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Album Review: Challenger by Haggard Cat

Nottingham duo Haggard Cat release their debut album Challenger on 20th April via Earache Records. Featuring ex-HECK vocalist / guitarist Matt Reynolds joined by drummer Tom Marsh the pair create an often chaotic and hard-hitting album that veers from dirty blues rock through to noise rock.

As is par-of-the-course these days the band have already released fivetracks from the album, so the sound of Haggard Cat won’t come as much of a surprise. Of those five (also, ‘Bad News (Travels Fast)’,‘Bone Shaker’, ‘The Patriot’ and ‘American Graffiti’), ‘Goldberg’ is the best and shines bright setting the tone for the album, Reynolds explains “’Goldberg’ is a very personal song to us. The lyrics deal with how touring and expectation cause deterioration of mental health and how our perception of ourselves on the road can lead to toxic behaviour. Although this might sound quite reflective, it’s actually a very positive song about being more self-aware and pulling through to the other side. Musically, it’s also one of my personal favourites, focusing on the time signature still makes my head spin and I can’t wait to get out on the road to play that chorus riff nice and loud!”

When the riffs are released you can’t help but enjoy Challenger. There’s a sense of reckless abandon that gives the album a free flowing and captivating quality. It may sound chaotic at times but look just under the surface and you’ll find them well structured. ‘The Felon’ and ‘Bearfoot’ are great tracks full of brooding energy. The discordant guitar tones of the former are a real treat before the track progresses into a driving groove of big bluesy riffs. Team these tracks with the singles and you’ve got the basis for an excellent debut.

In what is an otherwise strong album, ‘The Legend’ gets a little lost midway through and closer ‘High Roller’ throws itself from light muzak to all-out riff monster that doesn’t quite come off. In general, the sound may be a bit much for some but they do it well and if you like a blend of noise rock and bluesy garage rock then you’ll love this.

AD Rating 7/10

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