Having been a keen fan of NWOBHM flag bearers Rabid Bitch of the North for many years, this was one album that was waited on with heavy anticipation in the virtual Chordblossom halls. We’ve seen them release their first EP (Outta the Kennel) in 2010, then singles ‘Defending Two Castles’ and ‘Green Eyes/You’re Misery’ in 2014 and 2016 respectively. We observed the growth they made when listening to their compilation CD From the Kennel to the Castle, a collection of songs and rarities released in 2016. We agonised with them (the horribly long delay on ‘Green Eyes’ arrival) and celebrated (the single’s launch gig, playing at Bloodstock, several slots at the critically acclaimed Siege of Limerick Festival). And now, the moment has come: the release of their brand new album, Nothing But a Bitter Taste.
Lead single ‘The Missionary’ is first up, and what an introduction: all snarly, groove filled riffs and that instantly recognisable Rabid Bitch sound but with a significant step up in the quality of both the individual musician’s playing/singing, and in the production (which is outstanding). Front man Joe McDonnell’s vocals are impressive as hell here, and not just his signature falsetto: his lower range also gets an airing too. He sounds confident and rounded, as does the ever precise and fervent Gerry Mulholland on guitar and classy powerhouse Chris Condie on drums.
That rich, full sound continues on throughout the entire album; honestly, there’s not a duff note or thin spot to be heard. Every track is an immediate headbanger, with galloping beats and catchy riffs aplenty. Their NWOBHM influence is plain to see, from the brash, Judas Priest-esque title track to the chunky, chugging Motorhead style riff in ‘Demon Mind’ and the galloping, racing beast that is ‘Defending Two Castles’, which channels their inner Iron Maiden.
That said, this is a band who are proud of their musical heroes and influences, but equally proud to create a sound that is unique to them. This is best demonstrated on final number ‘Trapped In 1999’. Long a favourite of their live shows, it’s an ebullient, basstastic ‘up yours’ to the close minded people they encountered in their younger days who criticised and looked down on their musical tastes. With its glorious bassline, blissful guitar solo (and even that rarest of beasts: a bass solo, albeit a brief one) and galloping drums, it’s a beauty. To see it finally committed to CD is, quite frankly, an absolute joy, and they certainly do it proud – it’s more or less their signature song, so it’s as well!
It’s such a pleasure to see this band gaining attention further afield than this island, with UK tour dates and European festivals already lined up. Nothing But a Bitter Taste is yet another step in the right direction – that is, onwards and upwards. Superbly produced, sharply written, with the songs shorn of any unnecessary excess and each band member at the top of their musical game, this is an album that, if there’s any justice in the world, should catapult RBOTN into ever increasing audiences.
Nothing But a Bitter Taste will have two launch gigs: at the band’s musical ‘home from home’, Dolan’s pub in Limerick on August 18th, and Belfast’s Limelight on the 19th. Check the band’s Facebook page for details.