In the overpopulated world of top-notch extreme metal drummers, Nick Barker is an undisputed legend. With CRADLE OF FILTH, DIMMU BORGIR and TESTAMENT on his resumé, not to mention grindcore supergroup LOCK UP, he has already earned his place in metal history. But now it's time for an entirely different vibe, as Nick Barker makes a very welcome return to the stage, after a lengthy period spent behind the scenes. Six tracks of absolutely ripping metallic hardcore, with a neat and subversive twist, "At Her Majesty's Pleasure" fulfils the drummer's long-held desire to pay tribute to the crossover scene that inspired so many of his generation.
With a lineup boasting members of UK hardcore legends KNUCKLEDUST and London's ultra-gnarly DRIPBACK, BORSTAL could easily come across as a fun, temporary side project, but what really hits home during this exhilarating burst of thuggish precision is that Barker has assembled himself a real band here, with all the vein-popping chemistry and exuberant camaraderie that goes with it.
Musical reference points are exactly as they should be. BORSTAL deal in a straightforward, groove-driven and relentlessly ferocious strain of metallic hardcore, steeped in the seminal clangor of NYHC greats like CRO-MAGS, AGNOSTIC FRONT and SICK OF IT ALL, and from the adrenalized rush of opener "Refuse To Lose" onwards, the quintet's debut EP nails that sound with more energy and conviction than any band in recent memory. More importantly, however, BORSTAL have a broad and proud British streak that precludes them from simply echoing Big Apple beatdowns. Gang vocals and the occasional burst of knuckleheaded melody point to a love for old-school UK street punk and the early '80s Oi! scene as well as bands like THE BUSINESS, THE EXPLOITED and GBH. BORSTAL are more than capable of throwing in a jaw-shattering D-beat from time to time, too. The end result is vastly more exciting than other high-quality NYHC tributea as a result. It's genuinely hard to imagine that songs like preview single "Vicious Circles" and anthemic closer "King Of The Jungle" won't turn mosh-pits into warzones when BORSTAL finally get to play these songs live. And one thing is absolutely guaranteed: Nick Barker is having the absolute time of his fucking life, back where he belongs and doing something genuinely fresh and exciting. Her Majesty will doubtless be delighted.