James ‘Metal’ Monteith is the resident metalhead in Tesseract, a bit like the role Jim Martin had in Faith No More. During lockdown, he and long-time friend, Jon Reid, revisited the favourite records of their youth from Stampin’ Ground, Biohazard, Terror and Slayer and started exchanging ideas for songs. These bedroom collaborations might have remained passion projects were it not for a chance discovery of French vocalist, Rachel Aspe (ex-Eths), performing a cover of The Black Dahlia Murder on YouTube. Now, with drummer, Nick Plews, behind the kit, the quartet are ready to release the rage of the Covid era with the chunkiest guitar chugs and vicious roars worthy of the golden age of hardcore. This record will make your hands assume fist shapes and spit out that bad taste of political corruption, racial division and gender violence that scarred the last two years of public life.
The first thing we must tackle is the DNA of this album. Cage Fight identify as a hardcore band, but this music incorporates a wide range of extreme metal influences and blasts through the crunchy metal riffs with the same alacrity as Pig Destroyer. True, opener, ‘The Mirror Shattered’, exhibits a violent hardcore edge like classic Hatebreed, but the thrash tempos and muscular guitar rhythms are perfect for a Slayer pit. ‘Killer’ might even remind you of Strapping Young Lad but with a Madball chorus. Here, Rachel Aspe leaves her saliva all over the microphone in a vicious burst of sustained vitriolic bludgeoning. You’ll find no clean singing or sorrowful refrains in this music. The Pantera breakdown at 01:50 seconds will tighten the skin against your cheeks as if standing in front of a wind machine.
You can see why Candlelight Records signed Cage Fight to a record deal. Not one of the fourteen songs here (including a cover of Body Count’s ‘Bitch in the Pit’) falls below exquisite. Those of you that still harbour the wildest fantasies about what might have happened to Sepultura if they pursued a different direction in 1996 will be booking a week off work to cope with the euphoric fury of this album. ‘Hope Castrated’ is like Fear Factory with beatdowns and technical thrash rhythms. The gang-vocal choruses for ‘Make a Decision’ and ‘Tell Me What Real Is’ reference classic NYC hardcore but retain a metallic edge. Aspe’s vocal expeditions take her from testosterone-fuelled punk to murderous death metal in the blink of a black eye. Did Biohazard ever sound as ripped as this?
Monteith earns his Tesseract nickname with the velocity of his thrash metal picking hand on ‘Shine Don’t Fade’. This could be a young Dave Mustaine demoing ‘Take No Prisoners’ back in 1989. Listen to the rapid antagonism of the guitar strings as Nick Plews follows in pursuit like Napoleon’s Imperial Guard. The collaboration with Trevor Strnad (The Black Dahlia Murder) on ‘Eating Me Alive’ embraces death metal with relish and goes deep into Suffocation territory with a threat of pig squealing vocal transgressions among the carnage. Whoah!
Of course, Rachel Aspe is always going to be the star of the show as the conscience of the band and the face of their devastating audio assault. Every track here will make you gasp and scream the name “Rachel Aspe!” in triumph. Pity the fool who sees only the tattoos and the stunning femme fatale beauty and thinks he can impress her with his swagger. ‘Respect Ends’ makes it clear that Rachel, like every other woman, has boundaries. “You read this wrong/ Think you’re a superstar/ And Iʼm a new car… / Violate in a major way/ What the fuck you think I’m gonna say?” See if you can make it through ‘My Dreams’ when she ascends into a spontaneous succession of unintelligible screams and agonising roars as if absorbing the sins of the last two years on her shoulders. “In a world full of uncertainty and frustration, this type of music was the only thing I found solace and balance in,” she says, in the press release. Passionate is not the word to describe the sincerity of her performance.
The band have support slots with Cro-Mags and Sepultura lined up and an appearance at Bloodstock in August. Cage Fight are on the way up, but nothing can bring you down from the cathartic rage of their music. This is a sensational debut effort that will resonate for years to come.
Release Date: 13/05/2022
Standout tracks: Hope Castrated, Shine Don’t Fade, Eating Me Alive
Suggested Further Listening: Dishonour the Crown – The English Way (2018), Go Ahead and Die – Go Ahead and Die (2021), Stampin’ Ground – Carved >From Empty Words (2000)