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The Beast + hooded cobra = Bigfoot...?...um.... - 78%

Gutterscream, April 26th, 2015
Written based on this version: 1985, 12" vinyl, Roadrunner Records

“…Bigfoot beast ten foot high, never caught one dead or alive…”

The Beast isn’t an easy record to read. For your initial visually-based opinion, you see a masculine, surprisingly well-rendered cover painting we assume is gonna tell us something about this strongly-named band and album. Flip the sleeve and optimism slides pretty much down the tubes unless sleaze butt rock is yer angle. Four guys dressed embarrassingly enough to double as an ’80s street gang in a cluelessly bad Hollywood flick. Lovely. Song titles are more ordinarily cool than attire-suggested party knocker, a good sign. Two songs down the a-side is a cover of one of the most overplayed songs on Earth. Buying this thing is the second uneasy thing you consider doing.

The production is thick and chunky in that bad-yet-not-so-bad way and fills out “Rule of War”, which with its upbeat mid-pace and strangely off-beat percussive timing would be a decent song if not for the annoyance of John McPherson’s forced, continually scratched-high and often single tone screech. The Grand Funk Railroad cover’s rehashed with a smidge more flash than the original, but who cares? Then the gods smile as Hatrik’s audio-visual paradox ultimately fades from our senses.

Playing medium weight, speed-bordered traditional metal blotted with L.A.’s lipstick prints (mainly attire-wise) is Chicago’s Hatrik, yet another single album legacy act with a mysterious non-history to go with it. Makes pretty good sense considering it’s probably one of Roadrunner’s more uncommon finds, giving discs by Thunderfire, Blackout, and Madison a run for their money.

As the group’s paradox parts, so does the conflict within its stylistic template. The half which goads us into crappy commercial waters by flaunting prissy, bums’ lane rummage sale glam duds is fairly quickly deep-sixed while the other half diverts our attention to The Beast’s groundwork of aggression that, after an eye-full of these guys, no doubt blindsided most consumers in its path. Mind you, this is aggression that’s normally plastered by sorta clunky, mid-ranged power/speed poverty acts like Cerebus, Krank, Attila (US), Max Havoc, Avenger (UK), debut-era Battleaxe, and post-debut Wild Dogs. Hell, anything except puckering swill and country/western would’ve been a confetti-tossing surprise.

So with at least decent musicianship, some worthwhile songwriting, an unseen burly frame, underground workmanship, and a knack for things mildly outta the ordinary, Hatrik manage to establish themselves as a band that doesn’t evade swallowing heavier metal road tar as it flies at ‘em, which comes to light in rowdy speed metal aggressors “Demon’s Lair”, “I Like to Eat Out”, and “Other Side of Crazy” as well as meaner sections of the bass-piqued “Moov”. A little bit ‘o crazy shakes the title cut when Erik Baumann’s echoing burst of a ‘solo’ shrills a quasi-psychedelic undercoat and indiscernible flight pattern, meanwhile “Little Fugue” is a tidy guitar-oriented instrumental based on J.S. Bach that cements the guitarist’s extraordinary skill into at least short term memory. A distress alert is sounded for the lp’s other instrumental, “S.O.S”, which is nowhere to be found. At over four and a half minutes, it’s hard to lose.

About halfway through the first side McPherson’s overanxious throat settles into a better attack plan. Fluctuation is introduced to the man’s tone while the screech fare is demoted without abandoning it completely. New mid-sized tenor reigns in a few more eccentrics and naturalizes the stories of “Play to Survive” and “Still of the Night”. I’d like to say all’s well in light of this, but this necessary adjustment only verifies the singer’s shaky inexperience, questionable skill, and weak link status.

Comparable to the aural visuals of Hole in the Sky-era Pandemonium, Hatrik perform headier, more hard-lined metal than the original forecast predicted, yet manage this while begging for a stiff forearm to knock a bandana or two loose. Either way we get something pretty good to hear and, if prayers be answered, something awesome to do.

“…made you scream ‘bout two a.m., wet dream ‘bout 3 a.m….”