ALBUM REVIEW: Haggard Cat – Challenger

Release Date: April 20th 2018
Label: Earache Records


After spending a brief period as one of the country’s most revered and promising live acts, HECK (formerly known as Baby Godzilla) were set for bigger and better things after their critically acclaimed debut record ‘Instructions’ was released in 2016, only for the band to announce their dissolution the following year.

However, out of the ashes of one brilliant musical act comes another. Former HECK vocalist Matt Reynolds and drummer Tom Marsh had already created balls-out rock ‘n’ roll outfit Haggard Cat as a side-project back in 2011, just as Baby Godzilla/HECK were gaining traction with their incendiary live sets.

With the band now thrust firmly into the limelight as the duo look to continue their musical journeys, it’s encouraging to see that debut record ‘Challenger’ is rammed with batshit riffing, crazy time signatures (whilst not quite at the level of HECK), and some of the most addictive, bluesy rock melodies heard for quite some time.

The quality of the opening four tracks is of the highest order as the album looks to drag you into its clutches with immediate effect. Opening track ‘The Patriot’ showcases chaotic vocals from Reynolds set against guitars that are full of reverb, and a percussive attack from Marsh that’s as haphazard as it is complimentary to the overall sound.

‘American Graffiti’ has a foot stomping retro rock riff combined with hook-laden vocals and a gang chant stating “Bury your head, head in the sand / We’ve got blood, got blood on our hands” which sees the track to its conclusion. ‘Grave Digger’ is a two-minute slab of swagger with a head banging tune running throughout, whilst ‘Bad News (Travels Fast)’ contains a time signature changing introduction with a fantastic performance from Marsh which ties everything together.

While the quality isn’t as high throughout the rest of the record, notable tracks such as ‘The Legend’, with its alcohol-fuelled ode to a wild western flick, and ‘Bone Shaker’, which probably has the coolest, most inventively addictive guitar riffs of 2018, shows that the band could attract as rabid a fanbase as their previous incarnation did.

If you’re looking for something with real attitude and swagger whilst showing enough originality to demonstrate something mildly unique – and with a truly wonderful live presence that shows great chemistry between the two members – then you’d best listen to Haggard Cat and wait with anticipation for what the future holds.