When music that can be casually described as “good enough” becomes actually good enough for the metalsphere’s standards, does this demonstrate a dearth of quality in the genre or a sad state of popular standards? I’d argue for the latter, as the sheer glut of metal available to listeners worldwide seems to have ushered in an era of complacency where rating scales start at 7/10 and oft-distracted listening causes a want of perpetually new stimulation, leading to an emphasis on listening for style instead of substance. This assuredly isn’t a comment on the AMG community (seriously, you guys rule), but keep this in mind for the discussion on Radioactive Vomit’s new EP Ratsflesh.
Surprising absolutely no one, Radioactive Vomit exist to fill your ears with filthy and depraved music that will appeal solely to those who are already experienced with extreme metal and how to enjoy it. These Canadians have the subtlety of a morningstar, and their 2012 Witchblood demo stood alongside Revenge‘s Scum.Collapse.Eradication as a how-to guide for nailing down disgusting Incantation-influenced black metal. This means abusive feedback, chromatic riffing, frequent tempo shifts, and discordant guitar lines rule the day instead of the typical Swedish/American melodicism .
If you think this sounds good so far, you’re not wrong. “Pestis Malevolus” begins with some appealing chaos, with indecipherable vocals, reckless blast beats, and a whammy-abusing lead blasting through the speakers like buckshot from a 12-gauge shotgun. From there it bounces around from nauseating dissonance to barbaric chugging, all without losing the bloodthirsty aesthetic of the great opening salvo. The plodding intro of “Stench of Treachery” recalls Hellhammer in its loosely played primitive bludgeon and Incantation in its heavy chord progression, bringing to mind the old days where the primary goal was an audible assault and clean, precise execution was a tertiary objective. This is a welcome style that I always derive some enjoyment from.
While Radioactive Vomit is stylistically on-point, they miss the mark in substance, crafting something I really want to like but just can’t muster a ton of enthusiasm for. The initial promise of “Pestis Malevolus” isn’t properly followed up, as Radioactive Vomit doesn’t reveal any new tricks and fails to capitalize on their stylistic trappings again as they did on that song. Ratsflesh has a nasty habit of dragging out pick scraping noise sections incessantly, and while I understand and appreciate the intent, it needn’t take up a relatively large chunk of a short 13 minute EP. When they play actual riffs all’s fine, but it doesn’t live up to the standard set by Witchblood, Conqueror, Revenge, and Beherit, giving me little incentive to allot Ratsflesh a prominent place in my bestial black metal rotation. Things also get a bit stale vocally, with The Inverted Hierophant and Gasmask Fornicator rarely ever deviating from his admittedly decent part-shout part-growl delivery, although “Ratsflesh” does display some welcome variation with maniacal screaming layered behind the growl-grunts.
I enjoyed Ratsflesh for what it was, and I’m convinced Radioactive Vomit still has another great release like the Witchblood demo in them, but this isn’t it. The roughshod production works well, as this type of music is best served filthy and abrasive. The issue plaguing this EP is that it’s a more stylistic success than a substantial one, a good form comprised of merely passable matter; Witchblood avoided this in a big way. It’s good enough for satisfying a primal urge for brutalization, but this merits neither high praise nor scathing derision.