Album Review: Like Rats – ‘Death Monolith’

Rapacious rodents

So. Turns out we may have had rats pegged all wrong for the last five or six million years. The artifice of hate began to crumble with a 2018 article titled “Rats Didn’t Spread the Black Death—It Was Humans,” and then accelerated late last year with a Washington Post feature: “Studies suggest rats dream when they sleep, giggle when tickled and grind their teeth (called bruxing) with pleasure when stroked—similar to when cats purr,” Kim Mueller writes. “Rats are also empathetic, according to a study in which lab rats rescued other trapped rats who previously helped them.” For those of us who have seen Ratatouille, this… kind of checks out.

It is, in fact, enough to lead one to suspect that Chicago quintet Like Rats might be dabbling in, say, synthpop or where’s-my-tissues emo. Well, don’t let your guard down: Death Monolith ain’t that kind of rat. The kinetic buzzsaw death metal here is more like a gang of rodents that shunned the Black Death as not apocalyptic enough—the sound of that sewer rat who figures out how to climb out your toilet and attempt to eat your cat. The foundational Morbid Angel/Entombed/Obituary-isms are galvanizing and on point; the production razor-sharp, but not antiseptic; and shades of other metal subgenres—groove, doom, metallic hardcore—toss welcome diversifying curveballs into the mix.

Actually, Death Monolith is likely one of the most interesting and fully realized extreme releases of the year so far—adventurous, gritty, enlivening and catchy enough to have you mashing that play button like a rat in a brain stimulation reward experiment. Just with sick riffs instead of stale food.