Review: BAT – Under the Crooked Claw

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Bruce Wayne’s favorite speed metal band.

It’s hard to believe BAT has been around for more than 10 years now. I started listening back in 2013 when Tankcrimes first debuted their demo. It was indeed a more Primitive Age (see what I did there?). I honestly used to pay a ton of attention to that label, and by all accounts they are still out there killing it. Ghoul, Toxic Holocaust, Population Reduction… they’ve put out or distributed some great records in their time. I’ve always assumed the owner, Scotty Heath, must be great friends with Municipal Waste since it seemed like every side project they had was immediately picked up and released via his label.

Generally speaking, I think most of the Municipal Waste side projects are great. Cannabis Corpse, Iron Reagan, Volture, Morbikon… it’s actually kind of kind of crazy how many of them managed to be successful in their own right. BAT is no exception. Under the Crooked Claw marks their second full-length, on top of their demo, an EP, and a couple singles released in 2014 and 2015. I actually completely missed their first full-length when it dropped in 2016. Ryan Waste must be a pretty busy guy considering Municipal Waste also had fairly consistent output during that time. But have BAT maintained the high level of songwriting that one might expect from one of the modern day crossover kings? Safe to say that’s a Texas-sized 10-4.

In fairness, I don’t think this album is topping any year end charts for me, but it’s also pretty hard to hate on. Most of the tracks don’t even reach the 3 minute mark. I really appreciate that since my attention span seems to be shrinking at a rate even Wayne Szalinski would find hard to explain. There’s also a lot packed into each one. The riffs are all catchy. The drums push onward at an unrelenting pace. The solos make you feel like you’ve just stared directly into the ark of the covenant.

Yet – and hear me out on this one – I don’t think the album breaks enough new ground to call it great. The music sounds just like it did on the demo, but with a bit more polish. Genre wise, it fits squarely into the box it’s trying to fit in. That’s not a bad thing, but it also doesn’t challenge the listener very much. It didn’t have a lot of “aha” moments. That is to say, the song structures rarely surprised me. Another issue for me was listener fatigue. As I stated in my recent Midnight review, sometimes music can suffer from the full-length format. I think that’s the case here. While this latest BAT album is good, the whole thing feels a bit weighed down by its size. 35 minutes was too long for me. I think they could have split it in half and done two EPs to greater effect. Personally, I like being left wanting more.

Give this one a shot if you’ve enjoyed the band’s previous output. All in all, it does everything it should, and I doubt any speed metal or thrash fans will take much issue with what’s being presented. Hell, buy yourself a copy on vinyl. Maybe listening in a format that splits the run time in half by its nature will slightly improve the listening experience. In any case, don’t get bogged down by the numbers. I’m giving this sucker a 3.5/5. To me that says it’s worth your time, even if it doesn’t change your life. Out May 17, 2024 via Nuclear Blast.

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