Review Summary: We have been unable to identify the particle seen in the image below.
When I first heard about BATS, they were described to me as “progressive post hardcore with a lot of scientific references”. Immediately, I surmised they were complete wankers. Upon hearing Red in Tooth and Claw, maybe they still are, but I'll let them off it because ... well they're so damn good. Their sound, three guitars blistering through complex riffs, a bass that jumps in and defines its own individual line and a harsh, brutal shriek ripping through the fray, yelling with a pride and sincerity I didn't expect considering their rife scientific content, is nothing short of profound.
But really, progressive post hardcore is an awkward sub genre to fit yourself in. Chalk and cheese, you're mixing a genre known to burst with energy and one known for massive chunks of instrumentation thrown in at will, but BATS make it work in their own quirky, brutal way. You need only listen to the introduction to “Higgs Boson Particle”, with it's increasingly complex overlaying instrumentation or the epic, climactic master work that is “The Cruel Sea” to know BATS are perfectly capable. That's not to say they can't pull off other stuff though, as the diverse work branches into the uplifting (dare you say poppy?) “Gamma Ray Burst” and the brutal hardcore influence that “Lord Blakeney's Arm” proudly holds, the band prove their broad potential. Initially, I thought the sound began to lose inspiration and sound repetitive in the latter half of the album, but this is definitely a grower and such feelings soon dissipated. There's subtle nuances in “Star Wormwood” that now really single it out as a quality track to me, where initially I simply heard a rehashed earlier sound.
Being that the singer and both guitarists have guitar play on this album, there's an ever present sense of overwhelming depth to the play, complexity in both technicality and in the constantly varying time signatures (just try pinpointing each guitar's role at some of the more built up sections). This is only amplified by the bold bass work, sometimes further adding to the accumulation of sound and sometimes going off on a grooving tangent i.e. the aforementioned “Gamma Ray Burst”. Despite this talent, the real surprise to me is Rupert as vocalist. Forced to abandon all preconceived cognitions I held of him, I was consistently impressed throughout, both in lyrics and in voice. Ranging from particle physics to evolution, BATS are for logic and science and against anything which hinders its progress, or more simply to “stomp on as many ***ing stupid ideas as we can”. The performance itself is a definite highlight, be it the sinister hyperventilating in “Lord Blakeney's Arm” or the satisfied exhale of “Credulous! Credulous!”, Rupert's innovative aggression is a wildly varying but always positive experience.
Honestly, the one thing that could get me more excited about this album is that it's so early in their career. You can sense untapped potential even in the greatness of this album and known they're destined for a magnum opus above such already superb work. For now however, let yourself be enveloped in a frantic, epic work of post hardcore thats confident, deserved pretentiousness is only matched by its sheer quality.
Recommended Tracks: Gamma Ray Burst, Vermithrax Pejorative, Andrew Wiles.