“No mess, no fuss, just pure impact. Fucking Borstal”. This is the opening line of the closing tune on the debut EP from UK hardcore supergroup, Borstal. To be fair, by the time you’ve arrived at that point, you’re in no doubt as to the band’s intentions, but it’s always good to have a final reminder. Formed by UK hardcore and metal veterans, including Knuckledust frontman Pierre Mendivil and former Dimmu Borgir, Testament and current Brujeria drummer Nick Barker, they sound exactly as you would expect; aggressive, muscular, metallic-sounding hardcore punk with buzzsaw guitars, gang vocals, rapid-fire drums. Barker in particular was keen to pay homage to his heroes of the scene and his drums nail everything in place, as you would expect from someone of his pedigree. Opening track ‘Refuse to Lose’ starts off with sirens and a narrative about street crime, before kicking in with all the furious energy the band can muster, with Mendevil sounding particularly vexed, unleashing pent-up anger and frustration in his trademark bilious style. ‘We Stand Alone’ has a togetherness and camaraderie that the hardcore scene is so known for, while ‘Vicious Circles’ is a whirlwind of drums and chanted choruses and guaranteed to generate pit after pit in a live setting.
Agnostic Front, Madball, Gorilla Biscuits and Cro-Mags influences are writ large over this EP, but do not go thinking that this is just another NYHC tribute act, by some bored musicians looking for something to do during the Covid lockdown. Borstal very much have their own sound, with other musical references on show such as GBH, Angelic Upstarts and The Business. Indeed, the final track is a cover of Oi! legends The Last Resort’s ‘King of the Jungle’, featuring Arthur Kitchener, father of Borstal guitarist Lee, making it a real family affair. A brutally fantastic debut.
At Her Majesty’s Pleasure is out now. Buy here: https://borstalhc.bandcamp.com/releases
Words: Scott Crawford