(Allen Griffin reviews the new album by Chicago’s Like Rats.)
Chicago-based Death Metal Quintet Like Rats are set to release their new album II on Southern Lord Records on March 25th. Composed of several members of Grindcore unit Weekend Nachos, Like Rats is a darker and more groove-oriented prospect, and II sees them making waves with their unique take on Old School Death Metal.
The band’s promotional material for this album draws comparisons between the unit and various well-known entities, particularly Obituary and Celtic Frost, and it’s certainly hard to argue with such assertions. Yet, to seasoned ears, Like Rats also seem to have tapped an obscure vein of early ’90s Midwestern Death Metal. Back then, groups such as Green Bay’s Bleed, Toledo, Ohio’s Gutted, and San Francisco’s Epidemic on their final full-length Exit Paradise (not Midwestern obviously, but the sound is there nonetheless) produced awesome, mid-paced Death Metal before the rise of Metalcore made such an approach so blasphemous in the eyes of True Metal fans.
So what we end up with here is an album unlike almost anything else coming out nowadays. Rarely does Like Rats break into anything resembling a blast beat and when they do, on songs such as opener “From Beyond” or “Immortal Coil”, the riffs are effective but come nowhere near matching the sheer velocity of most other modern acts. But this is a strength, not a weakness. II is an album that can hypnotize with its constant parade of head-nodding riffs. And the Death Metal credentials are never in question; never does anything come to close to Metalcore or Nu-Metal. Material like this is what tricked Hardcore fans into becoming metal heads back in the day in the first place.
It’s hard to know for sure where the band draws all of its inspiration from. The aforementioned bands are pretty unknown to most fans today. But whether or not Like Rats are aware of them, or instead reinvented that brutal beatdown style of Death Metal from the ground up, is really irrelevant. For an old soul like myself, II fills in a missing piece of Death Metal history and I’m glad it’s out there, reclaiming a bit of mid-paced madness for Death Metal once again.
The album is available now on Bandcamp and in physical form through the Southern Lord web store, both linked below.