Health – Rat Wars [Loma Vista Recordings]
Health is a name that has been constantly on the rise over the last years. Since the release of “Death Magic” almost a decade ago, the band has perfected their blend of noise, electro industrial, EDM, pop, guitar sounds from both metal and post-punk roots; the result is a rather unique musical approach easily recognizable , especially thanks to Jake Duzsik voice.
“Rat Wars” is their last effort, an album that wears its influences on its sleeves and at the same time benefits from their recent collaborative “Disco4” series and the experiments therein contained. “Sicko” even features a cunningly conceived semi-collaboration (more of a sample from the track “Like Rats”) with Godflesh.
“Demigods” starts where the last album “Vol.4: Slaves of Fear” ended, sporting beautiful moody melodies and grinding guitar riffs – an eerie and mournful atmosphere gives in to grandiose melodic passages, and the finale offers epic violence. “Future of Hell” works as a rhythmic bridge between tracks, an industrial moment full of syncopated beats and hard kicks punctuated by sharp electronics.
“Hateful” is a surprisingly club-oriented track that takes a page or two from European EBM with its pounding basslines and strong rhythms. The singer’s emotive vocal delivery blends perfectly with the dark and cyberpunk soundscape. “[Of All Else]” develops the final march of the previous track into an apocalyptic techno-train that wouldn’t be out of place on a Perc Trax record; the second half surprises us with gentle strings reminding of Trent Reznor’s signature style.
Due to the way the previous song ends, it’s hard to think that the fast-paced “Crack Metal” sounds as a love-letter to Ministry and “Broken” era’s Nine Inch Nails by chance. The guitar-driven drilling ride comes directly from 90’s industrial-metal. “ Unloved” returns to existential moodiness and delicate dark vibes that moves among militant rhythms and sad vocals, almost an update on witch-house infused alt-pop from ten years ago, while “Children of Sorrow” homages Slayer with its guitar intro, before evolving into a slow industrial- metal march enriched by pop touches in the chorus. The bitter-sweet ending reminds us of Health’s true core among all the added-up metallurgic elements.
Likewise the already mentioned “Sicko” is the band’s own version of Godflesh’s obsessive and monolithic style. As in some collaborations from “Disco4” the singer’s voice perfectly contrasts with the mechanical nature of the music. “Ashamed (Of Being Born) showcases a sound very close to Crystal Castles’ more electro-pop oriented moments, and “DSM-V” closes the circle with broken rhythms, modern electronics and militant guitars that devolves into EDM moments somewhat reminding us of 3Teeth most recent outputs. The cinematic ending is a fitting moment for the band and their idiosyncrasies.
The final ballad “Don’t Try” employs soft new wave guitar sounds and a captivating crescendo full of melancholy and nihilistic inner sadness; the last part offers orchestral droning elements before quietly dissolving into ambiances.
“Rat Wars” is both a continuation of last eight years Health’s style and a further step toward evolution. the noise-rock of their early career has been permanently infused with strong electro-pop leanings now reinforced by industrial, metal, 80’s elements and even current mainstream electronic music. Just like their image and videos play on existential nihilism and modern internet culture, so their music seems to be the soundtrack for a collapsing society full of memes and internalized dread. A unique language and code that defines their artistic vision and aesthetic.
Release date: December 7th, 2023.
Text by: Davide Pappalardo.