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RAT KING – Larva

  • Review by: Madhav R

Rat King, the 2 piece avant-garde metal outfit from Chennai under the newly formed Roadcrew Records banner has been in the news for a while now, captivating listeners with their horror-movie-themed music. Highly influenced by John Carpenter and David Lynch movies as well as bands like Fantomas and Ulver, I was highly impressed with the release and decided to review it for Headbangers India. Read on for more.

Larva, like the band’s previous record, is a concept album that features the malevolent Rat King in a pivotal role, changing the course of people’s lives as he wishes. ‘The Plague Of Hamelin’ had the Rat King inflict his evil on the rat-infested city of Hamelin, turning it from a lively, bustling city into a dead ghost town, while the second album, ‘Larva’ features an un-named protagonist who is plagued by nightmares about his past, and turns to the Rat King to release him of his fears. The Rat King however, has a different plan in mind and leads the him on a path of complete physical and mental annihilation. Every song on the album is a representation of the state of mind of the protagonist, and as the music plays on, you cannot help but despair, and feel the misery left behind by the cruel intentions of the Rat King.
‘Egg,’ the first song on the album is about one-and-a-half minutes long and serves as an intro to what is to be a sonic journey into your own consciousness. The ‘Hour Of The Wolf,’ which follows ‘Egg’ starts off with clean acoustic guitars in a calm milieu before changing gears into straight out, industrial metal riffs. ‘The Duel’ contains some extremely ambient samples loaded with dark overtones and leads to the crowded, atmospheric, ‘The Wake’. This one starts with a solid wall of sound, packed with noisy samples. As the layers of heavy atmosphere and ambient echoes die out, a soft melodic strain can be heard which, in my mind defines the state of the protagonist’s mind; despite the wild and crowded emotions, there’s a human element that exists which that refuses to die. This is pretty much the most defining moment of the album for me. ‘Spiracle’ leads on to another classic track, ‘For Absent Gods.’ This is probably the point at which the protagonist loses faith in his God and realizes that he’s on the verge of destruction. The song draws influences from a lot of metal forms, some of which I can’t even place, and involves a large amount of haunting melodies in the dark environment. ‘Tranquility Lane,’ with its upbeat, percussive elements leads into ‘Smorgasbord,’ the most accessible song on the album. With recognizable distorted guitar riffs and double bass drumming between vast empty spaces, this song seems a tad optimistic, ending on a positive note. The last song, ‘Vapour’ marks the end of the harrowing journey, with acoustic guitars, keyboards and a whole lot of samples swirling in the sea of heavy atmosphere.
It is at this point that I mention that the song writing and composing on the album is simply fabulous and is like nothing I’ve heard before. A big round of applause to the 2 composers, Murari Vasudevan and Deepak Raghu. Every note, every sound, every single element of the music fits in perfectly, finding its rightful place in the grand scheme. The lack of recognizable vocals was a bit of a letdown for me but that’s not to say that the vocals are even necessary for this band. The music on its own does an impressive job of keeping the listener riveted and on the edge, without the need of vocals to aid it. A special mention about the artwork. Done by noted artist/musician Emerson P. Williams (Veil Of Thorns, Choronzon), the front display is fabulous; a touch too grisly but just enough to grab your attention. I might state that while the music is surely not accessible to a general audience, it would be foolhardy to say that this music will not be appreciated and recognized by the same audience. The music will be interpreted differently by every listener, each with their version of this twisted tale.
In a single line, this album may be summed up as ‘the definitive soundtrack for your nightmare’. Despite the fact that there are hardly any real moments of horror in the music, there’s always a sense of menace in the air, a sense of foreboding that warns of the evil presence of the Rat King. My recommendation is, if you haven’t got hold of the album until now, it’s time you did. Definitely one of the best albums to come out this year, Indian or International.