Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes – ‘Modern Ruin’

By Dave Bull

The name Frank Carter comes with revered uncertainty. His musical back catalogue and onstage antics lean towards an angry and passionate performer. It is easy to forget about Pure Love, because what he is so often praised for are the bands where his intensity shines through. This album is going to realign how you think about him and this band, in ways that we never thought possible.

With the Rattlesnakes, there is a similar fever pitch to the Gallows and their second full length finally drops with aplomb. But let’s get something straight from the get-go: not everyone is going to be happy. This is not ‘Blossom’ II. The whole vibe has changed, the tempo is much more upbeat and dreamy in sound and the vocal development of Carter is evident throughout. The metamorphosis is huge, but still admiringly within the confines of acceptability.

‘Modern Ruin’, the penultimate track on the album of the same name, is the only track with the venomous sounding vocals that we have come to love about Frank’s angry projects, but it’s the mirage of other genres that bleed through this album that give Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes a new sense of excitable discovery and possibility.

The first thing to state categorically is this is not a hardcore album, but the more relaxed sound gives way to a serious message of social decay. There is a mid-nineties indie sheen across the whole album and it’s the message of “modern ruin, and we’re all responsible” that perfectly positions this album to be both a head turner of new fans but also one to set Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes on a new pathway, both musically and creatively. The sonic barrage of both hedonistic guitar, and Frank’s rasping and ghostly vocals allows this album to slip amongst your self-conscience and elicit something more than was expected.

What strikes first is how emotionally raw the album feels, but also how beautifully crafted it is in terms of production. This contradiction is intentional and important. ‘Lullaby’ packs a punch and has a Muse feel interwoven with the persistent riff and anguished vocals that come to a perfect crescendo just at the right time. It’s incredibly unexpected and doesn’t let off as ‘Snake Eyes’ continues with more tenacity but with this continued warmness not too dissimilar to later Incubus material. The breakdown is familiar but beautifully crafted before the mini pause, and the re-drop, which promises and delivers – the hairs on the spine explode in blissful applause.

‘Vampires’ has a delicious chorus with Frank singing “I don’t want to live in the shadow of the man anymore”. The saleability of this chorus cannot be understated. The hook delivers before the building pace leaves you salivating for the eventual drop and return to the aforementioned lyrics. It is an immediate winner. What is clear is that this band are not just another project of a vocalist who finds it hard to settle. Everything has been poured into this release and the riches are deep and plentiful.

Big choruses continue with ‘Wild Flowers’, easily the most poppy of offerings before ‘Acid Veins’ blurs the old and the new Frank perfectly. The juxtaposition of beauty and anger comes across in waves, the screams of “modern ruin” giving way to scaled back guitar and an atmosphere so thick, it would blunt the sharpest of knives.

‘Jackals’ packs a punch, which only lasts for 57 seconds before ‘Thunder’, which is one of the stand out tracks on the album. Opening with a lick that would fit on ‘Blossom’ perfectly before Frank’s vocals soar above, “are you friend or are you foe?” The message being hammered home is that everyone is the same, we all have families and loved ones and questions the moral compass of those who kill innocent people across the world. Modern ruin indeed.

‘Modern Ruin’ is the only real nod to the angry side of ‘Blossom’ and will please those that have tuned in for cathartic heaviness, but dig deep enough into this album and you will see that the thematic literature is loaded enough to warrant a more scaled back approach. It delivers a new angle on ‘heavy’, as thematic weight replaces musical intensity.

‘Neon Rust’ is so dreamy, that after listening to this album, delivering as it does so perfectly, you immediately begin to feel the need to listen over and over. This album achieves more than some bands do in their whole careers and should be given all the praise it deserves. Give it time, as it may shock in its delivery, but underneath is both an album of material integrity and musical brilliance; we expect nothing less from this band. To Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes – 2017 is yours for the taking.

DAVE BULL

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