Bill Bergstrom: Guitars, Baritone Guitar, Theremin, and Tuba
Rodd Escobar-Dos Santos: Bass and Baritone Guitar
Taylor Still: Drums and Percussion
A creaking door sound effect and slow, ominous descending guitar riff usher you In The Charnel House. With a sudden scream and shattering kick of a reverb tank, you know there''s no turning back. Bill tears off a glissando and begins his intro over the furious pounding of tribal drums. The bass enters the fray, and the band settles into a heavy groove. This is surf music with a dose of horror. Over and over, Bill hammers home the main theme with heavily reverbed spy-tone and changes things up with agressively double picked melodic variations. Spooky.
This Rockabilly rave-up is a showcase for Taylor''s outstanding drumming. He''s always in the pocket and with that great tone, which makes this whole album such a pleasure to listen to.
Stow away with the ''bilge" Rats for this demented sea shanty. Bill slices and dices the main theme nine ways from Sunday and keeps it interesting--everything from Astronaut''s-style pizzicato to heavy crunch. And Taylor, what can you say except the guy has studied his military snare rudiments. Avast maties!
Don''t Drink the Water
Establishes a slight "south of the border" feel, like many a surf classic before it. Heavy double picking in lock step with rolling double toms put you right inside the tube until you go over the falls and feel yourself being sonically pummeled in the churn. The Rats make like a post-punk Ventures for the new milleneum. Great staccato ride cymbal work here. Move over Mel Taylor--it''s Lava Rat Taylor.
Guitar lines that are long and languid, like a slow drive along the coast highway. Ever wonder what it would sound like if Bossa Nova era Pixies played surf/instro? (I know, but forget about Cecilia Ann for a second). Bill can really milk the slow, wavering trem across a full chord like James Wilsey. Within the short little tag line that seperates verses are the seeds to some of the most beautiful recorded sounds I have heard. This is just as gorgeous piece of music.
Translation: Dangerous! The real danger here, is that upon repeated listening this catchy guitar line will lodge permanantly in your brain. It''s loopy and angular, with more twists and turns than Lombard Street. At the end, Bill harmonizes the figure to fit a chordal approach--no mean feat--and exhibits some serious musicianship.
If they do the twist in Hell, this is the music they are doing it to. I can''t help but imagine Uma Thurmon in a red devil body stocking doing the Bat Dance a la Pulp Fiction (which probably says more about me than it does this tune). Really, this is the Cramps minus Lux and with better musicianship. Rodd really shines here on bass, and when the three Rats play the theme in unison, it is a thing of evil beauty. In one section, Bill breaks out some apocolyptic fuzz guitar like I haven''t heard since In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.
Everyone in the mosh pit!! This one track alone may be responsible for the album label''s stated "23% daily value of punk". A high engergy romp propelled by a relentless backbeat and jackhammer riffs. Appropriately, in the best tradition of punk, it clocks in at just barely over 2 minutes.
Swampy, tremolo laden guitar over a fat shuffle groove and melodic walking bass line. I would describe this as having a swingy, jazzy jump blues feel--I hesitate to say it''s a little like "Stray Cat Strut", but that''s my only frame of reference for you. The finale is especially nicely arranged and richly textured, with the whole band displaying tremendous dynamics between dramatic and loud to soft and subtle. A great showpiece that shows off the Lava Rats'' musical range.
The drum roll fills on this one floor me everytime--incredibly tight and precise. Over a relatively simple stomp style song structure, the band really show us what they''re all about. This is the essence of instro/rock Lava Rats style. It''s stripped down and mean. All killer, no filler and tone, tone tone!
Drop the Bomb
Yet more high energy punk-inspired instrumental rock. It''s almost not fair. After being pounded into submission by the last one, this track is like the bully who isn''t satisfied until you say "uncle". It''s full of rapid fire double picking right out of the Miserlou play book and features several false endings. It just keeps coming back at you. Want some more? huh? Want some more?
Did I mention this band is tight? The Lava Rats are a modern day surf power trio. I say modern, because even though their sound is full of the hallmarks we have come to identify with surf/instumental music---fast drum rolls and fills, middle eastern-inspired melodies, pizzicato picking punctuated by legato trem strums--The Lava Rats bring modern production values (sound clarity) and a post punk attitude, which brings the genre into the 21st century.
Bill may have perfected the use of the buzz saw as musical instrument. At 1:24 the band slows down the tempo considerably, where I definitely detect a tounge in cheek Led Zeppelin reference, before building up speed like a Juggernaut and reintroducing the main theme with a vengence. In the process, Taylor unleashes a devastating flurry of fills that seem to send the guitar into hyper-drive. My attempt to describe in words can''t do justice to the overall effect. The Lava Rats rock--in the best sense of the word.
Caution! Stealth track alert! Do not adjust your voume control, as doing so could cause injury. The alblum ends with 1:50 of silence followed by a blistering coup-de-gras!
More information about the band and where to order this CD can be found on The Lava Rats website https://www.tradebit.com
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