Overall Score: 8.5/10 Instrumentation: 8.5/10 Songwriting: 8.5/10 Performances: 8.5/10 Pros: Angular, juxtaposing alt-rock that confounds and delights | Jagged melodies that surreptitiously worm their way into your brain Cons: Nothing
In a world where people in positions of power are constantly crying and decrying ‘fake news’ and mistruths of social media, it’s hard to know where to turn for accurate information. The line between what is true or real and what is not becomes more blurred by the day, with the end result presumably being humanity living in some bastardised, hellish version of Plato’s allegory of the cave. Looking to tackle the myths of pseudoscience and false intellectualism are the Republic of Ireland’s avant-rock export, BATS, as they return with their first studio album in seven years, Alter Nature.
The album’s lyrical narrative is one that focuses on the grounding of real sciences and medical advancements, through a distorted and surrealist lens that lends comparison to Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At The Drive In. The discordant and twisted delivery, intermittent melodies and fluidity of time signatures make the vocal hooks impenetrable on first listen, but they reveal themselves as you delve deeper in BATS’ latest opus. This sublimely mirrors the angular guitar work the five piece layer their songs with; everything is jagged and off-kilter. Where there could be poppy phrases of instrumentation, there are instead dissonant flashes of musical flair, particularly in the King Crimson paraphrasing In The Court Of The CRISPR King.
What is astounding about this obtuse oddity of an album is how quickly the songs begin to stick with you. By listen two or three you will find yourself singing along with the bizarre, attacking rhythms and jagged lyricism, with lead single, Ergot, providing ample room for enjoyment of the experimental. There is room for comparison to the early work of Biffy Clyro, as the songs’ serpentine delivery spirals outward in a harsh and noisy manner. The idiosyncratic rock is cacophonous, yet entirely rousing in its noise-laden delivery. There are melodious through lines buried in amongst the din of songs like Dyson Sphere – which features a dissonant saxophone solo that harks to KEN mode’s 2018 effort, Loved – that only become apparent with effort expended. This is not a passive listen, but one you have to really focus on and analyse moment by moment.
With their long awaited third album, BATS have proven themselves to live up to the praise lauded upon them by the likes of The Quietus – who have described their prior efforts as producing “the best alt-rock record to emerge from the Republic of Ireland”. This is a calculated and cold record that fuses moments of metal, hardcore, post-hardcore, noise rock and avant garde into a cohesive attack on the falsities of superstition and the anti-intelligentsia. This quintet have crafted something beautifully weird and wonderful, with toes dipped into the waters of extremity with its oddest moments – see penultimate track, Family Planning for a perfectly executed example of this. This is an album that will leave many heads in need of scratching, but once it clicks it is a fulfilling and deeply involved piece of work that could warrant academic essays on its subject matter.
Alter Nature is out October 10th 2019 via the band’s Bandcamp page