When I got introduced to the behemoth that is BATS by some of this site's board members, their debut EP and album quickly became amongst the most played records I own. Intricate, intelligent and relentless rock of the highest technical ability that teeters on the edge of punk and post-hardcore; yet whereas other bands of this ilk tend to be sterile or overbearing, BATS exude punch and personality.
Two years later the label they began on, Richter Collective, sign off with one of the very best records they ever put out. And BATS continue to get even better.
From the mysterious front cover to the densely produced mix that the (still wonderfully spiky) vocals emerge out of, everything's a bit darker and epic this time around. Nowhere is this highlighted better than by the apocalyptic scientific themes running throughout; whereas some sing about skateboarding or girls, BATS scream about the importance of enlightened thinking and where human achievement sits in the grand scheme of things.
"What can we see in the short history of man? / Is it knowledge or darkness that lends us a hand", 'Luminiferous Aether' asks. Their fangs are shown in 'Thomas Midgley Jr' where the chorus about the inventor of gasoline and CFCs who accidentally hanged himself is repeated screaming of "THOMAS MIDGLEY! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?" A voice echoes back ("I created the death of the world"). You sense there's a knowing sense of black humour at work here too though, such as on 'The Fall of Bees' where they command: "Protect the hive! Save the Queen! You've killed, killed all the bees!"
Lesser bands would take the different elements that make up an average BATS song and create an entire album out of it. They often manage to have four or five distinct parts yet never jar or regress. Take closer 'Terrible Lizards'. It's essentially three different songs being played at once; one crunching bass loop repeated over and over is the spine, a middle lighter chorus intersects and weaves amongst it and they also cram in a huge singalong call to action for fun too. The end result miraculously feels so fluid, seamlessly at one with the vocals and danceable you barely notice.
They can do direct too. 'Stem Cells' is a taut little fucker of a song, a series of building riffs and layered drums culminating in a mass breakdown and recurring lyric of "Shock it 'til it beats again". The title track is similarly single worthy and a thrilling cascade of noise which gives way to a breathless series of soundbites, including "Kill the weakest / Kill the youngest... Check the vitals / Use deception / Practice stealth... Scratch a living / Learn from dying".
In fact there are highlights every few seconds; the way the guitar soars out of the shouting in 'Heat Death', the bookend instrumentals which set up 'Wolfwrangler's powerful intro, the balance the guitars and vocals find in the absurdly catchy 'Astronomy Astrology'...
"Have a better look here", they plead at one point. It's advice that any fan of blisteringly progressive rock music in 2012 would do well to heed.
9Sean Thomas's Score