The L.A. industrial-rock band HEALTH’s new album RAT WARS is the most violent yet vulnerable LP of their career. It is somehow fitting that such a brutal collection of songs is at the same time their most comprehensive artistic statement. Meticulously aggressive production detail collides with painfully personal confessions and a strange savage grace is paired with icy gallows humor… surprisingly it’s still fun as hell. RAT WARS joins the lineage of groundbreaking heavy acts like Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, which re-drew the borders between metal, electronic and pop music. It also speaks directly to the band’s young, fervent online subculture. It’s The Downward Spiral for people with at least two monitors and a vitamin D deficiency. Written during the most emotionally trying period of the band’s life, the album builds on their chaotic yet re-invigorating pandemic years. In that time, HEALTH cut dozens of tracks with heroes and inheritors like Nine Inch Nails, Lamb of God, 100 Gecs, Poppy, and Pertubator on DISCO4. RAT WARS captures all the fury and ambition their LP’s have until now aspired to. It’s their boldest statement on the insanity and the insipidness of contemporary life. The arena-rock grandeur of “DEMIGODS” segues into the jittery techno of “HATEFUL” (co-written with Spanish EBSM artist Sierra) and the merciless gabber-thrash of “CRACK METAL.” “CHILDREN OF SORROW” (with guitar from Lamb of God’s Willie Adler) and “SICKO” (which samples Godflesh’s “Like Rats”) slink with ‘90s goth menace. “ASHAMED” is corrupted R&B pop, while “DSM-V” is for peak time at the blood rave. Born in the heady grime of downtown L.A.’s noise scene, singer-guitarist Jake Duzsik, bassist-producer John Famiglietti and drummer BJ Miller set out to be divisive as they sliced bare fragments of songs out of backfiring guitar pedals. But by 2009’s GET COLOR, everyone knew this band was something different. They played major global festivals like Coachella and Primavera Sound, and after a brief detour to score the groundbreaking Rockstar games title Max Payne 3, they returned in 2015 with the long-awaited DEATH MAGIC. That LP fully harnessed digital production tools, grafted into their shrieking noise and avant-garde soundscapes. The album became an entry point for a new generation of fans, finding an audience as easily in goth clubs as in bedroom production studios. 2019’s VOL.4 :: SLAVES OF FEAR won over heavy music fans with its thrash riffs dissolving into ambient melancholy and hip hop beats, while the lockdown era, two-part DISCO4 fully explored collaborative songwriting with peers from across metal, rap, electronic, and indie rock. This long and willfully unconventional career arc has coalesced in RAT WARS. They are, at last, a band that is comfortable with their own uncomfortableness.
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