Ah, midwestern Canada. Home to the Calgary Stampede, the Canadian prairies, oil drilling, and apparently, one of Canada’s best black/speed/thrash bands. Our local boys in Blackrat have really kicked their music up a notch with their most recent release.
You really wouldn’t mix Blackrat’s sound with the dry Calgarian atmosphere to which they call home. Trust me, I’ve been to Calgary. I did see some flyers for the upcoming Contamination Tour (Dying Fetus, Incantation, Gatecreeper, and Genocide Pact) over there, so I know there must be some local metal audience, but for the most part country and classic rock seem to dominate the airwaves there. Such could be seen upon a few crate digging adventures at a few local shops, which would had let to a whole lot of vinyl pickups if my favourite artist was Dwight Yoakam.
Now that I think about it, the most country-sounding metal subgenre would probably be the black/speed/thrash archetype, but I’m not sure. Maybe there’s a niche market there; who knows. All I know is that Blackrat’s newest album is one for the record books.
As mentioned above, the group operates under the style of black/speed/thrash, with perhaps a bit of crust and punk influence. The subgenre was pioneered over thirty years ago with groups like Venom, Celtic Frost, and N.M.E, but unfortunately saw a sharp decline during the turn of the ‘90s. However, within the current metal sphere, all subgenres seem to be thriving as a result of the genre’s general stagnancy. Bands like Hellripper, Diabolic Force, and Blackrat are now waving the black flag, churning out quality grit album after album.
Dread Reverence is Blackrat’s third full-length album, coming out at a respectable time within the band’s career as they formed back in 2012. In terms of comparisons to their earlier work, I cannot comment on such deviances, as I’m not very familiar with the band. However, I can tell you that Dread Reverence is one hell of a release.
I used the term “melting pot” in my review of Diabolic Force’s newest release, Praise of Satan, as it really exemplified how to make a black/speed/thrash album. The humorous aspect of this subgenre is that, even though its label is very narrowed-down and specific, bands who fall within such usually have a fair bit of leeway over their sound. While Diabolic Force stuck to the subgenre’s specific sound, Blackrat smashes boundaries and consistently pulls from the aforementioned three influences, all while maintaining a fluid feel for all of the album’s tracks.
The above point is proven through the numerous citable flavours throughout the release. The vocals presented on the album are highly comparable to Mille Petrozza’s on during Kreator’s early era, which lack in melody but make up for such with a raspy and driven attitude. While the barking vocals lean more towards thrash, the black and speed influences arise within the album’s instrumentation. The guitar tone on Dread Reverence is fairly standard for the subgenre, but really exudes a black metal vibe when the rhythm guitarist is playing those signature two-note black metal riffs. Furthermore, the band’s clear effort to vary the release composition-wise becomes immediately evident upon a full listen-through.
“Into the Ebony” opens the album, introducing the listener to Blackrat’s main sound; the song has a great fast-paced thrash section towards the end, which eventually culminates with an anthem-like harmony. “Lust to Burn” follows, exposing the listener to the more party-oriented side of the subgenre, with the introduction of inappropriate subject matter and catchy choruses. The album’s preliminary trio of fast rippers closes with “Coffin Rock”, which I’m pretty sure is a reference to Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock”, but that’s just a theory. Dread Reverence follows to slow down in pace, with “Fang of Malice” and “The Sign” showing off the band’s doomier side. The major transition works flawlessly, keeping the album sounding fresh. The release eventually closes at just over forty minutes in length, with a handful of faster tracks.
In terms of downsides, the album begins to lose steam following those two slower tracks I mentioned earlier. The band attempted to close the album with a few thrashier songs to bring back the momentum a bit, but both “Headless Countess” and “Haunter of the Threshold” failed to bring anything new to the table, to my ears. Both are decent tracks, but in comparison to the similar trio of songs that opened the album, they fail to entice me further. “Haunter of the Threshold” does have an interesting final quarter-or-so however, which was used to close off the album.
Despite a few qualms in regard to the back half of the release, Blackrat managed to deliver another strong album. The Rat grabs you in with a traditional-sounding black/speed/thrash sound, keeps you listening with a brooding diversity, and the displayed catchy choruses perpetually taunt your return. The album is currently out on cassette, CD, and vinyl via Shadow Kingdom Records.