DZ Deathrays - Black Rat

by Miz DeShannon Rating:6 Release Date:2014-08-18

It's second album crunch time for Brisbane's finest noise-rock duo DZ Deathrays, and they've jumped right in with 11 songs crammed into about 40 minutes. Producer Burke Reid, known for his love of keeping sounds pretty raw, has made Black Rat less brutal than you might think, but then the duo's writing has moved on from the young and juvenile screamo nature of Bloodstreams.

So does less juvenile mean less exciting in musical terms? Older, more relaxed offerings ('Play Until You're Dead') had something attractively unhinged about them while tracks like 'Dollar Chills' were absorbingly mental.

Getting stuck in, and the album's namesake, 'Black Rat', starts well but sadly plods a bit, it's not as punchy as expected, especially for a title track. Something has to have the 'radio edit' treatment though, and second track 'Gina Works At Hearts' seems more of what we're used to from the Aussie two-piece – raucous strumming and ferocious drumming. Overlaid with a sweetheart vocal, it filters out a bit quietly at the end. Featuring the same vocal sound, 'Less out Of Sync' includes a strangely dreamy middle-eighth.

Finally, four tracks in and 'Reflective Skull' feels like they're letting go – with a heavy and intense bassline, you can imagine that in a live set, this would be the point the JD kicks in so things get a bit wilder. There's more mid-tempo grinding and pounding noise-rock on 'Keeping Myself On Edge', with its raw shuddering intro, quite in contrast to 'Northern Lights', which sounds like it should be on an advert for a trendy young persons' hotel website.

Overall, there are too many unadventurous build-ups and drops, into what sound like piano echoes, with background wails give it more of an MOR feel that would sit better with The National than tour buddies Foo Fighters. But all is easily forgotten with 'Night Walking'. Well, almost. While it's pacy and energetic, more of that harmonious vocal-fill is a bit off-putting. At times you'd think the outstanding Aussies had run out of 'end of song' ideas...

Building up with 'Fixations' and 'Ocean Exploder', this is more like it, full-on raw noise rock. It feels like it's the answer to that morning-after ache from moshing in a sweaty basement sticky with cheap beer. With some mature technicalities shining through in the guitar parts on 'Tonight Alright', and signature synth on 'Night Slave' sounding remarkably like disappeared label-mates These New Puritans, it's not a bad close.

A lot of the songs on ‘Black Rat’ shave Parsons' throaty screaming, while Ridley is still as crazy a drummer as before, but this time around there’s more vocal focus, less angst and frantic fuzz. Not entirely sure that's a good thing, though – harnessing the amount of energy the duo have on stage was a phenomenon in their previous offering, but now it's broken down with a spattering of drab closing chords and choir boy warbling like that of numerous 90s Britpop bands.

Black Rat could, in musical terms, be the love child of Transvision Vamp and Gallows but a bit more formulaic and obviously minus the platinum blonde female singer. That's not really a bad thing in the end, for some, is it?

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