|Musical Style: Hard Rock/Metal||Produced By: Pete Emms|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: UK|
|Year Released: 2008||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: 90%|
|Running Time: 50:00|
UK based V-Rats represents a joining of vocalist/bassist Pete MZ Emms, guitarists Paul May and Mike DeJager and drummer Rob Allen. Emms, who has nine album credits to date, has toured and played with some of the UK’s biggest names, including Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Trapeze and The Charlatans. May brings a resume with over fifty album credits in addition to having worked with former Judas Priest vocalist Al Atkins, Janus, Dave Holland (Trapeze), Roy Wood (ELO) and Emms (in the Christian metal band A.N.D.). Originally hailing from South Africa, DeJager also features quite the impressive resume in having toured with Dante Fox and Al Atkins while founding the world’s first broadband guitarist TV channel, Guitarist TV. Rob Allen has toured throughout the UK, Europe and USA and once was briefly a member of the psychedelic punk group The Damned.
With a vast wealth of experience in the music industry to draw upon, V-Rats debuted in 2007 with a four song EP entitled EPic before following up in the summer of 2008 with the full length effort Intelligent Design. The album finds the group showcasing a blend of hard rock and metal backed by some heavy groove, funk and blues based moments. Fans of early nineties Bride, Love War, Die Happy and Red Sea will find a lot to like here as will those into Resurrection Band, Gethsemane Rose, F.O.G. and Heartcry. Standout cuts include up-tempo hard rockers “Know Definition” and “Devil To Pay” – two shorter but energy laden tracks – in addition to the driving metal of “Dirty Little Secret”, “All The Ones You Want” and “Blood, Demons & Whiskey”. “Point Of No Return” and “So Over You” head in a slower, more mid-paced direction while “et al” delivers a ton of groove and “Lisa” an acoustic laced environs.
Emms brings a smooth and clean mid-ranged vocal style that fits perfectly with the bluesy metal/hard rock genre. He also is a killer bass player, as the likes of “Intro”, Dirty Little Secret” and “Point Of No Return” demonstrate with their resounding bass lines. May and DeJager prove equally able with their riveting guitar work, the two trading off on lead guitar throughout the project, most notably on “et al”, “Lisa” and “Blood, Demons & Whiskey”.
Production values are of a high professional standard in amalgamating a pronounced low end with an upfront mix of rhythm guitar and clean sounding lead guitar.
While not a Christian project in terms of its lyrical direction, Intelligent Design focuses on life, lost love and relationships from a positive standpoint. The group does, however, make forward statements of faith on “Know Definition” and “Point Of No Return”.
The album gets underway with “Intro”, a short instrumental (:35) sustained by a thumping bass line.
Gritty hard rocker “No Good For Me” can best be described as quintessential V-Rats, amalgamating a scratchy rhythm guitar sound with a too the point chorus and plethora of unrelenting impetus. May showcases an aggressive touch on lead guitar throughout the songs driving instrumental section. The subject matter here revolves around putting an end to an unhealthy relationship:
Your not sugar and spice
Some day you’ll take your own advice
Wanna break, not bend the rules
There is no time to suffer fools
And I’ve finally come to see
What you got aint what I need
And that you’re no good for me
“Dirty Little Secret” stands out with its muscular wall of rhythm guitar. Bordering on all out metal, the song drives its length in determined fashion, transitioning between its robust verse portions – again, the guitar is right in your face – and chorus on the more tempered side of things. Very well done.
“Know Definition” represents a three and a half minute explosion of non-stop energy and swagger. Up-tempo in capacity but guitar driven in attitude, the song brings some driving riffs that remind me of old school Resurrection Band- focused, intense and delivered with a touch of the blues. A bristling instrumental section closes out the final minute and a half of a number that features some of the albums most forthright lyrics:
What you gonna do when He calls your name?
What you gonna claim?
What you gonna do when the fire inside no longer burns in you?
