophomore full-length Rotten Blood. These four likely parolees mine a vein of blackened speed metal and thrash that will be familiar to fans of NifelheimGoatwhore, or, more recently, any of your finer bands ending in the suffix “-er” (Bütcher, Bewitcher, Hellripper, Demiser, etc.). The album is all Motörhead riffs played at 78 rpm and mad-lib lyrics that pay homage to Satan or whatever–mostly, it seems, because cozying up to Old Man Splitfoot is the fastest way to get your hands on the good whiskey. Plenty of other bands have been tapping this same ore of late, and it’s fair to wonder when the claim will stop paying out. Can Bastard blast past such concerns on the strength of their songwriting, or did they wait too long to get in on a good thing?

I’m here to tell you that Rotten Blood bucks and rages like a rodeo bull with a strap cinched around its genitals. Here are ten rollicking anthems that had me reaching for the caps lock button while I took listening notes, because ALL CAPS seemed like the only way to capture the sleazy energy on display. If you’re not careful around this thing, you might catch a social disease from it. The formula’s simple, and there’s little variation: riffs everywhere and raspy vocals that carry the melody before leading into gang-shouted choruses. Whatever the name of the song is, it’s a solid bet that you’ll be chanting it come chorus time.1 If all this sounds familiar, it should. Bastard hasn’t poured two fingers worth of originality into this cracked shot glass, … but who needs innovation when the songs are good?

Abandon all pretense of cervical health, ye who enter here. You will strain your neck headbanging to Rotten Blood, and there’s no rest along the way. Most of the ten tracks offered here could serve as singles. Oddly, the numbers the band chose for advance release (“Rotten Blood” and “Spellbound”) are two of my least favorite. Neither is bad, but they pale in comparison to a killer early run that had me typing “no, THIS one’s the highlight” as it unfolded. The trifecta of “The Possession,” “Leather Bound Book of Lies,” and “Crescent Horn” is sure to cause involuntary spasms of movement, with the latter’s nonsense chorus of “the black! gaze! of the devil’s! crescent! horns!” getting my vote for best moment on the album.2 The songs are stuffed to bursting with riffs and nudges up and down in tempo; Bastard excels at keeping things interesting within their limited palette.

How much beef-witted fun is too much beef-witted fun? Ten numbers spread over forty-two minutes may not seem excessive, but Rotten Blood would benefit from ripping one of the patches off the back of this leather vest. Bastard‘s songs run long for the genre, so by the latter stretches you feel like you’ve got the spins and it’s time to call it a night. I nominate “Under the Tattered Banners (Of Rock-n-Roll)” for a drive out to Miller’s Crossing. It’s a good enough time, but it also fits into the mostly dubious tradition of rock songs about rock music.3 The production feels thin, although the aptly named Distortion Music Group didn’t do the band any favors by delivering a low-resolution file for review.4 This isn’t music that demands a thousand-dollar set of cans to draw out the nuances–but even so, a rate of 160 kilobytes-per-second borders on the egregious.

Midnight is one of the bands that brought me back into the extreme music fold after a period of exile, so black thrash is clearly aimed at the Ferox sweet spot. These subgenre roads are heavily traveled of late, which means your mileage could vary. Bastard may be late in delivering this attempted breakthrough, but with Rotten Blood they elbow their competitors aside to claim a seat at the table. Beelzebub’s bar band never promised you anything but a seedy good time, and on that front, Bastard is as good as their (slurred) word.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 160 kb/s mp3
Label: Distortion Music Group
Website: facebook.com/bastardstl
Releases Worldwide: March 11th, 2022

Show 4 footnotes

  1. FOR EXAMPLE: ON OPENER “WHIPSTRIKE” YOU CHANT “WHIPSTRIKE!!” PLEASE SAVE QUESTIONS FOR THE END.
  2. THE HORNS HAVE A GAZE, OKAY? THAT’S A NORMAL THING FOR HORNS TO HAVE.
  3. NOBODY LIKES A TAUTOLOGY, AMIRITE METAL FREAKS?
  4. THE VIDEO DOESN’T HELP EITHER, YIKES AND DOUBLE YIKES.
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