As You Drown: Rat King

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As You Drown: Rat King
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As You Drown: Rat King
Death Metal, Deathcore
Metal Blade Records
October 11th, 2011
Release length: 38:51
Myspace
Gothenburg, Sweden’s As You Drown carried the monicker Ethereal, which was originally known as Ethereal Chaos, issuing one demo under that name in 2002, one year after forming. It wasn’t until 2009 while the group signed to Metal Blade Records that the band finally stopped issuing demos and put out their debut offering, Reflection, a release that not many are really that aware of. Given some of the stereotypical band logos for Deathcore bands at that point, perhaps many shrugged the group off as being one of those styled bands. This isn’t to say there’s no “-core” influence here, as there is to an extent. All of which can possibly be said with Rat King, the follow-up album that dropped roughly two years later for a 2011 release. Clocking in at a respectable just shy of thirty nine minute length, the band still uses their logo, and may be the reason a lot of Death Metal fans seem to not know, or care to know, about their existence. But what exactly does As You Drown have in story for anyone bold enough to give Rat King a spin?

The first thing listeners will pick up on is the attept to make the album capture that sleeker Swedish Death Metal audio sound, while still trying to come through as brutal as possible. The guitars do have a heavy distortion to them that also has a bit of a rhaspier feel that adds some edge to the blunt distortion with the dominant bass guitar coming through the mix well to back them up and add an some more blunt force to the material. Vocally, the intention is clearly aimed at guttural, and for how it comes through it works for the rougher, more intense music the band is playing, all the while kind of still feeding into the common expectations of the Deathcore scene by clearly having a little more shouting emphasis to it similar to something you might hear on a Suicide Silence, but a lot better and without any high rhasps. The consistance is great considering the range that is incorporated, enough to keep it interesting in the main performance with some additional background gutturals here and there that offer up extra range from the somewhat minimal one that makes up much of the album. The drumming really uses the somewhat cleaner audio well with cymbols that are a bit in the background, but dominating bass kicks with a nice click and loud, booming snares that fill the already loud music and vocals well to usher in a rather rich sounding brutality. The only problem to be found with any of this is that, for some reason, the pitch of the music itself is a little higher then it should be. The cleaner sound seems to make things sound a little less bass-oriented, which is something you need to truly make an album sound brutal and uncompromising, and in the end it does hurt the overall effect of Rat King‘s commanding performance.

Unfortunately, with the audio being something not too fitting to the music being played, it doesn’t help that the band kicks things off in a bit of an awkward manner. “Conqueror” actually ends up being a little hard to take in theory. The drumming here hammers away at the listener, utilizing the booming snares and other parts of the kit well while the bass kicks go off as a nice faster pace, though the guitar’s move at a slower speed that doesn’t quite go into chugging territories, but ends up clashing terribly due to the two varying tempos. Gradually the song picks up, but about half way through the more crushing Death Metal chords from before come back to play with the faster drums that vary in speed from this point instead of making the chords accomodate that faster tempo. It’s just really confusing to listen to the song and try to figure out who should be following who, and given the somewhat creepy and haunting guitar work in this song, it’s a pitty that the drums don’t necessarily follow the same path. Unfortunately it’s not just this track the band does this kind of stuff with, as “Rabid Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing” also falls prey to this idea and takes on more of a chugging approach that screams a far more generic guitar composition to Deathcore then the more Death Metal driven chords of “Conqueror.” But, many of the others end up being far more coherent between the instruments, and often have a stronger crushing sound that can lead you into involuntary headbanging.

“You Should be Paranoid” is one of those tracks. This, along with many other more Death Metal driven tracks really set up a crushing atmosphere despite that lighter pitch to the audio. The additional shouting background vocals to the guttural performance that appears here does work out well to give the song more variety and intensity, though this track does throw more breakdowns and chugging chords at the listener then some of the others. While they can be simply one chord, the thing is that the band doesn’t really force a change of pace into the song to accomodate it, allowing these sections to feel natural and hold the listener’s attention without killing any flow that has already been established. “Your Loyal Betrayer” is another track worth nothin on this release that hits the listener hard. The song’s far more energetic and intimidating sound comes through strong, and even a little deeper in audio compared to the others, making it one of the more important cuts of the recording. The energy and intimidating, crushing material here works well to bring more of a Death Metal sound despite still having some Deathcore foundations to it, though the latter cdoes end up being far from generic in any way. It’s sad that there are not more tracks like this, as it really can get the listener’s blood pumping and head pounding against the infectious rhythm that it brings with it. “The Nothing” also comes off as an energetic track, but leans more towards being a more brutalizing experience. The band tackles the music with matching fury from all instruments, and it simply sounds uncompromising at times. The build up to the breakdown though, while not forced, does end up kind of killing the mood a bit, though when it finally hits it certainly does pick back up.

Aside those aforementioned tracks that stand out, Rat King doesn’t really offer anything too different to the listener. Some tracks clearly have their problems as far as the idea that slow guitars clashing against some much faster drumming, but overall the album isn’t necessarily bad. Rat King has a good dose of strong Death Metal riffs supporting it throughout the effort, as well as a decent helping of Deathcore to keep it grounded in that style’s fanbase. With plenty of songs that will get your head banging along to the rhythm or brutality, it’s hard to deny that this release is still worth at least sampling to see if the band’s approach to merging the two styles works for you, but overall if you enjoy the Deathcore sound for any reason, this is an effort you should try to check out.

01. Conqueror – 5:13
02. Slaves to the Kingdom of Fear – 4:22
03. You Should be Paranoid – 4:04
04. Rabid Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing – 4:46
05. Your Loyal Betrayer – 3:34
06. The Coming – 1:54
07. The Nothing – 5:19
08. Bleeding Structure – 4:02
09. Cleansing Hands – 5:37
Overall Score: 7/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by Metal Blade Records.