A horrible hack

Closet Witch - Neckbeard Deathcamp - Racetraitor - Haggathorn


Year Released: 2020
Format: 2x7"
Label: Circus Of The Macabre - To Live A Lie - Moment of Collapse - Ugly And Proud
Reviewed by Alex Deller on Aug 1, 2020
Sonically an odd mix of bands, but one that definitely makes sense given what they all have to say. Neckbeard Deathcamp kick things off and, well, eh. Like a droll social media account that's been turned into a sitcom or a novelty book there's a sense of needlessness about their musical output, and while I salute their ALL-CAPS trolling of white pride slackjaws I don't particularly want to listen to their ragged, blustering black metal.

Closet Witch, by contrast, are absolute vital: a tearing, inventive mix of hardcore, screamo and grind that simply does not stop. Tumbledown blasts of speed collide with eye-gouging dissonance and huge, vertebrae-rattling slow-downs. They close their side off with a track called 'Solar Lullaby' and it's the standout of this whole endeavour – a bleary, smudge-edged slice of ugly-beautiful that makes me think of bands like City Of Caterpillar and The Khayembii Communique.

Racetraitor are, I guess, the big ticket band here and yet have humbly tucked themselves away on the second 7". To be honest, I was never much fussed about them – I thought 'Burn The Idol Of The White Messiah' was pretty dull compared to a lot of other late 90s metallic hardcore, and while their stance was more confrontational than most their ideas and messages didn't seem too far removed from the books and zine columns I was reading – maybe not the case if you were ordering their records alongside shite like Poison The Well and Eighteen Visions, but hey. Their two tracks here are pretty solid, and they've kept their sound and style intact – along with their on-point politics – despite their years of dormancy. Theirs is a dense, claggy, writhing brand of metalcore which offers little by way of light or fresh air, and if it's not completely bowling me over I'm at least left wondering whether I shouldn't have given their '2042' LP more than just a half-curious once-over.

Things end with Haggathorn, who play sturdy enough black metal. They, like the other three bands here, are vehemently anti-fascist, but musically they're fairly benign. That this is all I can really muster say about them troubles me a little, and has also got me thinking more and more about this release as a whole. Because, generally speaking, I feel angrier than I have in years, and yet most of the music here does little to move or focus or mobilise me. This strikes me as odd, because music – and punk in particular – shaped me. The bands that I fell for the hardest were political, vocal and challenging: they made me think and question, and look at the world in ways that were sometimes uncomfortable. They made me want to read more, and to try to be a better human. I've been this person, or a rough approximation thereof, for over half my life now. In a naïve kind of way, I don't really think the beliefs I hold, or the ones here, are particularly radical. Being anti-fascist; questioning those in power; acknowledging systemic racism; acknowledging the privilege your race, gender, wellness, sexuality or wealth might endow are not crazy, far-flung notions. They are just ideas and traits that are good and right. So am I going to applaud music that – the excellent Closet Witch aside – I find to be middling or mediocre? Am I going to award points just for showing up? I'm inclined not to, but I'm also aware that I'm not really the important one here. That I found my punk rock however many moons ago and have been clinging to it since is besides the point. I mean, look at the state of the fucking world we're living in. Look at what people believe, what they say, how they behave, how they treat each other. Look at who they elect, and what they hide behind. That I don't feel a fire lit under me by Haggathorn's music is irrelevant, and that I can blandly, blithely acknowledge that we're on the same ideological page without saying anything more is of absolutely no consequence. If they, or Racetraitor, or Neckbeard Deathcamp are someone else's punk rock and challenge them to change the way they think or act, that's what matters, and that's the fundamental purpose a release like this needs to serve. Personally, I hope it works.

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