A year on from Redbait’s debut EP ‘Red Tape’, their follow-up release ‘Cages’ presents the St. Louis hardcore band in an especially confronting mood. Given the state of the world at the time of release that’s hardly surprising, but even so, the EP’s opening number ‘Capital Gains’ is particularly sharp and aggressive even by their previous standards. In a seventy five second howl of rage, the band move through several aggressive styles, each one clearly showing a band that’s not to be messed with…and certainly not about to take things lying down. A huge buzz of bass feedback instantly signifies something great is afoot and within seconds, the track explodes into a slab of crust-punk fury with a message that’s particularly pointed as the band calls for a “working class liberation” for “all ages, all races, all genders and all wage earners”. This is hard to gauge without a trusty lyric sheet, of course, but between a furious vocal performance that mixes hardcore shouts and black metal inflections seamlessly, a brief instrumental breakdown leaning towards more of a metal sound and a huge climax featuring male and female voices absolutely screeching, this is a powerful opening statement for fans and first-timers alike.

…And the rest of the EP is just as pointed, with the remaining tracks keen to show a blend of extreme crust-punk and hardcore styles, always played in a way that’s as tight as you’re likely to find. Far more accessible, ‘Our Town’ kicks off with a huge hardcore metal riff, branches out into some fine hardcore punk and then ultimately settles on a hybrid style that brings out the best in the speed oriented skills of the rhythm section. Eventually, the track descends into a pounding, very metallic and very 80s influenced groove that’s reminiscent of the classic Bay Area thrash bands whilst clinging on to various crossover tropes. The dual vocal sounds especially edgy and despite a few slower moments, it’s a much better insight into the various different hardcore styles that makes Redbait tick. The title cut doesn’t even allow time for an intro, kicking off with a swirling noise that falls somewhere between extreme hardcore punk and classic grindcore. Beneath the intensive speed oriented noise, different voices retch and growl, showing Redbait at their most uncompromising. Eventually, a hardcore punk groove cuts loose which, as before, makes a great feature of a female vocal. Most unexpected is the track’s second half that slows right down to allow a sludge metal riff to become the dominant force, while a voice – somewhere between hardcore and death metal – growls without compromise. While not audible, the lyrics are a direct attack on the unacceptable choices made by the neo-Nazi Trump government in 2018; specifically the choices made to wrench vulnerable children from their families and the barbaric act of keeping them in cages.

During the final pair of numbers, the band show no signs of weeding out. ‘Bred For The Knife’ is easily the best tune in terms of punch and relative melody. A perfect mix of hardcore punk and multi-layered metal influenced guitars brings a fantastic sound and a throat-killer of a vocal more than shows Redbait’s lack of desire to softening and even when an acoustic guitar rears its head to usher in a very melodic instrumental break, the tone is so downbeat, it almost feels as unsettling as the angriest material on this EP. It’s impressive that a band can shift between such extremes and yet make it feel so natural. Almost epic by hardcore and crust standards, ‘Forever Ends Now’ stretches to almost four minutes and introduces a slow, grinding riff that’s almost gothic. The harsh vocals are a constant reminder that this is the same band whom dropped into grindcore a few tracks earlier, but that’s pretty much the only constant. As this number gains momentum, you’ll experience a world of lo-fi metallic hardcore spliced with an occasional nod to black metal, while sparser moments show off a cold and mournful guitar. Like the instrumental break on the previous track, there’s something very unnerving about it all, but if you’ve made it this far, chances are you’ll find more musical interest here even if it’s a track that takes far longer to make an impact.

While a long way from everyday listening for a lot of people, this EP presents a great deal to like…at least in hardcore terms. Between various musical skills and some heavyweight political convictions, ‘Cages’ is intense, to say the very least and while its desire to shift between hardcore subgenres pretty much constantly doesn’t always result in the most even of listens, this should very much appeal to listeners that miss F-Minus and/or spent their formative years poring over the black and white paper sleeves on old Crass records.

May 2019