It’s been an interesting month so far. This review will be the second in October that has either been blindly selected by me or randomly assigned by our Promo Lordess, Madam X. Both are black metal, both have absurd band names, and both give no fucks what you might think of them. From the original first-wave sound of Ain and Warrior to the Scandinavian second-wave, it’s been a black-metal kinda week. Today’s Horna-meets-Gorgoroth-meets-The Deathtrip second-wave sound is courtesy of Finland’s Rodent Epoch. Admittedly, when I first read the band name and saw the album title, I couldn’t help but think of that villain from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons. Which made me question Rodent Epoch‘s debut full-length, Rodentlord: is it a cartoon or is it for real? Let’s see what this Rat King thing is all about.
Even before spinning opener “High on Hades,” I expected Rodent Epoch to be a gimmick band. Something in the form of Gwar or a black/thrash outfit that makes Goofy seem serious. But this black-as-soot, mean-as-hell opening track crushed any ill-conceived notions I have had about the band. And it’s made even more clear that these guys aren’t fucking around when follow-up track “Rodent Lord” plays through. Allowing little break between the two songs, Rodent Epoch pushes on to a black, galloping lick that proves the band can induce a bobbing of the head, as well as drown you in thick, black fog. Midway in, the band summons black metal diversity by dropping into a mid-paced lull of dissonant chords and phlegmy vox before this black train chugs its way to a halt.
“Rodent Lord” also hints at the band’s love for drawn-out pieces. Ones that fall and climb along runtimes ranging from five to ten minutes. The first real piece that pushes the envelope is “Red Heavens.” This mid-album ditty starts slow and stays slow, it’s controlled burn taking time to mature into a full blaze. Unfortunately, it doesn’t slither through the brush on the wings of a lightning-fast fire serpent. Instead, it hops gingerly from one treetop to the next, not quite achieving a full-scale torching. “Red Heavens” is too long for its own good and lacks interesting ideas to make its eight-long minute work.
But this doesn’t apply to all the band’s lengthier pieces. Closer “Funeral Master” uses its ten-minute lifetime to claim the title for the best song on the record. After taking the slowing reins from “Nemesis Necro,” “Funeral Master” immediately begins to grow. Its dark cloud of black picking and catastrophic drum work climaxes into the sickest riff on the album. It has a groove punctuated by the vocals, with a headbangability that reminds me of Shining‘s V – Halmstad. Then it transforms its black ‘n’ roll lick into a crushing death march, stomping off into the night.
“Cult of Mission,” “Twisted Covenant,” and “Nemesis Necro” also use builds and atmosphere to relay their individual stories. But with more digestible song lengths. “Cult of Mission” is a rollercoaster ride much like “Red Heavens.” Yet, it achieves the burn in five minutes and with more memorability. “Twisted Covenant” and “Nemesis Necro” charge out like a black cannonball before opting for mid-paced riffage. After exploring a mid-song lull, both climb once more, quickening their pace before descending another coaster summit. Then it’s up the final ascent in this nightmarish fun ride, charging faster and faster until the tracks clatter to pieces at their respective ends.
I’m not gonna lie, I walked into this review expecting to bash on Rodent Epoch for their name and the gimmick I knew they had to have. Instead, I emerged rather enjoying Rodentlord and not being able to get the riff from “Funeral Master”1 out of my head. The record suffers from a bit of redundancy in its longer tracks, but the chaotic execution of Rodentlord makes the album a pleasing slab of black metal. And with the density displayed in the vox, I can’t help but reminisce about The Deathtrip‘s Deep Drone Master. Which ain’t a bad thing at all.