Album Review: Haggard Cat – Challenger

Heck were a band from Nottingham that established themselves as hometown heroes pretty quickly. Their crazy brand of punk was something that really resonated with people, and they quickly gained a cult following around the UK. Unfortunately, the band played their last show at the end of 2017. Luckily, vocalist Matt Reynolds and drummer Tom Marsh created Haggard Cat- a rock duo hoping to capture some of the magic left behind by the band they left.

And there’s a lot of promise here. The manic creative streak of Heck is most definitely still here, but it’s been turned down a bit. Where there once was a crazy mess of noise (and not a bad one at that), now there is a level of structure- the guitar still takes centre stage, but it’s not as overpowering before, using a Queens Of The Stone Age-esque fuzz. It’s a good sound for the most part, but is let down by a few things…

Firstly, the production is a bit of a mess. I know the band probably want to carry on the DIY philosophy that Heck had, so I’m not expecting anything out of this world, but even by those standards this isn’t great. Even in the opening track ‘The Patriot’, the vocals are murky and difficult to hear. It’s a shame, because there’s a lot of promise here. The jagged, stop-start rock of ‘Bad News (Travels Fast)’ could be a work of genius, but unfortunately it doesn’t sound quite right because of this.

But there’s still a lot that’s worth a listen here. If you can get over the problems I’ve already mentioned, there’s a lot to like here. When they get their sound right, it’s an absolute onslaught to the senses- the well-named ‘Grave Digger’ is a testament to this. But on the other hand, ‘The Felon’ shows that the band can take simple ideas and make something great out of them. It’s just a shame that the album is marred by the aforementioned problems, because there’s a lot of promise here.

Best songs: Grave Digger, The Felon

Score: 5/10

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