With a strong emphasis on the ‘retro’, this collectors item from Shai Hulud is that rarest of beasts – something aimed squarely at SH fans that manages to have appeal to fans of hardcore because of its comprehensive eye for detail and the level of access granted to listeners. Split into three sections (demo tracks, a short live session and guitar-only rhythm tracks) it’s well worth picking up even if you haven’t previously been initiated into the world of the Hulud.

By far the most appealing part of the collection are the demos, split into three sections. The first ever SH demo fro ’96 is included here, and tt’s the best quality of everything on the CD. Songs are scrappy and more than slightly raw but it’s nevertheless good to hear a band that is so accomplished even at this early stage. ‘Sauve Qui Peut’ bludgeons you with its sheer speed and ferocity while ‘Unlearned’ (which can be found in various other guises on the disc) shows how Shai Hulud managed to tread the boundary between punk and metal by combining solid melodies with enough crunch to put a digestive biscuit to shame. Another four tracks are culled from a recorded practice in ’95 and while they’re not recorded will at all, they still show the sparks that went on to assert Hulud’s presence in the hardcore fraternity. Finally, there’s the demo from ’97 featuring Chad Gilbert on vocal that got them resigned which is basically an exercise in well-crafted melodic hardcore. What’s best about all these is while they obviously have great value to people that have been Shai fans for years now, the songs are strong enough to stand alone.

The three track live session isn’t all that special, even if ‘Concentrating on the Negative Aspects of Life’ is a stormingly brutal track. Hampered by a slightly muddy recording and the shortness of the set (there’s no sense of building up a rhythm, one of the best parts of any decent live recording), it’s definitely the most forgettable part of the collection. One for fans (and guitarists) only is the short compilation of four rhythm tracks, recorded so basically that you can hear the plectrum hitting the strings. They’re obviously interesting for anyone with an interest in following Shai Hulud, but also manage to make for good listening because they show the bare bones of a band miles away from the polish and sheen of the finished act. Whether they stand up to repeated listening is another matter entirely, but they’re a curio that fits well.

Worth a purchase definitely, this will send SH fans into paroxysms of delight while the rest of us will simply be pleased to hear some hardcore at its best – stripped back and devoid of flashy tricks. It lays Shai Hulud bare for inspection and they come off all the better, especially when coupled with the comprehensive liner notes that create a tangible sense of personality sadly lacking in a lot of hardcore bands today.

Ben

www.atdawnwewagewar.com