Album Review: Hard Charger – "This Machine Is Driving"

Review by Mark Laffin

It’s really kind of a shame that punk and metal can’t get along more often. If they did, we might have more bands like Fredericton’s Hard Charger. Which I mean as a good thing. You see, the 2 rather volatile genres actually share a somewhat complicated history. On one side, the punk camp has always seemed to cast off metal for having become an extension of the over-blown dinosaur rock of the ’70’s, which is what the punk movement was initially a reaction against. On the other side of things, the metal camp typically dismisses punk for being too crude and simplistic. The reality is that neither scene would exist at all without The Stooges. It’s pretty much understood that the late ‘70’s punk explosion was a byproduct of the following that the Stooges and MC5 left behind. Metal arguably began with Black Sabbath, but its development into what it became in the ‘80’s is highly indebted to that same Stooges legacy and ensuing punk scene. How many metal bands in the ‘80’s have recorded punk covers? While the purists on each end have always butted heads, the one band that everyone could seem to agree on is Motorhead. It was Motorhead that along with their classic rock ‘n roll swagger, brought elements from both scenes together and allowed both the punks and metalheads to find some common ground.

Thanks to Motorhead, the ‘80’s gave way to a couple scenes that for a couple of years at least, started to blur the lines between metal and punk. Thrash metal was born out of this fusion, as was the wave of d-beat/street punk bands like G.B.H. and Discharge that heavily borrowed from thrash. It’s in the tradition of these bands, which I find so appealing about Hard Charger. This is a seriously uncompromising slab of crust-punk infused metallic rock ‘n roll. This album is loud, filthy and rancorous with no apologies. The sludgy sounding Kyuss-like guitars sped up to a break-neck velocity paired with singer Eric’s growled screams make this one fuck of a hell raising, double fisting, testosterone-fueled punk-metal rock ‘n roll thrashfest. Listening to this album reminds me of a pack of rogue Vikings on an all night bender of amphetamines, Red Bull and whiskey. Mind you, there’s isn’t much for musical dynamics or complexity. However, those things would only tarnish the fierce and unrelenting qualities of this record.

“This Pack Will Roam” is the first track, and has the closest thing resembling a dynamic. It features a slow driving, dirty melodic intro which then settles into comfortable mid-tempo groove. I love the lead melody here, as it sounds like Batmotorfinger-era Soundgarden. This is all before the song lunges head-on into 2 minutes of unyielding triple time chaos. As it turns out, this is actually par for the course for the rest of the album. The rhythm section possesses the endurance of an AK-47, and every song is the sonic equivalent to a kick in the face. There’s really not much for subtleties here, as songs like “Total Fucking Blackout” and “Still Fucking Pissed” sound pretty much like you’d expect. While the Motorhead influence is very obvious with songs like “Charm School” and “Jackmoose”, there are some pure punk moments such as with “Tank Life” which sounds like it could be an Exploited cover. To maintain a fair balance, “Till The Living Die” and “Intoxicator” exhibit a true 80’s speed/thrash metal vibe.

While the flow remains mostly the same throughout the album, it never gets boring. Despite the quick pace and brutal resolve there’s a real clarity to the songs. This is ensured with the plethora of deeply pronounced riffs with wide open grooves, and some lead guitar melodies that feature some genuine moments of tonality. The production also sounds carefully unpolished which only lends further to the authenticity of the band’s sound. In fact, this album sounds so convincing that is feels like a future deluxe edition of it should come complete with a studded leather jacket, a copy of “The Anarchist Cookbook” and a Molotov cocktail. This is a truly veritable piece of metal influenced street punk which some working class London neighborhoods would love to call their own. You really don’t hear many bands like this anymore. While a full fledged scene in the early ‘80’s, bands attempting this type of sound in today’s cultural climate risk coming off as novelty and insincere. The great thing about this record is how well the band manages to not seem at all calculated or contrived. So make no mistake, there are no layers of mystique hidden beneath the surface here. Read the track listing and that should give you an idea of the sonic assault waiting in store…and I don’t mean that as a bad thing.


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