In a modern metal scene that is filled to the brim with down-tuned growly deathcore and djent bands, we’ve seen the rebirth of a more traditional sounding heavy metal. The debut album titled Rock ‘n’ Roll Rats from Spain-based SLOWBURN, really hits all of those notes with almost surgical precision but without sounding old and dated. It’s an interesting mixture of some power metal melodic roots and that great Heavy Metal sound we grew up with in the 80’s (Well, maybe not me being born in 1988, but it still counts right?)
There are more modern production techniques, sounding clean and crisp without losing those denim, chain and leather moments it’s trying to emulate. Imagine a mix of Ronny James Dio-esque vocals with absolutely lush harmonies with Randy Rhoads Era Ozzy Ozbourne or IRON MAIDEN’s melodic sounding riffs and you’ve good a great idea of what to expect.
The album kicks off with Still In The Fight and the intro really sets the tone for what you are in for. That absolutely classic heavy metal aura which makes you want to let the hair down and ride your chopper with a fist in the air. It’s a sound we’re used to but that’s not to take away from how on point it is and how well they do it. It’s a very good opener.
The second track on the album, Clever Than You is a different kind of animal. It has more of a reserved feel in parts that is quite different to the more straight up hard-hitting opener. It is encouraging that the band are willing to mix it up, which is apparent throughout the album.
Metallist really hits home a fast-paced aggressiveness from the first second that hooks you immediately. From start to finish, this song has a great mixture of NWOTHM and power metal vibes. By the time you reach the chorus, it feels very empowering. The lyrics also capture that same essence that leaves you with an absolute triumph. Definitely the stand out track for me.
The title track of the album Rock ‘n’ Roll Rats isn’t just a song, it’s a four-minute crash course of what the band is all about. A straight up, no messing around, hard hitting statement about their heavy metal way of life and how no one is going to take that away from them. I felt that was the first song so far where the message of the lyrics really stood out over the music itself which is also great.
Run Out is another song that instantly his you with traditional heavy metal and power metal vibes. These formulate into an ensemble that keeps you listening, with faster paced melodic chunky riffs met with shredding solos and softer sections that culminates into a pleasurable listening experience.
After this we are met with Victims of Ambition another more patiently crafted track on the surface but in the latter stages comes alive with fast paced shredding before regaining its composure for a more moderate finish. A really interesting structure that was unexpected.
The penultimate track Night Protectors and the last track Vigilantes are of a similar style. A straight up hard rock feel with flickers of twinkly solos, which is a nice way to go out after the more up front in your face aggression felt in earlier tracks, it lets you relax and the album finishes off in style. I also like that the last song is completely in Spanish, I love when bands stick to their native language and it doesn’t take away from the emotions felt within the music.
To summarize, for a debut album this is a very strong start. You instantly know what this band is trying to say in their music and they make no bones about it. SLOWBURN were a band unfamiliar to me and listening to their album was a really enriching experience overall.
If I was going to make any criticisms, there was just one track I didn’t really enjoy. Head In a Box personally to me felt out of place and unconnected to the rest of the album, but I’m not going to let that take away from it because the rest of it was solid.
Words: Ashley Thompson
Rock N’ Roll Rats is out now.
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