Review: Rat King ‘Vicious Inhumanity’

Rats. Let’s face it, rats have a bad PR rap. Then old adage ‘You are never more than 6 feet from a rat’ was not said as a positive; they spread diseases, most notably the Bubonic Plague, urban areas frequently battle infestations due to the animals being scavengers, they’re classed as an invasive species and British Horror writer James Herbert wrote a pretty gruesome trilogy of books about them.

Rat King ‘Vicious Inhumanity’

Why am I babbling to you about rodents? Well the chances are when you call yourself Rat King you are probably looking to invoke the negative imagery associated with the Rodentia, as opposed to the kind hearted and intelligent group in Mrs Frisbee & The Rats of NIMH… especially when a ‘rat king’ is a phenomenon where several rats get their tails entailed or tied together which comes from German folklore as a slur for people who live off others.

Which bring us to Vicious Inhumanity.

Seattle’s Rat King cut their teeth over the course of an EP (1564) in 2014 and a full length album (Garbage Island) in 2016 where they became known for an experimental Sludge Metal sound.

Further inspired by ‘The frustration and anger of being alive in this day and age’, their sophomore album sees them eschew much of the sound they have become associated with and go for the jugular with a more supped up Death and Grindcore flavour take on Extreme Metal which blasts by in a blaze of buzzsaw riffs, clattering drums and sandpaper raw vocals. Clocking in at a little over half an hour, the nine tracks that make up Vicious Inhumanity are at times blitzkrieg fast and conjure up comparisons to Napalm Death, Slayer and of course Death themselves.

The sinister intro of Matanza, laden with atmospherics is like the ride up the incline to a rollercoaster. You’re pretty sure of what is coming, but at that moment you’re caught in a state of trepidation and suspense. Sure enough when the track kicks in properly it’s every bit the maelstrom that was threatened; violent mosh pit fodder with it’s foot to the floor for nearly all the tracks duration, laced with frantic vocal interplay from guitarist and bassist Ricardo and Daniel Racines which makes them stand out from one guttural delivery.

Second track Borratanico, for which the band made a simple but eye bleeding video, flashes past with flavours of hardcore and is gone almost before you’ve recovered from the initial punch as does the third track Chaleco Des Billetes.

Clocking in at a little over half an hour, the nine tracks that make up Vicious Inhumanity are at times blitzkrieg fast and conjure up comparisons to Napalm Death, Slayer and of course Death themselves…

After this breathless opening Soledad mercifully eases up on the pace and introduces more groove to the clanking grind sound. Here Rat King actually begin to really let their talents breath and the muted, but melodic solos that run through the track show that they’re not just willing to be one trick ponies.

This addition of groove and melody continues with In Quiet Sleep. No less furious and hard hitting, the extra layer of dimension serves as a decompression point that allows you to focus more on the song craft, rather than just race to keep up.  This seems to be a theme for the middle part of the album as Zero follows up with some surprisingly deft, lighter touches to balance out the aggression that’s a more progressive Death Metal blend of brutality and dazzling guitar work.

The one disadvantage of extreme metal is that a lot of the lyrics can get lost in the delivery and sometimes it takes little reminders; like the samples in Chanchito (Spanish for ‘piggy bank’ apparently)and  the toxic looking monster on the cover to remind you that this fury is born out of a critical reaction to the modern world and there are times when Vicious Inhumanity loses the intended message.

The end of the album reverts back to a more tried and tested, regimented Death Metal style that forgoes the breakneck style of the opening tracks or the additional melody of the middle tracks. As such, whilst the quality doesn’t dip, it does slightly rob the album of some of the momentum that it started off with, but that is not to say you won’t be gurning and banging your head any less to the pummelling of album closer Rotting From The Inside.

Vicious Inhumanity does pretty much what it says on the tin. From the cover to the music, this looks to recapture, or offer tribute to the Grind and Death styles that Earache Records managed to corner the market in their heyday. This is an ugly album for ugly times; well-constructed, well executed and full of anger.

If you’re a fan of either genre, then Rat King’s new directional detour is well worth checking out as their new focus has definitely seen them play to their strengths.

Label: Within The Mind Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram