Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Haggith - "XIV" EP Review!!

It's time for our 81st monthly CD review at The Sault Metal Scene, as we're taking a look at defunct local hard rock/grunge quartet Haggith's fourth studio album "XIV"! With no new hard rock albums to touch on, we chose this album for our latest review to tie in with Haggith members' battle of the bands runs with The Din, Eclipse, and Pillory earlier this month. Their third and final mainline release before dissolving last summer (though the previously recorded "Apocalypse II" was their last release), and named after it's original target release year, "XIV" was self-produced and released through PaperClip Productions on April 17th, 2015, though recording plans were shrunk following founding guitarist Daniel Horton's departure from the band during recording sessions, forcing surviving members to chop "XIV" down to EP length. The disc features Haggith's 2014-15 lineup, but only singer Curtis McKenzie and drummer Mike Haggith feature on all 4 tracks. Bassist Jordan Leach plays on all but "Red" (which Daniel plays bass on), while Curtis plays guitar on the two songs completed after Daniel's departure.

As well, Mourning Wood's Steven Flint provides a guest bass solo on "Road Rash", which he performed with Curtis & Daniel in their old band Punch before Haggith re-purposed that song. On sale for just $2 via the PaperClip online store, "XIV" can also be streamed via Haggith's YouTube channel (and titles are linked below from there as well), but there are no official digital sale copies of it. In any event, consider buying "XIV" to support Haggith's work! A short release with just 4 songs at just 14 minutes in length, let's begin with the first song, "Red"! Running at a disc-low 1:55 in length, this is a steadily paced rocker that has a fun driving feel, strong guitar and bass work from Daniel, and nice melodic vocals from Curtis, but the song definitely feels unfinished, abruptly ending with a higher sung verse, seemingly before a spot where a guitar solo would have been. Was this song currently in production when Daniel left? Note that the YouTube copy of this song fades out at the end for unexplained reasons.

Second is a cover of Punch's "Road Rash", which was taken on by Haggith after that band dissolved. Notably the only song on "XIV" featuring all 4 members of the 2014-15 Haggith lineup together, the song gives us our best example of Curt's vocal range, and Mike's drum fills and rhythm are on point, with Jordan more than holding his own on bass! That said, Steven's bass solo shows his own skill nicely, but it admittedly feels like it was tacked on from a separate song. The lyrics can be a little repetitive, and Daniel's guitar solo isn't highly mixed on the final product, but this is a strong track that was a live fan favourite! Third is "Anthem", which was a long-time live staple for Haggith, but only received it's first studio release on "XIV". Designed as the band's own anthem (appropriately) for fans to "hail" Haggith with during the call & response choruses, the loss of the live energy and spontaneity does affect the studio version, but Curt does an admirable job on guitar in Daniel's stead! However, it may have been better left as a live track.

"XIV" closes with a remake of their song "Rage Train", which was originally recorded for their 2012 debut CD "Dragon Joy Ride" by Curtis, Daniel, and Mike. The new version (sans Daniel, and with Jordan on bass) doesn't divert from the original's path too much, but it is a little longer, better produced, and benefits from the guys' added studio experience in the intervening years! It's not Haggith's most technical or fastest song, but it has a grungy bite in both versions, and while it's subjective, I prefer the remake for the recording quality and added energy. For fuller thoughts on the original song, visit our "Dragon Joy Ride" review at this link. The EP closes with about 25 seconds of silence before an unidentified band member says "That's it? Fuck." This is tacked onto the end of "Rage Train" on YouTube, but on CD copies, it's allocated to a 5th bonus track.

So, what are my final thoughts on "XIV"? It's an entertaining EP from this talented local band, who delivered their last studio work with energy, aggression, and maturity! Curtis McKenzie's singing was on point as usual, he and Daniel Horton delivered strong riffs and good solos, Jordan Leach fit in well on bass, and Mike Haggith's skilled drumming was a constant presence, with the production and songwriting helping back everything up! I preferred "Road Rash" myself, but while none of the songs were bad, "Anthem" felt like a missed opportunity given it's title theme (I'd have included a professionally recorded live version, myself.) That said, "XIV" is one of those albums that will always have the question "What if?" hanging over it. Before Daniel left the band, "XIV" was planned to feature 7 more original songs (and no "Rage Train" remake), though Eclipse have since taken on "Wasted", "Rebel From Above", and "Metal Cage" as their own. What if Daniel has stayed on to finish the originally intended CD?

We may never know, but huge kudos go out to Haggith for completing and releasing "XIV" in this form, and while it lasts, it's a strong blast of hard rock that set their mainline album trilogy out on a high, so buy or stream it above! Just as an addendum, note that my CD copy features the first 3 seconds of the next song at the very end of each preceding track. I am unsure if that is an isolated case, or if other initial pressings of this EP are similar, but keep that in mind if you have a physical copy! I hope you guys liked this month's CD review, and stay tuned for a likely review of AlgomA and Chronobot's upcoming split disc next, as it comes out on Friday! Thanks everyone!

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