Rat King – Garbage Island (Within the Mind Records, 24 June 2016)
Rat King – Vicious Inhumanity (Within the Mind Records, 17 January 2020)
As much as I hate to admit it, during the almost eight and a half years I’ve been administrating this website, I have amassed a list of literally hundreds of albums I’ve hoped to find time to write about and share with you folks. Realistically I know I won’t ever get through ALL of them, but at the moment I am striving to keep up with the new ones as well as I can so it doesn’t get any worse; and if I can knock off an older one here and there while I’m at it, wonderful.
So having said that, here’s a record that just came out within the past month, as well as one that’s been sitting on my to-do list far too long. Both are by Seattleite trio Rat King, released on their own label Within the Mind, and both were recorded by the legendary Mr. Tad Doyle — but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. As you will soon discover. Please to enjoy!
The debut Rat King album Garbage Island is both introduced and concluded by a pair of minute-long tracks (“Garbage” and “Island”) that each consist of a sort of psychedelic-funk-sludge groove.
The six songs in between generally fall within the classification of experimental progressive sludge. Grimy, distorted basslines; gruffly roared vocals; spacey guitar leads that alternate with heavier riffs sometimes — it would be a fair assessment to say this material would appeal to fans of someone like Mastodon.
But more accurately, repeated spins of this record remind me more of two other bands I really enjoy (both of whom, incidentally, I wrote about right here): The Ravenna Arsenal and Gholas. Especially moving on to the second half, where the tracks are a bit more experimental, a bit more chill, and either mostly or completely full of lengthy and exploratory instrumental passages.
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Then at some point over the following three and a half years, Rat King found themselves a new drummer and, as if by magic, suddenly transformed into a death metal band on their brand-new LP. With this shift in direction and corresponding increase in tempo, Vicious Inhumanity‘s nine tracks have dropped from an average song length of well over five minutes to just under three.
On top of the filthier distortion and considerably crazier drumming, the vocals here actually aren’t that far removed from the band’s older stuff — although spewed out with more of a grindcore pacing, making them seem very different in this context, like a kind of optical illusion.
A few of the songs through the middle of the album feature slightly slower death metal riffs; the bass solo and guitar solo in “Soledad” almost kind of hint back to their experimental/progressive past, while “Zero” employs what might be considered progressive-death riffing in between some more aggressive and some speedier parts.
“In Quiet Sleep” also features a slightly reduced tempo at times, but even more noteworthy is the slight Latin flair to the drumbeat in the intro/outro. In fact, this becomes somewhat of a recurring theme: complementing the array of Spanish titles, a lot of these songs (particularly the final few) tend toward a very sudamericano-inspired death/thrash style.
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You can stream both albums, or download for whatever price you choose, using the Bandcamp widgets below. CDs and tapes and various merch bunches are all availble from Within the Mind right here.
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