Time is gonna tell who’s side their on
Where they all belong
All our lives to be revealed
Before His judgement throne
Initiated by a bass guitar solo, “et al” exudes a ton of groove as it flows through its settled verse portions, not letting up until achieving a brief but terse chorus standing out with its hook-laden impetus. May and DeJager combine for an abundance of bluesy lead work. “et al” seems to be talking about living for the moment:
You ride the lightning
You ride the storm
You think that life’s
No sense at all
You look for pictures
You look for signs
You’ve lost your love
You’ve lost your mind
You don’t make it easy at all
“Lisa” is one of the albums more laid back pieces. The song moves forward with the rhythm guitar flowing in and out of the mix, not gaining initiative until acquiring a succinct chorus laced up by a crisp sounding acoustic guitar. May and DeJager add to the relaxed scene with their emotional soloing abilities.
The emotional flavorings continue on “Point Of No Return”, a slower, mid-paced number plodding from front to back to an edgy rhythm guitar underscored by a pronounced bass line. Chorus wise, the song decelerates to a near standstill in putting forth an ambience bordering on the poignant in capacity. The lyrics to “Point Of No Return” cannot help but make you think:
Some people say they have the answers
Some people say that we should live and learn
Some people say I had it coming
I hope you never have to learn
The point of no return
“So Over You”, the second mid-tempo piece in a row, begins slowly in a gritty and blues drenched manner. Building initiative at the start of its first verse, the song gradually cruises ahead until obtaining a smoothly flowing chorus coming across in the form of a lament over a lost love:
I don’t care just what you do
I’m so over you
With all the things you say and do
I’m so over you
Plenty of spicy lead work from DeJager makes this one stand out.
“All The Ones You Want (You Can’t Have)” proves a much needed upbeat hard rocker. A drum solo gets things underway before a metal-edged rhythm guitar takes over. Sustaining the energetic verve throughout its first verse, the song transitions to a decisive chorus upheld by the bands all out groove-driven intensity. The occasional use of clapping hands adds a nice complementary touch.
“South Of My Heart” stands out with a stalwart guitar riff of the kind guaranteed to keep you coming back time and again. Musically, the song roars its distance in exuding a plethora of animated vigor, a chorus with a catchy hook and Emms’ charismatic vocal delivery helping to put it over the top. A soul that has been burned and strives to again reach out is the subject matter here:
Give me the chance to leave
it all behind, to start again
What do I need to break
these chains inside to love again?
Not South of my heart again
“Devil To Pay”, the albums shortest piece at just over three minutes, is another upbeat hard rocker. The song delivers a ton of celerity, racing through its weighty verse portions on the way to a resounding chorus shored up by deep sounding backing vocals. Facing the consequences of our actions is discussed on “Devil To Pay”:
I see enough of you
To see the things you do
You’re running in the red
And in no time you’re dead
I choose to disengage
I need to rearrange
Don’t waste another day
Suggest you walk away
I might describe “Blood, Demons & Whiskey” as muscular mid-tempo metal. The song gets underway to a hard charging instrumental based opening, the unrelenting impetus perpetuated as the way is paved for an aggressively delivered chorus in which the rhythm guitar moves to the front of the mix. May and DeJager tear it up on lead guitar throughout a fiery instrumental break.
Intelligent Design stands out with its consistency in that each of its songs holds up under repeated play. The strengths in the areas of musicianship and production represent the high volume of experience – both in the studio and on the road – this talented UK based quartet brings to the table. All around, V-Rats come highly recommend for any fan of metal and hard rock.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Intro” (:35), “No Good For Me” (5:04), “Dirty Little Secret” (6:32), “Know Definition” (3:29), “et al” (4:05), “Lisa” (4:33), “Point Of No Return” (5:01), “So Over You” (5:24), “All The Ones You Want (You Can’t Have)” (4:11), “South Of My Heart” (4:07), “Devil To Pay” (3:08), “Blood, Demons & Whiskey” (3:52)
Pete MZ Emms – Lead Vocals & Bass
Paul May – Guitars
Mike DeJager – Guitars
Rob Allen - Drums