For years, throwback bands have charted the many tendrils of 80s influence ad infinitum, probably so well that you already know what Dread Reverence sounds like, don’t you? Maybe you do, but Blackrat don’t give a mouse’s patoot. For your listening pleasure, their third record provides only the finest selection of blackened thrashened crustened crust/thrash/black cuts, curated to slip even the sturdiest of discs. Dread Reverence is lean, mean, sounds like it was recorded by Fenriz as a teen, and desperately wants to be your friend. Won’t you take a spin on the throwback machine?
Though they waste little time demonstrating their potential for chaos, Blackrat‘s devotion to order keeps Dread Reverence from shaking its bolts loose. Opener “Into the Ebony” rattles with such blackened intensity that its dirty thrash engine could drop through the floor at any second and spiral into a fiery war metal mess. But before the album’s seams split entirely, “Lust to Burn” rides “Ebony’s” smoking coattails with a much more controlled take on Hellhammer and Venom. “Lust” still sports the deep five o’clock shadow and warm beer breath that embodies the album. However, with it, Blackrat prove they have more up their sleeve than an ‘abuse it and lose it’ attitude. “Thrall to the Gallows” continues the tempo trend downward, an affair shimmering with heavy chugs and occult riff digressions that play as if Crucifyre and Abhor spawned a baby from blown-out earbuds. The lo-fi production stands apart more than usual, vibrating like you’re standing inside their subwoofer. However, through the genre shifts and production woes, Dread Reverence remains oddly effective.
However, what holds Blackrat back isn’t the success of any individual song. Yes, riffs never pierce their “pretty good” ceiling, but their songcraft hits the composition nail on the head. Nor is it their constant metamorphosis. Though “Coffin Rock” greedily assimilates Midnight-n’-roll and echoing black-thrash into its ever-growing Trapper Keeper, it enjoys itself more than any other track. Surprisingly, it’s the length. The AMG-friendly runtime, clocking in at forty minutes, surprisingly feels too long. By the ten-minute mark, Blackrat‘s intent could not be clearer; passing twenty-five minutes, the genre loop begins to recycle. The music rips by so quickly that hitting the same motifs for extended song lengths does not work without fail.
Take “The Sign.” This isn’t an example of a down-tempo song on a rollicking record killing the momentum. The five minutes of “The Sign” work well on their own, releasing into a climax of rock and crust at the end of a long haul. However, the song is somehow less interesting in the context of the record than in isolation. The B-side grows familiar and tempers the natural inclination to keep exploring. Too quickly does Dread Reverence become done-there, heard-that, still good but without a wow factor. Closer “Haunter of the Threshold” chugs that Natty in two seconds flat, but when “Lust” and “Ebony” beat that time and smashed the empties into each other’s head, staying excited is hard.
It falls to secondary qualities to keep Dread Reverence spinning. Bassist Stu Loughlin and guitarist Ian Lemke split vocal duties, and their pugnacious shouts and buried snarls only deepen the Deathhammer grime that pervades the record. Russell Shanahan’s drums likewise fit the music, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. His beats occupy the forefront of “Thrall to the Gallows” with a overbearing presence that is jarring production-wise and reminiscent of Darkthrone monotony beat-wise. Given their edge-of-their-ass playing style, Blackrat‘s music doesn’t benefit from either.
Dread Reverence won’t win any awards for originality, nor will it tear up lists in this late hour. But Blackrat have remained consistent since their 2013 debut Whiskey and Blasphemy, and that’s worth a shot and a pint. What might it take to produce something next level from the Canadians? Hard to say, at least while still shackled to the old. However, their ability to marry elements might come in handy should Blackrat consider expanding their horizons. And if that day never comes, well, more records like Dread Reverence wouldn’t do the world any harm.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Shadow Kingdom Records | Bandcamp
Websites: blackrat.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/blackratattack
Release Dates: Digital: 11.23.2018 | EU: 23.11.2018 | NA: 11.30.2018