"Rats & Ravens"

By Dark Starr

This is the latest set from thrash/death metal band FROM HELL. This is a reasonably effective disc. I should say that I'm not a big fan of screamed, extreme metal vocals, so I'm not the target demographic for this. The fact that I enjoy it as much as I do should be a testament to the quality of the metal included here. Another thing I don't understand about this genre, and this does suffer a bit from it, is the lack of variety. I mean, when just about everything is frantic and incredibly heavy, that fast-pace and ferocity loses some of its impact. That's why albums that are more balanced have mellower tracks interspersed, to make the more rocking things stand out more. At times this (and a lot of this genre) tends to get too monotonous with one blistering song leading into another blistering song. Still, many people these days just listen to one or two songs at a time, making that less of an issue. 

The opening introductory cut, "Dark Heart" is a classic example of the kind of thing that could be interspersed throughout to bring some variety and allow the pieces to shine a bit better. Keyboards, picked guitar and chorale vocals are at the heart of the short piece. There is also a cool trippy keyboard-based section at the end of the next tune, "They Come at Night," that helps a bit in the battle to diversify the set, but it is not that long and early enough in the set to not fully do that job. 
"Don't Cry For Help," while still heavy, is slower (but more mid-tempo rather than plodding). That allows it to provide some variety and really shine as one of the highlights. It is dark and has a real evil sound to it. "Three and Nine" has some theatrical elements and even some hints of psychedelia to bring a bit more change. 
"Room for One," while merging both thrash and hardcore, manages to shine pretty tall both due to a killer riff and also from an exceptional vocal performance. There is also a chorale vocal-based ambient section at the end.  The epic of the set (over eight-and-a-half minutes long), "Body Rats," might be my favorite song of the whole album. It has plenty of thrash and hardcore at play, but it is also packed with a lot of change. The guitar work on it is exceptional, as well.