#FOR FANS OF: Groove Death/Thrash, Lamb of God
Death Rattle proudly sports its primary influence like ink tattooed under its sleeve, an armband encircling a bicep that devotedly honors a modern metalcore institution. Many moments in this album, including the opening lyric in “Love and War”, sound exactly like Lamb of God while retaining enough signature energy and personality as to remain a proprietary product. Some segments of songs are so astonishingly similar in production and attitude that they have me wondering whether this band has perfected the cloning process and is hiding from the world court in a low profile metal band. There must be some sort of atrocity going on here because a beheaded chicken in the name of voodoo can't be the only explanation for such on-the-ball resemblance. The addition of Trey Holton on vocals greatly enhances the delivery of Death Rattle's early songs, however the lyrics display apparent differences. Unlike the past lineup with Donnie Lariviere, this new vocalist does a great job of getting the lyrics out through a range of gruff yells and long drawn out screams, but the content of some of these new lyrics is more vague and distant from reality than the songs comprising the reprisal segment of 'Volition'. Where there is a direct and obvious object of one's anger to confront in songs like “Snake in the Grass” or “Sociopath”, the lyrics to a song like “Adrenalize” focus more on an internal boiling over as rage precludes destruction. This is best displayed in “Internal Determination” as the song describes how “you'll see the past of a psychopath” while invoking metaphysical manifestations of mayhem.
There is a marked improvement in quality from Death Rattle's first foray. The proficiency in the guitar riffing and the cohesion of the ensemble between the songs from the previous album bring this new iteration in 'Volition' into full bloom. This band would be a good Lamb of God clone on a bad day but such fresh and original arrangements in songs like “Sentenced to Hell”, “Adrenalize”, and “From Blood to Black” show that Death Rattle is in top form with more than a cursory sense of its direction. Meaty breakdowns between headbanging runs, chunky guitars full of reverb like blenders overloaded by intermittent power surges, and grooves that drive with every needle riding a red line make this album worthy of any enthusiasm it receives. Ryan VanderWolk and Jimmy Cossette round out their lead and rhythm guitars incredibly well, creating an ideal interplay between industrial machinery sticking to its protocol and sentience screaming out for recognition. The intricacies of guitar in “Adrenalize” accelerate and twist around Chris Morton's deceptively steady drumming rhythm through hypnotic churning that grows like barbed vines deliberately digging into flesh, bleeding its prey while weaving a bed of thorns that tears into the meat of an immobilized deer. This glacial but cutting pace denotes waves of aggression in fits and bursts, perpetuating the motion of a fiery and intricate mechanism, interconnecting each sharp tooth of its clockwork gears with laser precision.
With a thrashing start, “Sentenced To Hell” charges its way into a fantastic breakdown, a melee that runs right into “Blood of the Scribe” territory with tinkling cymbals joined by punchy bass kicks, crashing this riff into roaring drum fills that pummel a heart into submission in endurance of an eternal sentence in headbanging perdition. An orgasmic bluesy solo rounds out the album in “From Blood to Black” that persists through a dozen rounds of the drum rhythm. These moments of soloing ecstasy are exactly what anyone would want to experience live and bring a final punishing end to this album as the guitars wail in pleasure-pain throughout this drawn out climax. Improving on the template established in the first album, 'Man's Ruin', Death Rattle has made the discovery of more intricate flowing guitar grooves that maintain an aggressive tone throughout each song a paramount concentration to its groundwork while venturing farther from this foundation with finesse.
Rerecording the singles “Snake in the Grass”, “Sociopath”, “Order Within Chaos”, and “Doomsday” from 'Man's Ruin', as well as reworking “Vicious Cycle” into the new song “Unfinished Business”, displays the leaps and bounds that this band has made in tightening up its delivery and crystallizing its intonation. The run after the solo in “Sociopath” sounds spectacular and proves that this recording truly achieves the aim that the first album attempted but never truly reached. The dropping strings, riding the waves churned by Kevin Adams' bass, throughout the elaborate solo section sounds like a seventh string strung to stretch a neck and beautifully rejoins the run with a pummeling punch, as though dozens of victims of a diabolical overlord are beating the hanging tyrant like a piñata.
“Unfinished Business” takes another crack at the sound started by “Vicious Cycle” on 'Man's Ruin'. The song is streamlined with more focus on the leading riff before swirling, in the second verse, a blending melody in New England metalcore style and beating it furiously with percussion. While I would have preferred to have heard the drum interlude reprised to open the song, it seems that the percussion has been reigned in a bit tighter than entirely necessary as Morin's drumming has become far sharper and well-timed but is also lacking in inventiveness. Rather than cascade each cymbal clink throughout a fill to drive the tone of a song like “Unfinished Business” into the deepest pit, the tripling on the double bass helps to up the ante but the top of the percussion stays too uniform to truly grab you and shake things up. Meanwhile, the guitars slope down into a murky marsh of melody in the chorus that magnificently satisfies a metalcore mania. Though all the cylinders may not be firing with fury, there is still plenty of roar in this engine to top out at breakneck speed.
As much as Death Rattle will inevitably end up compared to Lamb of God due to the Virginia stalwart's heavy inspiration and similarity, this newcomer shows its ability to thrive as it strays from the derivative. A template formed on the aggression of 'As the Palaces Burn' combined with the crisp refinement of 'Ashes of the Wake' makes Death Rattle achieve its production aims throughout 'Volition'. However, it is in approaching its early offerings with fresh ideas where the band has revitalized its previous pieces. The newest songs on this album greatly expand the aims and scope of the band's ambition, riding its own waves of sound off of coattails and into its own atmospheric layer. Considering the new normal presented in 'Volition', Death Rattle has a bright future ahead of it. While the band is not out to replace any established brand or define a new cultural direction, the band shows itself as a confident and competent outfit with plenty of personality to boot.