Baltimore, Maryland’s Hatebeak has released a new 14 track album, titled The Number of the Beak. The band’s music is highly experimental grindcore, noise, or even post-grind, with Waldo the African Grey parrot’s various noises used as ‘vocal samples’. Released through Reptilian Records, this is apparently a compilation of all the studio-only project’s past releases, plus six new songs. As a nod to our hookbilled
friends overlords, both pssitacine and human points of view are included here.
Get on your perch – one of your seven, fluff up your feathers, sit on one foot, and grind your beak: enjoy this. The instrumental portions of The Number of the Beak are sharp, short, and disjointed, which may or may not have been a deliberate attempt to mimic Waldo’s natural song. Closer to experimental jazz in structure then traditional metal, the relative inaccessibility of the music may prevent more of the ‘casual’ type fans from adoring it. Hulling that seed, the noise and grindcore passages come into view and fade out very quickly and unexpectedly, very seldom repeating themselves. The band rarely settles into a persistent groove, favoring change-ups to the music every few bars. The music’s composition does stay true to grindcore, with downtuned strings and mostly hyperspeed drums.
Play with a molted feather, then show the world how much you adore your habitat by banging your toys around. The various avian noises are used as syncopated accents in some songs, or during some parts, taking the place of drums (which drone at ridiculous speeds in the background). Bass guitar takes typical form for extreme metal: a clean ‘banging’ tone at very high volume levels, or a more gritty, distorted tone to add some crunch to the low end. Guitar also remains faithful to the extreme genres it honors here, with plenty of gain, overdrive, volume, aggression, and lots of noodly fast solos. On some songs, drums are obviously programmed. Fans of acoustic drums may be turned off, but grindcore speed freaks are going to adore the mega fast tempos. Synth accents dot each song, especially for intros and outros.
Now, preen a little, sing a lot. Waldo is not the only vocal part – spoken word samples are in at least three songs. Waldo’s bandmates have not tried to humanize or anthropomorphize his vocals. He’s allowed to remain a bird, with all of the avian kingdom’s songster quirks intact. Waldo’s vocals aren’t oversampled or excessively pitch shifted to force him into human-land. The net effect is that of barbed, sharply pointed noisecore with strange beeping and harsh screeches over the tops of the tunes, a sort of natural discordance. Think of listening to instrumental grind while walking through the parrot exhibit at your local zoo, and you’re very close.
Sing and scream at the top of your lungs, because the vacuum cleaner, your favorite song of all, is on! This was a stream-only review copy, so there were volume, EQ, and mix issues which may or may not be present on a retail version. As with most ‘compilation of the band’s’ albums, the sonic gap or difference between releases was large and distracting. To work around that issue, shipping this as a multiple disc set, so that a listener has to physically switch discs or playlist items, may help, as it prepares the brain for the switch. The sound issues may be less noticeable for owners of the vinyl edition, because of that need to switch records. The music itself is solid, but the experimentation remains relatively conservative or undeveloped. It would be very interesting to hear what this band could do if they took some of the more esoteric ideas and fleshed them into full motives, or songs.
A funny piss-take on the band name Hatebreed, Hatebeak’s got another feather in its cap: very cute, clever, and witty song titles that delight both ‘parronts’ and metalheads alike. If you’re a “pet dinosaur” (bird) owner, play this at a reasonable volume for your ‘fids’ and see if they like it!
Finally, go to your food dish, then throw half the food to the bottom of the cage, through the grate, so you can amuse yourself by foraging – fishing it out with your foot later. What’s really nice about The Number of the Beak is that it isn’t as expected. It’s unconventional. It doesn’t sound like Slowly We Rot or Scum sped up with some weird pitch-shifted vocal. It’s highly quirky, experimental, takes lots of risks with song form, it turns and twists at the most unexpected points, and… there’s a bird in the band! It’s cool, not boring. Hatebeak is a challenging, fun, experiential listen. While certainly not everyone’s dish of sunflower seeds or peanuts, it’s innovative, and that’s really what metal needs these days: bands who push the envelope and don’t follow the flock.
Roost In Piece
His Grey Wings
Beak Of Putrefaction
God Of Empty Nest
Seeds Of Destruction
Birdseeds Of Vengeance
Bird Bites. Dog Cries
Hellbent For Feathers
The Thing That Should Not Beak
Waldo (an African Grey parrot)