Flippin' Haq by Haq123Release date: November 14, 2017
It’s been quite a hectic first year for Birmingham’s youngest sludge/punk/metal sensation Haq123 and they’re rounding it off with a really unique and enjoyable debut Flippin’ Haq. A power trio raised on Sabbath and fuelled by Haribo they’re so young two thirds of the band are still at primary school. Yeah, it is a kid’s band, but don’t be too quick to dismiss them, they play a kind of charming punk doom that’s worth a listen.
After making a brilliant first impression at this year’s Supersonic Festival, winning the hearts and minds of the battle hardened and bearded, they then gave us the most enduring image of Supernormal, crowd surfing during Big Lad’s set to the delight of all. They spent a couple of days of half term down in that London, recording with Wayne Adams (Big Lad, Death Pedals, Electronica Wizard etc) at his Bear Bites Horse studio. The results are impressive, but thankfully not in a slick, queasy, Midwich Cuckoos kind of way. Not that they’re a shambles either, they’re competent enough, I’ve certainly seen, and bought records by, far less musically accomplished lo-fi punk bands. Crucially, Haq123 seem driven by the desire to be a band more than just their ability to be one.
Opener ‘Robert Bomber’ starts with an air raid siren joined by a growing chorus of car alarms and the first of Miller Killer’s screams before the arrival of the sludgy, filthy riffs. The track list offers at triple whammy opening of the most memorable tunes from their live set but any fear of things tailing off is quickly shut down by the fantastic ‘Machines Don’t Bleed’, my current favourite and probably the best thing they’ve yet written. Lyrically, it’s basically ‘Iron Man’ from the robot’s point of view “I was never born. I was made to destroy your world” over a machine stomp and a great, dumb, propulsive riff. If you didn’t know they were kids it’d only be Millie’s youthful voice and her sweetly off kilter words that’d tip you off.
The songs are a child’s surreal channelling of comic horror, full of great turns of phrase and oblique leaps of imagination. Each one is accompanied by a great illustration too. She delivers the lyrics in a disarmingly matter of fact tone which occasionally bursts into pretty accomplished punk rock yelling. If nothing else, it makes a nice change from some hairy 20 year old moaning about his pain over a familiar backing. This is something they do well, allowing the songs to unfold and form themselves through that same child logic. It’d be easy for Dave, the senior member of the band, to try and impose tired “repeat the chorus, repeat the first verse, out” structures on the songs but he seems to sit back, letting them take the same idiosyncratic paths as the lyrics. The lengthy intros are an example of this playfulness and a recurring feature – sampled dialogue, ambient noodling and wild free jazz piano all take turns in spacing out the tracks and setting the moods.
Final track ‘Haqer’ opens with dread atmospheres and gongs, it’s so Sabbath I expect to hear the rain come in over the bass. There’s more churning riffs and a tale of a mysterious supernatural figure “His name is the Haqer, He flies through the streets, Nobody can see him, Except for me”. What exactly Haqer might be up to isn’t clear but it seems to be no good “He’s got a big plot and he’s never going to stop” Actually, as soon as seems sensible I think a song based on The Midwich Cuckoos would be a cracking idea for the second album.
Having seen them play both ends of the summer and noted the band’s obvious growth in confidence I wasn’t sure there was any need for them to rush in to recording. On the other hand, I think it’s worth capturing the moment, this band may well be gone in six months, growing into something different or maybe just abandoned on the shifting whims of its young members. In the meantime it’s tremendous fun, check it out. They’re play Nottingham in December with Rainbow Grave.