Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs

Feed The Rats

The pig has several connotations. Most civilisations and cultures have seen them as arbiters of fertility, virility, strength and abundance. The Buddhist tradition swings the other way, seeing the pig as ignorant, illusory, greedy, lustful. Other religions see them as unclean. Then there is the Celtic fable of Manannan, who owned a herd of pigs that never dwindled – they were forever replenishing their numbers.

I could go on. The point is that the pig is multifaceted and almost indefinable – a shifting construct for people to hang their hopes and fears on. It is also a heave bag of flesh that wallows in mud and shit all day until taken to the slaughterhouse. A myriad of strong, indelible, contradictory images, fit for a Newcastle heavy psych band that can’t reign in their swine (although they have reined in members of likeminded noisemongers Khunnt and Blown Out). And to predictably muddy the waters further, they bring another animal into the mix, one with even stronger connotations – but much clearer in intent.

For Feed The Rats is essentially three tracks – two gargantuan bolshie dirges bookending the four-and-a-half minute ‘Sweet Relief’ – that ravenously gnaws away at your eardrums, body and soul. So let’s start there, with the meat in this fetid sandwich. The name could be a play on Black Sabbath’s ‘Sweet Leaf’ – for a band clearly indebted to the Birmingham icons it bears a modicum of sense. But there is relentlessness here, a flayed aggression, which Ozzy et al could never muster. Matt Baty’s vocals howl, echoing over the cacophony like a mythic warlord and mischief-maker, both from the heavens and from the bowels of the earth. And what a cacophony it is – the guitars come at you predictably but with a Juggernaut force that rattles the ribcage. This is classic 70s heavy metal deep-fried in iron and blood.

But it’s the fifteen-minute-plus tracks that truly show what these underground demons are capable of. There is the space psych squall of Monster Magnet to ‘Psychopomp’ but with a more earthen, primitive bent – a Cro-Magnon bludgeoning of guttural howls and relentless metal-against-granite riffs, swelling and falling like universes colliding. The dirge is certainly hypnotic yet forcefully so – abrasive and unfettered, yet with a sense of control that only gods and madmen can even attempt to reign in. The amped storm and demonic drumming in the second half of this track is my favourite part of this album – always threatening to destroy each other, entwined and furious, not unlike a rat king at fever pitch.

Then finishing the album is ‘Icon’, which almost feels like an inversion of ‘Psychopomp’. Starts off with the quiet sole stoner-rock muffled guitar line, before smashing through the speakers with ruthlessness, speeding up, squalling, incanting, gnashing of teeth. Guitar solos profligate amongst the sonic molten morass. Then towards the end things grind down to a Part Chimp doom dirge (the animalistic totems abound), a colossal battering where no surface, instrument, vocal cord or brain cell is left unscathed. The demons have been summoned, channeled, purged.

Feed The Rats is gloriously over the top, tipping towards the precipice of ridiculousness, yet the sheer brutality of it is what steadies the ship here. To see the band unleash these behemoths is a more frightening and exhilarating a proposition, but this debut album makes a damn good fist of catching that viscous lightning in a bottle. The strength, the rabid vitality, the electrifying virility, the virulent sins against decency and your eardrums – no matter what the pig means to you, these Pigs, like Manannan, will never be tethered or tapered – they are legion, and won’t stop until you are one of them.

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