Southern Lord has an extensive array of classic hardcore releases in its catalogue from Neon Christ (which I reviewed last year), Uniform Choice, and The Offenders to name just a few. Now it’s the turn of The Catatonics whose promo-notes state the band is credited for ‘pioneering the original 1981/1982 Syracuse hardcore scene’ and their Hunted Down EP is ‘considered one of the first hardcore thrash/metal crossover releases’.
The band were composed of bassist/vocalist Jeff Jacques, drummer/vocalist Belvy K, guitarist Farmer Brown and guitarist/vocalist Joseph D. Miller. Sadly, unlike a lot of their contemporaries, the band split as a result of musical differences before they even got round to recording a full-length debut.
Descending In E originates from the second Flipside Compilation LP from around 1985 and absolutely typifies the essence of what Keith Morris was talking about in 2006s American Hardcore documentary ‘…Everybody is kinda pointing the finger at me, …everybody is poking me and now I have a chance to be with a bunch of my own type of people and I have a chance to go off’ and boy does it echo that sentiment. It’s explosive and reminds me of what made me fall in love with hardcore in the first place.
The next five tracks come from the aforementioned, and legendary, Hunted Down EP, starting with Never Again. Unlike its relentless predecessor, it does allow for some breathing space with a little more melody present and vocals that curiously resemble that of Slayer’s Tom Araya. The track does in fact have a metallic edge to it, which was pretty brave at a time when hardcore and metal were rigidly defined with fans of both camps sworn mortal enemies and any hint of musical technical ability seen as a sell-out.
It’s explosive and reminds me of what made me fall in love with hardcore in the first place…
Bet I Can is absolutely amazing and starts with a ten-second drum intro before launching into the kind of goosebump inducing, face melting hardcore I’ve not heard in a long while. Think the chaotic lethal precision of Jerry’s Kids and you wouldn’t be far off the mark. The track Hunted Down contains the snotty rock n roll attitude of vintage Motörhead with some D.R.I. thrown in, while What You See And What You Say has elements of Boston Straight-Edge hardcore legends SSD’s slightly gnarlier qualities, and would have slotted in comfortably on that band’s The Kids Will Have Their Say debut. Obstinate rounds off the Hunted Down EP in a more restrained mid-tempo fashion and once again mirrors a heavier grinding SSD sound, a possible indication of the direction the band could have gone into had fate allowed them the opportunity.
The compilation also comprises of demo tracks that commences with I Can’t Take You Anywhere, which fondly recalls Metallica’s charm and youthful exuberance during the Kill ‘Em All period. Don’t Call Me Honey ups the tempo a bit more and might find you digging out your copy of Suicidal Tendencies classic Self-Titled debut while Drink More Brew is 46 seconds of pure juvenile fun which shares Gang Green’s obsession with the ol’ amber nectar.
If my facts are correct, the remaining tracks comprise of live recordings, which while musically decent are hampered by a less than stellar production. I would agree with Distorted Sound Mag’s assessment that it’s ‘a slight shame we’ll probably never get to hear these songs in a studio form’.
That said, this release is a crucial slice of US hardcore history which even enthuses someone like me who has been listening to the genre for decades and who thought he had heard it all.
Label: Southern Lord
Scribed by: Reza Mills