Label: Label 2318
I won’t lie: on first listen, Obsequies really didn’t click with me at all. I was a fan of the previous release by Scottish crusty metalpunks Rats Of Reality, The Art Of Debilitation (not to mention vocalist/guitarist James McBain’s other bands, Hellripper and Lord Rot), and didn’t expect to them to just release something straight-forward; but even so, on first listen, I really couldn’t get my head around Obsequies. Each song seemed too different, with too many diverse elements competing with one another, and it never seemed to quite come together. Thankfully though, once I knew what to expect, this four-track EP made a hell of a lot more sense, and after spending time with it, I’m confident in declaring it a vast improvement on what has gone before. Metalpunk isn’t often this diverse or creative, whilst still retaining its energy and hard-edge.
It’s quite noticeable that each of the tracks on Obsequies has a very distinct character, which is partly what makes the EP seem so unfocused on initial listens, but so interesting as more time is spent with them. Opener “Catharsis” blends aggressive metalpunk with black metal coldness and soaring guitars; “Leeches” is 99 seconds of utter belligerence, coming close to touching upon post-Converge hardcore with a crust edge. Third track “Mar” is unashamedly epic in scope, possessing far more grandeur than its 3 minute duration suggests, mixing together NWOBHM and emotive black metal guitar leads to create something distinctive. Finally, the closing title track brings to mind Ruun-era Enslaved as much as crust or metalpunk at different points. There’s a vast, vast range of influences and styles coming together on Obsequies, and it can take a few listens to put it all together in a way that makes sense.
The time spent doing so is well worth the effort, though. Taken individually, each track possesses elements and character that make them noteworthy – I especially like the way that “Mar” has a distinctly Di’Anno-era Iron Maiden feel, with that hint of rough danger later NWOBHM often lacked, and that it rests so well alongside guitarwork and an atmosphere more akin to Cascadian black metal than typical second wave violence in the later half of the song is a surprising triumph. But there’s a common thread running throughout the EP that defies easy categorisation. The rough, DIY production certainly helps, but it’s more than just a sound – it’s the air of confidence that the band gives off that really brings Obsequies together and makes it work. Most other metalpunk bands wouldn’t even consider bringing together so many different elements and influences and combining them on a release that’s eleven minutes long, but that’s just what the Rats Of Reality do, and they do so very well.
That said, there’s still the feeling that this isn’t quite the finished article. This must be taken in context – Obsequies represents a huge leap forward from previous EP The Art Of Debilitation, which in itself was a very ambitious release for the usually conservative metalpunk genre. Whilst there’s nothing inherently wrong in throwing together a bunch of Darkthrone and Motörhead inspired riffs with heavy metal guitar leads to see what sticks, it’s refreshing to hear a band attempting to do more with the style and move it out of its comfort zone. As such, Rats Of Reality deserve credit not just for attempting something different on Obsequies, but for doing so in such a successful manner – even if it might take a few listens to wrap your head around. Can’t help but feel that the band’s best work is yet to come, though.