I didn’t even realize how much I’ve stigmatized horrorcore until Batshit Crazy showed up in my mailbox and made me question my way of thinking. The band embraces the term so I will for the context of this review. To me, the cover art, font and subgenre name make me think of Misfits-meets-rockabilly or, shudder, psychobilly.
But Batshit Crazy sets a different tone from the getgo. The eponymous record opens with an ominous bell toll, but a quick Ramones-style power chord changes the tone. This is upbeat and forward-moving instead of haunting or woe-is-me. To twist the band’s lyrics for my own metaphor, they sing “Stare into fire/ It’s so hypnotizing” in the eighth song, fittingly titled “Stare into Fire.” It’s a good description. It’s easy to give in to the upbeat, driving percussion and singalong structure, forgetting that the lyrical tone here is actually much darker. Of course, the next lyric is “And it kills it quickly.” So much for taking quotes out of context.
First, that theme. Song titles include “They Live We Sleep,” “Diabolic,” “The Man Who Was Death,” and “Ghosts,” among others. It’s dark and violent, a contrast to the West Coast melodic hardcore and pop-punk influences that drive the actual tunes.
Right after that opening bell toll, “Bats in the Belfry” has a poppy beat, and the plethora of cymbals combined with some late harmonizing in “No Solution” gives a similar upbeat vibe. The melodies soar with influence of contemporary SoCal melodic hardcore, but I pick up a lot of 1990’s-era bands like Good Riddance who would sing the majority of the time and belt out ferocious shouts/screams to emphasize the points. I also hear shades of Lifetime. “The Man Who Was Death” is one of the stronger songs on the record and it exemplifies that balance between the two eras. There is a big singalong structure at its core with an nonvocalized “whoa-oh” element to it, but Richy V.’s punchy vocals are what stands out. Meanwhile the drums are the potent and push the big guitar chords to higher ground.
The production here gives everyone in the band an equal pedestal, though the drums and vocals tend to draw the spotlight. Sharing members with Bullet Treatment, Batshit Crazy is guitarist Chuck’s return to a band environment instead of taking full-charge, as he does with Bullet Treatment. In his own description of the album, he refers to horror movies and the concept of dark themes with vibrant colors, which is ultimately the best description of the sound on Batshit Crazy’s debut. As exemplified in “Ghosts,” with the opening lyrics of “No place I’d rather be/ Than amongst these ghosts/ I’m bored with the living,” this is a storytelling record that wallows in a complex, violent, and sad world that sounds painful but offers more than just gloom and doom.
7.3 / 10
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