Under the Oak – Rattus Norvegicus (WormHoleDeath)Wednesday, 7th September 2022
Under the Oak hail from Norway, a scene with a proven history of fantastic bands across all platforms of the metal / hard rock landscape. Slugging it out in a variety of tribute/original acts over the years – their debut record Ripped Up by the Roots in 2020 showcased a style that pulls from equal parts classic heavy metal as it does thrash. Confident that they know what they are doing, why not double down for Rattus Norvegicus – a twelve track affair containing ten more original cuts plus two covers that illustrate where some of those deep influences bubble to the surface.
The straightforward pounding plus instant identifiable chorus for “Total Trash Metal” gets the record off to that energetic, Teutonic-oriented start – the musical components rough and ready, guitarist Thomas Bolverk laying down circular, ripping leads on top of his thick, chugging rhythm charge. The bass play from Hillbilly Bill adds that Steve Harris-like progressive presence at specific times during “Running with Scissors” or “Walls of Pain” to engage the listeners in adventurous musicianship parts, proving the band isn’t a one-trick pony in terms of transitions, tempo changes, plus the ability to change the feel while still keeping things bluesy, raw, and heavy. Simpler melody to chord combinations stir up those fist waving, audience participation movements – even in a semi-chaotic fashion with thunderous mid-tempo foundational components that switch into blasting nuances and wah-wah lead break bends as “Bangkok Haircut” achieves. Where Under the Oak may garner standout kudos could be the specific diverse melodies pushed forth by Jostein – traversing aspects of doom, epic, and thrash for his voice with “Everything Became Nothing” and “Our Own Choice” that contains chameleon-like charm in a David DeFeis meets early Overkill vein. The cover choices of Tank’s “Echoes of a Distant Battle” and Destruction’s “Mad Butcher/ Bestial Invasion” that close the record prove these musicians’ passion for the genre, capturing the gallops of the former properly while sliding effortlessly into the energetic frenzy of the latter.
Most will also dig the organic, live off the floor nature to the overall production for Rattus Norvegicus – because aren’t most of us tired of the drum library replacement sounds at use in today’s scene? Under the Oak possess all the attributes one could hope for when developing classic metal meets thrash songs – there’s plenty to appreciate as we watch this act grow from the underground.