There’s a certain something about Aberdeen based blackened crust-punks Rats Of Reality that gives their second EP, The Art Of Debilitation, an air of danger. Their music ticks all the right boxes, finely balancing melody and aggression, and sounding chaotic and on the verge of slipping out of control without seeming like a mess. But what really sets it apart from most other bands with Doom patches and Darkthrone shirts is a sense of authenticity, and the feeling that these songs were almost spontaneous in their creation, such is the raw, natural feel to them. It means that The Art Of Debilitation is a punishing listen, and even though it only clocks in at 13 minutes, it packs a punch much stronger than its short run time might suggest.
The song titles alone should make it clear that this record is going to pull no punches. Titles like “Shallow Bastards” and “Faceless Ones” fit right in with the filthiest strains of crust, whilst “Liferuiner” speaks of the depths of negativity contained within. Each of these three tracks runs to just over two minutes each, packing in plenty of moments of unhinged fury, melodic guitar leads, shredding solos, D-beat drumming, and truly vicious vocals. Each track flies past, leaving the listener battered and bruised, but no doubt enjoying the experience – after all, there’s no denying that there’s a certain kind of thrill to be found in music like this. Moments such as the guitar solo in “Faceless Ones” only highlights that, and for all the rage and fury, there’s hints of fun to be found here too.
The closing title track feels much more serious though, and at six minutes long is quite a departure from what has gone before. Taking a little time to get going, slowly building up to full speed, it’s an epic by comparison to the rest of the EP, and certainly has the feel of being somehow bigger and grander in ambition. It doesn’t race ahead to the same extent as proceeding tracks – it would be impossible to, given its length – but it still possesses a considerable energy and pace. It changes emphasis just after the halfway mark, moving in to slower territories, more melodic territories, and provides a suitably stirring close to the record, with the melodic lead around the 4:40 mark being a particular highlight.
More than anything, though, it serves to demonstrate that Rats Of Reality have ambition and scope beyond simply writing ripping crust-punk ragers – which, it should be noted, they do well. That feeling of authenticity and danger is maintained throughout, and I’ve no doubt that these guys must be killer live. But as a record, The Art Of Debilitation is full of energy and viciousness, which is exactly what you want from blackened crust like this, and the sense of ambition doesn’t hurt at all either.
The Art Of Debilitation is available to stream and download via Bandcamp.