Under The Crooked Claw

Nuclear Blast
rating icon 8.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Una Torcia Illumina Il Cielo
02. Vampyre Lore
03. Rite For Exorcism
04. Streetbanger
05. Just Buried
06. Warshock
07. Horror Vision
08. Battered
09. Revenge of the Wolf
10. Marauders of Doom
11. Electric Warning
12. Bastardized Force
13. Final Strike

There is no such thing as too much heavy metal. Ryan Waste knows this. With a laudable legacy as guitarist with MUNICIPAL WASTE, who almost single-handedly put crossover thrash back on the map back in the mid-'00s, he has already earned hero status. BAT may have been a low-key concern until recently, but Waste's speed metal side-project has long been one of the most thrillingly authentic throwbacks around.

Purveyors of filth-ridden speed metal with a rancid, rock 'n' roll heart, they sounded fully formed on their 2013 debut demo. Eight years on from full-length debut "Wings Of Chains", BAT have made the unlikely transition from underground renegades to big label bruisers: if nothing else, "Under The Crooked Claw" feels like a victory for real, no-bullshit heavy metal. It stinks of beer-soaked denim and bloody leather, while plunging into a comic book world of vampires, zombies, ancient curses, haunted swamps and rabid werewolves. Old school to the bone but thrumming with vitality, BAT seem to be doing this for the diehards, safe in the knowledge that nothing beats loud, dirty and horror-fueled heavy metal, especially when it is played with this much passion and pugnacity.

"Under The Crooked Claw" doesn't so much start as erupt: like all our best/worst MOTÖRHEAD, TANK and VENOM nightmares came at once, setting fire to the furniture. "Vampyre Lore" is a no-brakes onslaught, with tons of earthly and unearthly power. Laudably organic but bolstered by a big, ugly production, these songs all have the same sense of urgency, and the same proud adherence to a code of heavy metal conduct that clearly never gets old. For once the fact that, yes, we have heard all of this before, is a purely positive one.

Although very much a band with their own identity, almost in spite of those obvious influences, BAT play with such fiery commitment to the old way of doing things that "Under The Crooked Claw" transcends all notions of timeliness or trend. As Waste barks another grim tale over riffs that would make Lemmy proud, on the utterly magnificent "Streetbanger", the only acceptable response is to drink heavily and bang your head, preferably until it bleeds. BAT didn't make the rules. They simply enforce them.

Any student of this stuff will be able to name countless bands that plow the same furrow. But BAT were manifestly superior to their peers from the start, and "Under The Crooked Claw" is their finest record to date. Everything here, from the inch-perfect lead breaks that pepper these songs, as if Fast Eddie Clarke rose from the grave to the deep-rooted aggro that drives every riff forward, scratches an old-school itch or two. From the THIN LIZZY-meets-ANGEL WITCH rabble-rousing of "Warshock" and the morbid thrash-punk of "Battered", to the MAIDEN-saluting "Marauders Of Doom", BAT are providing a vital service here, by confirming the ongoing relevance and vitality of heavy metal in its purest sense. Progress is great, but horror-loving, speed metal insanity is better.

Author: Dom Lawson
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