EP REVIEW: Hunted Down (reissue)

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Buried somewhere deep within the annals of hardcore history are Syracuse, New York’s THE CATATONICS. While hardly the most popular of the state’s many hardcore exports, to those in the know – among them everyone from FUCKED UP to EARTH CRISIS – they remain hugely influential and dearly beloved. It all comes down to just a single record too: 1984’s Hunted Down EP. Considered one of the first crossover thrash releases, it’s been something of a hidden gem for decades now. Copies of the original are highly sought after – and predictably expensive – but those of us less fussed by the potential street cred of a first pressing can now at least enjoy this slice of hardcore history in the form of a 12″ Record Store Day reissue via the ever dependable Southern Lord Recordings.

Right off the bat it’s clear there’s value for money here. Remastered in the super safe hands of Brad Boatright, this reissue gains a generous 13 bonus tracks on the original. Most of these appear to be live cuts, presumably of tracks from the band’s even rarer cassette only releases. First up however is Descending In E, a track originally featured on Flipside Magazine’s second ever compilation LP. It gets the record off to a ripping start, the band barrelling out of desperate pleas to “play THE CATATONICS” with a fury that remains a trademark of this entire release.

Next, tracks two through six take us through all nine and a half minutes of the original Hunted Down EP. As an intro to THE CATATONICS, this is just about as good as it gets. Even with Boatright’s remastering, all five tracks bristle with a palpably raw intensity. It’s especially hard not to marvel at the speed of it all, with drummer Belvy K maintaining the kind of hair-raising pace that was very much the point of the genre at the time. Of course, there’s a metallic edge here too – not least in the band’s sharp, thrashy riffing. It’s important to remember this would’ve been all but heresy in THE CATATONICS’ heyday; the boundaries between metal and hardcore were still strictly-defined back then, and it’s thanks to records like this that they eventually came down at all.

As expected, the live tracks are rawer still. To an extent, this works in THE CATATONICS’ favour, standing as proof of just how intense they were. On the other hand, there are points where a little more clarity wouldn’t go amiss. No doubt Boatright did the best he could with the tools at his disposal, but it is a slight shame we’ll probably never get to hear these songs in a studio form. That said, they still provide solid additions to the record. Highlights include the antagonising of a Rochester audience at the end of Leave Me Alone, the more dynamic and dub-tinged Novelty Item which follows it, and the MOTÖRHEAD-esque fury of I Can’t Take You Anywhere after that. Later, Stupid Lawn Ornaments plays as a decent impression of THE TRASHMEN’s Surfin’ Bird, while Jeff Goes Off! closes the record with a quick and confusing monologue.

Taken as work of its time, Hunted Down is pretty essential. It definitely requires a decent amount of love and respect for classic hardcore and crossover, as the steps the genre’s taken since will render it quite alien to those of more modern persuasions, but for anyone looking to plug gaps in their individual encyclopaedias of hardcore, this reissue is well worth a good few listens.

Rating: 7/10

Hunted Down - The Catatonics

Hunted Down is set for release on April 23rd via Southern Lord Recordings.

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