The time is upon us. The moon is high, the liquor cabinet stocked, a rabid animal bite reduces your saliva to a grey foam as your ears bleed black blood and the volume knob slowly approaches 11. Grab another drink and prepare for Whiskey and Blasphemy.
Calgary’s maniacal three-piece, Blackrat, has only been around for a year and a half, but they are rising fast and furious thanks to their no-bullshit blackened thrash metal style, delivered by guitarist and vocalist Ian Lemke (who writes for BeatRoute), bass player and vocalist Stu Loughlin and drummer Russell Shanahan.
Following up on their self-released demo in February, the trio will unleash their brand new, debut full-length, Whiskey and Blasphemy, in November. The record is clear evidence these three are doing things right. Not much has changed since their demo, for the better.
“We are just tighter now then when we recorded the demo,” explains Lemke.
“We were a lot more jokey back then and almost straight up crossover,” adds Loughlin. “The new album is a lot more blackened.”
Now, black thrash is nothing new to the metal world and, as the album title suggests, the lyrics dwell within the topics of the devil, alcohol and horror-themed elements, a staple within the subgenre.
“We like to drink lots, it’s all about a good time. We’re not trying to create a message, just trying to make music people can have fun to,” says Lemke. “I don’t like thinking too much; it’s mainly just about creating lyrics that fit evil-sounding music.”
When done with precision, raw intensity and ferocity, it is some of the best rip-your-face-off style of metal that only a select few bands can churn out. Instead of using and abusing the punk elements for their musically simplistic qualities, the influence is proudly worn. This is most notable on ripper tracks “Armageddon Slut,” “Crypts of Sathanas” and the album closer, “Dead on the Road.”
“I got into the more punk side of things, before metal,” says Shanahan. “We were listening to a lot of Inepsy and ‘80s teutonic-styled thrash records.”
Lemke adds, “I listened to more black metal and showed the guys and combined our influences — this is how our style came together.”
Opening with the brain-pounding instrumental, “Invocation of the Horned Rat,” Whiskey and Blasphemy is unrelenting from the onset. Each track demands to be played at a high volume — think Sodom, Disrupt and Bestial Mockery thrown into a microwave, from which they emerge as one mutated bastard child. When it comes to the vocals, they are an intense highlight. Mixing deep grunts and high shrieks with a thick echoing overtone, they bounce back and forth at blistering speed. Add the combination of Lemke’s lo-fi razor riffs, Loughlin’s fuzz-driven bass and the caveman-styled skin bashing of Shanahan, and you’ve got an impressive debut that is rounded out by an all-star Calgarian roster. Indeed, Marcello Castronuovo, of Lemke’s other project, Witchstone, worked on the record with the trio at SlaughterHouse Studios. Sacha Laskow of Perfect Fifth mastered the record and local wunderkind, Danille Gauvin, created the artwork of the bestial rat choking a naked nun. Further, Xnihilo Records, an emerging label owned and ran by Angela Dumančić and Amanda Dawson of Calgary, will unleash the record on November 15. Whiskey and Blasphemy will be their first release.
“We got a message from them stating they were a brand new label, asking if we could meet them. We were a bit apprehensive at first, not knowing who they were,” explains Lemke. “They are both extremely professional and old school metal fans to boot, who grew up listening to Sodom, Kreator, etc.”
Blackrat has immense praise for the duo.
“This album would not be happening without them and they really want to start supporting the metal scene here in Calgary. Our album is sort of a test run, so, if all goes well, they will be reaching out to other bands.”
As for Blackrat, they’ll continue their frenzied scurrying throughout Calgary and beyond after the release of Whiskey and Blasphemy and already have several projects on the horizon.
“We have some brand new tracks already written and, if we can hunker down with a few more, we are hoping to do a 12-inch split with another band shortly in the future.”
Keeping the faith with the old school, the simplistic primitive and raw approach will always prevail. Keep your ears open for these drunken bastards. They’re the only rats here in Alberta.
Catch Blackrat with Gatekrashör, Fornication, and The Cadavor Dog on Friday, November 15th at Lord Nelson’s Bar & Grill.
By Mike Nosanchuk
Photo: Sarah Kitteringham