The Covid-19 lockdown scuppered the plans of all artists, but it hit Jackal’s Backbone at the worst possible time. They were high on the success of 2018, which saw them deliver a career defining set at Beermageddon and culminated with an appearance at Bloodstock 2019. The debut album was ready to record for a big push in 2020. “Jake started recording his drums in December 2019,” says guitarist, Sam Farrington. “And then I went back again in March  to finish the rest of the drums off, and that’s when the pandemic hit,” adds drummer, Jake Eaton. “The guy who was recording us left his keys to the shack at work, and it was the day we went into lockdown, so I had to wait for three or four months to do them,” adds Sam.
You can sense the frustration in the camp about the wasted eighteen months brought on by the pandemic. For Jake, it turned into a living nightmare. “We’d been waiting so long to do an album… I just got fed up because I just really wanted to release the bloody thing,” he says, nursing a pint of Fosters. Next to him is vocalist and bassist, Beccatron Swinney, and across from him is Sam. The other six-stringer, Greg Neath, can’t make it today.
Anyone who knows Jake, knows he has three passions in life – metal, punk, and football. Follow him on social media and you’ll laugh at some of his posts. Yet he also had the dubious distinction of Facebook banning him from the platform. I ask him why they blocked him. He gives a knowing smile. “You can’t say anything bad about the covid situation, and Facebook are like, “You’re banned”. A lot of people’s posts were getting deleted when they mentioned that they don’t like the covid situation.” I’m aware he’s a passionate Tottenham Hotspur supporter, so I ask him if a vexatious comment about one of their rivals was the real reason. He laughs it off but returns to his original point: “Some people don’t like hearing other people’s opinions… When the pandemic happened, everyone was getting down and depressed. They were saying last year that the suicide rate went up because of the pandemic.”
The record that emerged in early December 2021 is a triumph of heavy metal dynamics, death metal aggression, and sludge metal guitar sonics. You can sense the anxiety and do-or-die attitude in the music of Red Mist Descending, almost as if they recorded it as their last chance to leave something for posterity. I mention how they harbour that early spirit of Venom in their sound, and Jake agrees. His dad was a punk and only nineteen when he and his mother had him. From age nine, the Jackal’s Backbone drummer was already familiar with Motorhead, Discharge, GBH, Venom and Metallica. “My dad’s friend, Crin, he’s into, like, black metal/ death metal… When I was a kid, we’d go round there – I was about ten or eleven – and his wall would be full of black metal and death metal CDs. My dad got me into metal.”
Becca stays quiet throughout our conversation, but that’s because Jake, Sam and I spend at least thirty minutes going through our favourite artists. We talk about the year of 1995 when Paradise Lost, Therapy? and Fear Factory were the hot bands. The difference is Jake was there as a twelve-year-old kid in the thick of it, unlike the rest of us, who discovered this era of music in the late 1990s. Sam is like me – he had to find the heavier artists on his own without the guiding hand of an older relative or family friend.
I switch the conversation to their triumphant album launch two days ago at the legendary Club 85 in Hitchin. The band played Red Mist Descending in its entirety. “That’s the first time we’ve ever done a forty-odd minute set,” notes Jake, with expanding eyes. “In my opinion, when it’s called an album launch, you should play the album.” “Yeah, especially if it’s called an album launch,” adds Sam.
They had an impressive line up of local bands on the bill at Club 85. Industrial-punk duo, Black Skull Ritual, and rising alt-metal crew, Silverhex, were just two of the support acts. Hertfordshire sludge trio, Dreadbeggar, and eclectic hardcore weirdos, …aAnd?, were the last two groups blasting through the amps before they took to the stage. For a five-band event, Jackal’s Backbone know how to put on a diverse metal show. It epitomises their approach. Like Faith No More, the group members all listen to different music. Becca likes her Ozzy Osbourne and Arch Enemy records; Jake listens to everything from Smashing Pumpkins to Strapping Young Lad; Sam is the sludge lord of the band with a love for Exodus and Testament when he’s not enjoying his Crowbar LPs. Jake corrects me when I call him the resident punk. Lars Ulrich is his favourite drummer, and Slipknot’s Iowa is his favourite heavy album.
So, why is the frontwoman of the band so quiet? She sits and observes as we three lads talk about guitar scales and the differences between speed and thrash metal. Beccatron Swinney is the obvious star of the group. On stage, she towers in front of her mic with her bass guitar like Pete Steele of Type O Negative and paints the outlines of her eyes with dark mascara. Listen to her on record, and she’s like a hurricane making its way across the Atlantic. She’s ten years younger than Sam and Jake and turns thirty next year. Everyone who hears Jackal’s Backbone mentions the power of her vocals. The death metal enunciation in her voice pulsates like a young Chuck Schuldiner but has the expert roar of Arch Enemy’s Angela Gossow. Where did she learn to sing in such a harsh manner?
“Well, it’s quite funny actually. It was quite a while back when we went to Alton Towers. I was on a ride – the Runaway train – with my younger sister, just going in a tunnel, and I just started doing it.” There’s no doubt she has the technique down to a fine art, but she tells me that a rigorous warm-up routine and a packet of Vocalzone throat pastilles are essential for her to reach this standard. “What we do with Jackal’s Backbone,” adds Jake, “Becca wants to make sure you can hear what she’s singing.” Like Lauren Hart from Once Human, I suggest. Jake’s eyes light up in agreement. “I think she’d have been a great replacement for Arch Enemy,” he enthuses.
I can’t leave our interview without mentioning the standout song from their debut album. Who wrote ‘Dead Prey’ and what is it about? This question piques Becca’s interest. “It was written at the time for some of our wrestling friends,” she says. I ask her to repeat her words. The others laugh. Now the frontwoman chuckles. “They came to one of our shows once at Club 85, and we said we’d really love to write a song for you – an intro song for when they do live wrestling – it’s something they can come out to.”
So, where do they go from here? The goals for the year ahead are simple – play bigger festivals, do more shows, and work towards the second album. Jackal’s Backbone are here to stay. This is a band at the beginning of where they want to be.
*** Jackal’s Backbone self-released Red Mist Descending on 10 December 2021. You can read the original SBR review here.