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album review: Raging Speedhorn ‘Hard To Kill’

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Raging Speedhorn

Hard To Kill
[Red Weed Records]

It’s been quite a journey for Corby’s Raging Speedhorn. Since forming in 1998 they’ve toured Europe and America with heavyweights such as Biohazard, Carnivore and, more recently, Phillip Anselmo and the Illegals. Not content with gatecrashing the national charts with their 2001 single ‘Gush’ they’ve also released a string of fine albums and we finally reach the sixth, the career-defining Hard To Kill.

Wasting little time on pleasantries Raging Speedhorn arrive with all fists flying. Opening salvo ‘Snakebite’ is the equivalent of a musical tornado as the band whip up chugging riffs and pounding drums in their musical maelstrom. New vocalist Dan Cook has slotted in just fine and along with long term screamer Frank Regan trades lines in quick succession. It’s a relentless assault and the bands trademark twin-vocal attack gives proceedings a hardcore vibe (think Extreme Noise Terror) and only adds to the overall feeling of intensity. However, despite the unbridled fury and sonic aggression a strong groove permeates ‘Snakebite’, and ensures the track swings like a huge wrecking ball.

Now well into their second decade the secret of Raging Speedhorn’s longevity has been their avoidance of easy categorisation. After the hardcore punch of ‘Snakebite’ the band take a decidedly sludge-metal turn on ‘Doom Machine’ and, despite the genre divergence, the two tracks make easy bedfellows. With a riff that Tony Iommi would kill for ‘Doom Machine’ drags itself along on grazed knees and, like Pantera jamming with Crowbar, it’s a seriously weighty affair. New bassist Andy Gilmour [Hundred Reasons] introduces ‘Spitfire’ with a satisfying rumble, and gives the song a nu-metal feel. A constantly shifting line-up would break some bands, yet Raging Speedhorn manage to shape-shift and come back stronger.

Like seeing your reflection on a bullet that’s about to enter your cranium the title track arrives with little fanfare and is all the more powerful for it. With an inherent swing ‘Hard To Kill’ is the equivalent of a heavyweight boxer; it packs a serious punch, yet it’s surprisingly lithe. From the rapid-fire vocals to the neck snapping riff it contains all the essential ingredients, and it’s heartening that time hasn’t diluted the bands rage. On an album that’s constantly shifting gears ‘Hammer Down’ is a slower, crushing track that leaves the listener dwarfed beneath its monolithic enormity and provides the album with a fine centrepiece. Its pairing with the equally brutal ‘Hand Of God’ ensures Hard To Kill ebbs and flows perfectly.

Recorded with NN legend Russ Russell [Napalm Death, At The Gates] at Parlour Studios, Kettering the production on Hard To Kill is a real boon and gives all the instruments room to breathe. An all-out thrasher like ‘Brutality’ could sound muddy in lesser hands, yet the separation is spot on and employs the full dynamic range. Deathlike growls introduce ‘The Beast’ as the band take the New Orleans sludge of eyehategod and add a touch of English aggro so it becomes a whole new monster. Closing the album is a surprising cover of ‘Children Of The Revolution’. Raging Speedhorn handle it like all covers should be handled, and put their own stamp on proceedings. To my ears though it feels disjointed from the rest of the album, and maybe would have made a better bonus track or stand alone single.

Not content to rest on their laurels Raging Speedhorn have produced an album that renders them as still valid and vibrant, and Hard To Kill is as good an album as they’ve ever recorded. And that’s saying something!

Peter Dennis.

Hard To Kill is out October 11th on streaming services and October 23rd on CD/ 180gm black/ splatter vinyl/ ltd edition signed copies

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