I enjoy Hellripper to a fairly significant extent. Last year’s full-length release tore up its thrash competition and took home fifth place in my top ten records of 2017, leading to my deeper exploration of his repertoire of splits and EPs. It’s fair to say that the little Scottish bundle of energy is one of my favorite discoveries from the past few years of metal. Where before I would have avoided promos tagged with speed metal, I now take note with the intention of unveiling the next underground speed gem. It’an a easy genre to enjoy; urgent riffs, rough shouts and a lack of pretension abound. So it was with enthusiasm that I approached the new mini album called Beast in the Mist by Croatia’s Speedclaw.
Speedclaw let you know the sort of band they are right out of the gates… of the second track. “Prelude” is a surprisingly pleasant acoustic introduction but is also completely anomalous with what follows. The rip-roaring opening to “Beast in the Mist” demarcates their true intent. It’s speedy, old-school thrash metal with hints of the melodic bent and guitar theatrics derived from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.
The combination of these elements indicates that they are so clearly influenced by Motörhead in the same way that the likes of Hellripper and newer Deströyer 666 are influenced by Motörhead. Beast in the Mist features similarly up-tempo, riff-led metal with mildly catchy, shout-along choruses. The remainder of the record beyond the introduction fits this mold although a few of the tracks more obviously tug on one of these threads. For example, “Aggression Strikes” is the fastest, thrashiest track while “Evil that You See” is the most similar to the NWoBMH. It’s tough to dislike such an earnest throwback; “Rising of the Claw,” in particular, boasts the best lead, chorus and solos.
However, even though this release is only 6 tracks over 30 minutes, it drags when playing straight through. It’s most effective in short, speedy, sugary snacks than a wholesome, thorough feast from beginning to end. Beast in the Mist is not suited to longer form listening. This is a problem for something representing itself as an album, especially a short one, when the studio album is supposed to be a cohesive art form. Riffs blur and their immediacy is dulled upon reaching the end. Based on this evidence, Speedclaw is simply not as good as the other active bands I mentioned above: Hellripper blew me away last year while Deströyer 666 recently released a distinctly cool EP. Compounding this is that while their speedy style is suited to shorter tracks, three out of five, excluding “Prelude,” are over six minutes with fairly repetitive underpinning riffs. The length of these tracks is artificially extended by simple repetition.
It is, on the face of it, a hammer blow to Beast in the Mist that I would not choose it over one of my aforementioned comparisons. But, to be fair, who else can lay claim to the total badassey of those bands? Not many at all. It remains a solid-to-good release by a band whose course I will be tracking but it just lacks anything to make it outstanding. A further hypothetical question that I submit of a longer album is if the band could even succeed in that form, given the repetition and blurring which has arisen within thirty minutes. At least I’m intrigued enough to try to answer that question when it comes around.
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: Shadow Kingdom Records
Websites: speedclaw.bandcamp.com | www.facebook.com/speedclaw
Releases worldwide: Digital: April 20th, 2018 | Physical: June 1st, 2018