If you grew up with your teenage years filtered through the horridness of the early 2000s deathcore genre, you’ve probably ended up watching or being shown a hypothetical YouTube video entitled “HARDEST DEATHCORE BREAKDOWNS OF 2008”. This hypothetical video was most likely a cacophony of monotonously rhythmic, one-note chug sections, driven out of a slew of now-dead bands that existed as a physical manifestation of that one-note monotony. Like Rats is a band that’s sort of like that video, except that their hypothetical video is entitled “HARDEST RIFFS OF 80s/90s EXTREME METAL” and it’s a chopped and screwed mash-up rather than a straight compilation. And by that charge, Like Rats do not fall into the same pit of ruin. Their one-note monotony is replaced by personal vision and ambitions and is backed by adherence to the freshness, innovation and drive of a time where a Morbid Angel did not sound like a Gorguts did not sound like an Immolation and on and on.
II retains Like Rats’s Celtic Frost d-beat meets meets old school death metal framework and turns down the punk factor in turn for a modicum of Sadus/Ripping Corpse thrash and a greater comfort with instant mosh gratification song-writing. The result of this refinement is awesome. The slow and fat, bendy note death metal harmony of the band’s debut remains a mainstay, but no longer dominates the rhythmically varied record. Within songs and when juxtaposed with the chunky, thrashier segments, these catchier riffs are given time to marinate in the mind and reemerge with a new intensity. Tracks like opener “From Beyond” and “Immortal Coil” are prime examples of this model, alternating between suffocating, galloping speed and massive two-steppable/head-bangable passages. The latter is groove-city, trapped in a territory that is equally reminiscent of Heartwork/Swansong era Carcass and newer Exodus. “Primordial” is a jagged and claustrophobic track that runs between a crunchy Cannibal Corpse riff and a circle-pit ready punk segment. “Gates” (featuring some particularly nasty “EAGHHHHHS”) is a throwback to the great straightforwardness of tracks like “Fire” and “Dark Masks” on Like Rats’s debut, floating from beginning to end in a catchy and funereal mid-tempo romp. “Pandemic Of Fear” is one of my personal favorites, alternating from frantic death-thrash mayhem to a halting, focused militaristic verse shouting “CONTAIN. CONTROL. POPULATION”. It’s a tight meld of lyrical themes and song structure. While not solely defined by these comparisons, the tracks “Dissociate”, “Evil Winter” and “Grief Incarnate” draw to mind Harm’s Way’s more Godflesh-inspired work, showcasing a similar mechanical mid-paced metallic hardcore style. This similarity is further ingrained by the new vocals, courtesy of drummer Dan Polak, who gives a more clarified and less-guttural yelled approach.
On all primitive frequencies, II is a hard-as-fuck record. It just has that “throw a TV set into the mosh pit” feel. Spiritually, it’s a record that derives itself from some of the best of metal’s past, creating something that may not be game-changing, but is nevertheless original, respectful and vastly enjoyable. In short, it’s got the juice that crafted a genre out of a sound. Did I mention riffs?
Release Date: March 15, 2016
Label: Southern Lord Records
Favorite Tracks: “From Beyond”, “Immortal Coil”, “Grief Incarnate”, “Pandemic Of Fear”
For Fans Of: Genocide Pact, Harm’s Way, Gatecreeper