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A review on Murkrat (Murkrat) written by Metal Archives

Murkrat is the new project of Australian musician Mandy Andresen, a.k.a. Mandy VKS Cattleprod, former vocalist for Lycanthia and Reverend Kriss Hades. Mandy is responsible for all vocals, lyrics and music on this release, apart from some drumming provided by Becky Nine-Iron, and this self-titled CD released by English label Aesthetic Death is the band’s first official release, following the Murky Ratmass demo which appeared in 2007.

The first three tracks are performed entirely by Mandy, and are all lengthy excursions into melodic old-school doom, pretty much in the vein of Pentagram, St. Vitus or Black Sabbath, although of course the female vocals give the tracks a distinctive twist. Mandy’s singing voice is high and clean most of the time – none of your Thorr’s Hammer-style she-demon growls here – with a kind of wailing, incantatory quality which fits well with the slow, smooth gravitas of the music, and there are multi-tracked parts where she harmonises with herself. Keyboards on top of the basic guitar and rhythm section instrumentation add a progressive touch, though they’re nothing too fancy, and there’s plenty of beefy bottom-end chug to keep things nice and heavy.

Lyrically, the emphasis is on social critique. ‘Believers’ aims its sights at the evils of organised religion, ‘The Predatory Herd’ casts a jaundiced eye over mass behaviour, condemning the ‘collective consciousness of pest / stinking in the pits…’, and ‘Morality Slug’ is witheringly sarcastic about the smugness and hypocrisy of self-righteous, self-appointed moral guardians. ‘The Predatory Herd’ opens with queasy, squelched keyboards, something like the doom electronica employed on Persistence In Mourning’s recent album The Undead Shall Rise, before settling into a low-down, meaty riff around the two-minute mark. ‘Morality Slug’ has a ponderous, retro-sounding organ line, and some harsher growled vocals, spat out with accusatory venom, though they don’t attain the bestial, bowel-loosening depths of many male doom vocalists – I was reminded most of Wendy O. Williams from The Plasmatics.

After these three tracks, the whole of the Murky Ratmass demo is included as a bonus, bringing the release’s duration up to a disc-filling 74 minutes, which does verge on being too much of an Aussie-all-girl-doom-band good thing, though there are some goodies to be found here. Becky Nine-Iron did the drumming for these tracks.

‘Blessed Are The Rats’ is a two-minute intro of baleful drone ambient infused with abstract, dissonant electronica, tolling bells and a short burst of film dialogue – ‘Blessed are the meek – can you imagine?’ – setting a suitably sombre tone for the four long tracks which follow. The production and playing on these tracks is noticeably more primitive than on the first three tracks, and there are more deep, growled vocal parts, sometimes multi-tracked, for example at around eight minutes into ‘Alter-Nativity’. The best of the Murky Ratmass tracks is ‘Hysteria Ripple’, which runs through a range of styles, ranging from imposingly downtuned guitar and booming floor-tom work, through high harmony vocals to Exorcist-girl-style growls to soaring church-organ solos and a piano-led melodic interlude with haunting, spectral vocals, although ‘Plague Gestation’ provides more solidly doom-laden riffage.

Female singers are a common enough phenomenon in goth metal and power metal bands, but much rarer in doom metal, and Murkrat’s status as an all-female doom band, and subsequent solo project, is unique, to the best of my knowledge, yet they easily blow away accusations of being a mere novelty act. Comparisons to female-fronted bands such as Blood Ceremony and Jex Thoth are inevitable, though Murkrat are a fair bit crustier and less retro-styled than either of those bands. In any case, discerning doom fans will want to check this out. Murkrat have also just released a 7” single split with fellow Aussie doomsters Demon’s Gate.

This review was originally written for Judas Kiss webzine:

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