Bat- Under The Crooked Claw (Album Review)

May 28, 2024


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Not only has Municipal Waste become an institution of the more fun side of crossover thrash over the past two decades, but its members have kept themselves busy with plenty of side projects.  The best known out of these is the slightly more hardcore leaning Iron Reagan, but the group that always stood out the most to me amongst the Waste associated acts was Bat.  Formed in 2013 not long after Volture imploded, Bat found Ryan and Nick uniting with ex-D.R.I. drummer Felix Griffin and delivering catchy and stripped down heavy/speed metal.  Between 2013 and 2016 the trio was active on stage and in the studio, with the likes of Wings of Chain and Axestasy delivering the same sleazy, headbanging worthy riffs as bands like Midnight.  After 2019 things went quiet for awhile, and some five years later Bat has re-emerged with a new drummer and label.  They’ve joined Nuclear Blast which Municipal Waste also calls home, and Ultimate Disaster drummer Chris Marshall has taken over for Felix.  The resulting album Under The Crooked Claw brings bigger production values with it, but the core sound remains the same and Bat still has plenty of riffs to keep fans of everything old-school happy.

Where the previous two releases had Toxic Holocaust’s Joel Grind handling production duties, Under The Crooked Claw opts for the ever-popular Arthur Rizk, which makes sense given his involvement with Municipal Waste’s last album Electrified Brain.  I do miss some of the grit Joel brought to Bat but can’t complain the approach Rizk and the band have gone for this time around which is to make everything feel bigger and have slightly more polish.  On more straightforward numbers like “Vampyre Lore” and “Warshock” this makes the guitar and bass really pop while the drums hit with an almost D-beat and punk level of impact, but songs like “Horror Vision” the production allows the subtle nuances to really stand out.  These slightly longer numbers give time for the band to slow down just a bit and let some ominous and horror movie atmosphere seep in, which mixes in well with the faster attacks.  Under The Crooked Claw stays consistent with Bat’s approach from the very beginning even with these minor tweaks, once again finding that sweet spot between Venom and Motörhead in a similar fashion as Midnight, but you’re sure to hear a slew of other NWOBHM and punk edged speed metal depending on your tastes.  It may not convince anyone that’s not already a big fan of this sound, but I found myself hooked by the likes of “Streetbanger” and “Battered” while also appreciating the slight differences of “Horror Vision” and “Bastardized Force”.

Ryan Waste has primarily done backing vocals for Municipal Waste, making Bat his main opportunity to steal the spotlight behind the mic.  There isn’t a ton of range to the performance, but this is one of those examples where a group can do a lot with a little and the high energy yelling/singing gives more of a punk feel to the band rather than a NWOBHM one.  Each line is delivered with quite a bit of force and the little bit of reverb makes Waste sound massive, which suits the expanded production values.  On the lyrical front it’s clear the band continues to have fun and not take themselves too seriously, and while a few songs are so stereotypical for heavy and speed metal that it could almost border on parody I still had fun with it.  Bat still opts for grittiness and a standard approach to their vocals but given the brief thirty-five-minute run it doesn’t wear out its welcome.

Eleven years after they first emerged with Primitive Age, Bat is still doing what they do best.  There’s just a bit more punk and a few slower, ominous sections to break things up, but this remains a fast and to the point heavy metal album at its core.  The change in production to a bigger and slightly less overtly retro sound may prove to be hit or miss with some established fans, but the riffs are still strong from beginning to end and give this album some staying power.  Bands like this always scratch a certain itch for me, and alongside the new Midnight this is another banger that understands how to keep things simple and not overstay their welcome.  Under The Crooked Claw is available from Nuclear Blast Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg