Come on, with a name like that can you blame me for grabbing this band’s album? It’s the equivalent of promotional clickbait. Crazy band name, goofy album title, and even goofier band picture, all topped off with the fact that the band consider themselves purveyors of the NWoBHM (despite the fact that this is really their debut album). It all adds up to something that, if Steel wasn’t already double-dipping this week in the review pool, he would have grabbed for sure. Which means I get his sloppy seconds. So let’s figure out what kind of taste this album is going to leave in our ears.
Details are sketchy on Rabid Bitch of the North, but one claim to fame seems to be that they have played in clubs that other bands have also played in. The trio hails from Belfast, in Northern Ireland, and like many bands these days, they have a yearning for olde-school metal — 1999 in particular, as you’ll see below. Nothing but a Bitter Taste is a stripped-down, no-frills attack on our senses that isn’t quite like anything else I’ve heard this year, due in large part to the insane vocals of bassist Joe McDonnell. Gerry Mulholland on guitar and Chris Condie on drums round out this threesome.
As far as the music itself goes, here is the good news. Nothing but a Bitter Taste starts off on a strong note. “The Missionary” features the best riff on the album, and watching the accompanying video below, there’s a certain warped je ne sais quoi about these guys that makes you smile while they hack their way through the song. Album closer “Trapped in 1999” is both true and hilarious, with a manic rhythm and a gang-chanted chorus of “Help! We’re trapped in 1999!” that had me yelling “Yes, you are!” at my speakers. That’s a short paragraph, but it’s honestly as good as things get for Rabid Bitch of the North.
But now for the bad news, and this is a paragraph I’ve had to spend a day or two culling down to reasonable length. First, the album is too long. Yes, I know, it’s eight songs over 36 minutes, but that’s still too long considering the quality of music on display here. Even the two songs I enjoyed (as noted) had me looking at the progress bar hoping for an end. Those two songs display marginal penmanship and even worse musicianship, and they’re the best songs here. The rest of the time we’ve got bad lyrics, unimaginative riffs, stock drumming, almost inaudible bass playing (which is a problem, since no rhythm guitar is dubbed in during leads), and boring, overly simple guitar solos. Yet that all describe the best parts of Rabid Bitch of the North. McDonnell and his unearthly (in a bad way) yowling destroy any semblance of mediocrity the band has. His voice truly is one of the worst I’ve heard all year and is grossly overshadowed by his enthusiasm for the material.
One final note: we have a candidate for the worst-sounding DR10 album of all time. I actually believe this is a 10 because they had no budget to master it at all, rather than a conscious decision by the band, and what they delivered is straight from the mixing desk into our speakers. It makes the awful production stand out like an even sorer thumb, with one of the crappiest drum mixes of the year and thin bass leading the way in producer ineptitude. Thirty-six minutes of that obnoxious snare drum nearly drove me to request metalcore for my next review.
Aside from the meager bright spots here (the solid opening riff, the humorous closing track, the overall “ugly dog syndrome” likability of the band), Nothing but a Bitter Taste leaves exactly that in our ears. With poorly written songs, nasty production, and vocals that make you want to stick pencils in your ears, Rabid Bitch of the North have a lot of work ahead of them if they truly want to represent the NWoBHM.