Artist: DZ Deathrays
Title: Black Rat
Record Label: Dine Alone/I OH YOU
Back in November 2013, infamous thrash party punks, DZ Deathrays leapt out of hibernation with the first cut of their sophomore LP, the widescreen, self-confessed “power ballad” ‘Northern Lights’. Instantly, the change in dynamics indicated that DZ had broadened their sonic palette, marking for another self-coined moniker from the band; “DZ Coldplay”. As a window into album two, ‘Northern Lights’ hinted that maybe Shane Parsons (vocals/guitar) and Simon Ridley (drums), had (GULP!) mellowed and a batch of arena friendly nuggets lay in wait for us. Had the Brisbane duo fallen into the trap of lessening the volume for a more commercial sound after their debut LP ‘Bloodstreams’? Now we’ve got our grubby mitts on Ridley and Parsons’ second outing, ‘Black Rat’ we can say categorically, NO! After toiling away for 18 months in various studios in their Australian motherland and New York, DZ Deathrays have returned in 2014 leaner, heavier and louder thus making ‘Northern Lights’ that bit more special as it acts as the album’s respite from untold carnage plus its initial deployment threw us off the scent making us think DZ had diluted their bark. Those guys!
‘Black Rat’ takes the DNA from ‘Bloodstreams’ and supercharges it, it’s a common factor to discuss “natural progression” and “a step forward” where sophomore releases are concerned and this couldn’t be more fitting for DZ Deathrays. The band’s musicality has taken a colossal advancing lunge; Parsons’ vocal range has developed to incorporate throat lacerating howls and sweet coos, whilst the spewing riffs from his guitar have been supersized for LP2. Ridley’s drumming is more adventurous, taking on wild patterns and the kind of tub-thumping associated with Dave Grohl or a rock music obsessed octopus.
If ‘Northern Light’s illustrated a more considered side to DZ Deathrays, the antithesis can be found in the gigantic sounding ‘Ocean Exploder’. True to the track’s name, this beast denotes with a tsunami like cavalcade, the Aussie pair have never sounded this unhinged and visceral on record before, its pure face melting stuff. Parson yelps like a man being torn apart by feral animals, Ridley’s drumming verges on the apocalyptic and as for the riffs, they’re bound to puncture a whole in the ozone layer come festival time. Any signs of maturing have been scrubbed out with this brutal bevy of relentless scree. ‘Ocean Exploder’ acts as the base of the iceberg, the part of the album that causes the most damage, however, ‘Less out of Sync’ follows suit with its schizophrenic salvos of noise that are underpinned by a devastating riff and drum lick double team. The brain rattling doesn’t let up either with the sci-fi nuance indebted commotion of ‘Nightwalking’. Attributed with some calmer verse parts, the track’s rampant core is akin to DZ staging their own homage to Tron at one of their chaotic house parties.
Sonically, DZ Deathrays have become more exploratory and this is apparent throughout ‘Black Rat’s lifespan. Electronics were flirted with on their debut record and again, on their sophomore LP they make a pleasing return. ‘Fixations’ incorporates burbling digital squelches and erratic drum stabs that are more cyber-punk than party punk. The unpredictable, visceral nature of old touring buddies, Crystal Castles crops up here thanks to a deconstructed document anchored on shifting dynamics. The biggest reference point – other than deafening riffage – is the band’s new found hip hop influence, a vast proportion of ‘Black Rat’ struts with a rap swagger positioning Parsons and Ridley as contenders for the Aussie Beastie Boys. The album’s title track and ‘Reflective Skull’ bounce with an abrasive, elastic purpose. The latter gyrates with a sleazy refrain whilst the former opts for short, sharp bursts of caustic noise merged with syrupy vocal coos. These two boisterous brutes are to be enjoyed on a pogo stick whilst bounding on a trampoline.
It maybe the Chinese Year of the Horse but with DZ Deathrays blisteringly, immense return to our eardrums, 2014 will be the year of the ‘Black Rat’.
Word and Thoughts of Adam Williams