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A Story Of Rats - "Vastness & The Inverse" (CD)

A Story Of Rats - "Vastness & The Inverse" CD cover image

"Vastness & The Inverse" track listing:

1. Her Teeth Are Nil (19:47)
2. Huldrefolk (17:48)

Reviewed by on February 28, 2013

"A Story Of Rats is not making music for the sake of appeal or acceptance, but to reach into a listener’s inner turmoil and grab tangible fear to twist into an indescribable sound."

Time after time, an album comes to my attention, and after a dozen complete listens are held, a review is written. Sometimes, the album has an undeniable pull that results in regular plays after the review goes up. Other times, it collects digital dust until it’s deleted to make room for another album. The whole cycle is never-ending, and usually, it’s a very structured affair. Then a record like “Vastness & The Inverse” gets thrown into the fray, and the process gets tangled up. A Story Of Rats is not making music for the sake of appeal or acceptance, but to reach into a listener’s inner turmoil and grab tangible fear to twist into an indescribable sound.

“Vastness & The Inverse” will get a rating, though the number is not indicative of my overall feelings on the album. In all honestly, that feeling is difficult to figure out, even after a few weeks. Narrowing the album down to a numerical formula would work for most other bands, but not A Story Of Rats. There is little doubt “Vastness & The Inverse” will get a polarizing reaction, and there is validity in opinions all over the board. This goes way beyond the “needs several listens” scale; “Vastness & The Inverse” is better established in the “crazy ears may apply” scale.

A Story Of Rats mastermind Garek J. Druss (who recently provided keyboards to Atriarch’s “Ritual of Passing”) allows synths and drums into his musical battleground, leaving all other instruments to rot. The music drones and wallows in despair, the synths acting as catalysts for lofty ambience and lurching uneasiness. The drums from Andrew Crawshaw are strictly for timing, with a notable lack of finesse or flash from the beats employed. However, that’s precisely what this funeral dirge requires. Anything technical or quick would have purged the dark essence from the music

Some music can’t be justified by the written word, and that’s when the job of a reviewer becomes more complex. In a way, it’s also rewarding, because it’s not every day an album can be distinguished to the point that words can only hint at the sonic reverence at hand. “Vastness & The Inverse” is split between two songs, both of which could be analyzed and critiqued for days. Druss and Crawshaw are not confined to any standards set by musicians before them, and that means a wide-open space to make their suffocating mark.

Personally, the first song, “Her Teeth Are Nil,” had greater appeal than “Huldrefolk.” Starting out with a single drum beat, “Her Teeth Are Nil” has minutes go by where it seems like nothing happens. Yet, there is something brewing, with a rumbling synth line building to the point where static takes over, leading to a brilliant transition into a militaristic break. The song goes from ambient to drone, giving it dynamics missing from the repetitious, though hypnotic, style of “Huldrefolk.”

Sitting here, writing this review in the middle of the night after giving “Vastness & The Inverse” yet another 40 minutes of my life, there’s still confusion as to my true thoughts regarding the album. There’s just something so entrancing about it, though it’s not compatible in the way that makes it an attention-grabber. There could be a comparison to the likes of Sunn 0))), though clumping A Story Of Rats in with drone masters like them is a disservice to how out-there the band truly is.

There’s a possibility that somewhere down the line, whether it be one week or one year, the ideas and images that are thought up from listening to “Vastness & The Inverse” will be radically changed. No other album so far this year has left me with more questions, and A Story Of Rats can’t be accused of phoning in their performance. It’s worth a listen, just out of sheer fascination alone, though an open mind is the least of the requirements for a play through of “Vastness & The Inverse.”

Highs: A lot done with just drums and synth, ambient music with an edge, hypnotizing effect

Lows: A challenging listen for the average metal fan, takes a long time to get acquainted with

Bottom line: Hard to describe in words, “Vastness & The Inverse” is one of the most challenging listens of any album released so far in 2013.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)