Review Summary: Ireland's enlightened masters of post-progressive-math-something-core return with a sophomore effort that far exceeds the expectations set by their already stellar debut.
Very few bands are able to able to assert themselves with the amount of immediacy that BATS are capable of. The infectious pulsation of Red in Tooth & Claw
's "Higgs Boson Particle" made it arguably one of the best album openers of 2009, and the band's penchant for mixing huge beats, instantly memorable melodies, smartly textured guitar lines, nimble bass work, and ample bursts of frenetic hardcore energy made Red in Tooth & Claw
a landmark release for the genre. In terms of aesthetics, The Sleep of Reason
isn't incredibly far removed from Red in Tooth & Claw
, as all the elements that gave their debut its distinct identity are still present in copious amounts, but by rolling back the manic restlessness that defined their debut, BATS manages to create a much stronger, thematically cohesive album.
Still, that's not to say that The Sleep of Reason
flies by without the tenacious outbursts of its predecessor. Lead single "Wolfwrangler" brims with the familiar textured guitars, driving basslines, and dance-y beats that defined RiT&C
, and "Thomas Midgley Jr." explodes with the same discordant, unpredictable nature that made "Lord Blakeney's Arm" such a surprising treat. The triple guitar/group vocal motif is still very much in effect on The Sleep of Reason
, constantly shifting from playful, angular harmonies and ambient breaks into full on riff heavy, roaring assaults. However, the grumbling ambience and sombre nature of album opener "Emergent Properties" ends up being a much better representation of the rather bleak themes that run through the album. More often than not, the playful mockery of religious fanatacism and bubbly instrumentation of RiT&C
give way to fuzzy drones, trudging beats, and chugging guitars. The dramatic, chugging stabs of "Heat Death" and the detuned, sludgy outro of "Terrible Lizards" reinforce the lyrical themes of entropy, extinction, and a marked discontentment with humanity's continually growing egocentrism, showcasing a much darker side of BATS that occasionally peaked through in their debut.
Overall, The Sleep of Reason
finds BATS as inventive, energetic, and unpredictable as ever, only this time around, the manic, volatile energy of their debut has transformed into a much more slow burning, purposive, and deliberate sense of drive; plus, BATS still show an uncanny ability to blend their often jaunty, angular instrumentation into an almost perpetual barrage of memorable hooks. As sad as it is to see a label as solid as The Richter Collective (former home of equally impressive Irish math-rock powerhouse Adebisi Shank
) go under, they might as well go out with a release as jaw-droppingly spectacular as The Sleep of Reason
. Here's hoping that wherever BATS land, they continue to pump out releases as compelling and gratifying as the two under their belts.