In this modern age of fake news and the social media rumour mill, reliable sources of information are few and far between. Every day it becomes more difficult to know who to trust. Increasingly, the global political landscape looks less like current events and more like car crash reality TV. Returning from a seven-year hiatus to tackle the myths of pseudoscience and phony intellectualism are Dublin-based avant-garde rockers BATS. The group have just released their third studio album, Alter Nature.
BATS have built a reputation for lyrics rooted in scientific themes. They seek to promote proven medical advances through weird, warped lyrical and musical phrasing. Discordant guitars and twisting, turning song arrangements punctuated with calculated bursts of melody and mercurial sonic interplay can obscure this upon first listen, but with repeated efforts come rewards. Alter Nature is an album that is striking in its obliqueness but also one that slowly unravels and reveals itself. For every moment of melodic clarity, there are countless explosions of angular, off-beat motifs. This is especially apparent on the King Crimson referencing track, ‘In the Court of The CRISPR King’.
Alter Nature is off-balance right from the get-go. ‘Summoning the Demon’ is a complicated, disorienting monolith of racket. Follow-up ‘The Call of Cthulu’ is no less odd. However, what is most astonishing about Alter Nature is just how infectious it is—in spite of everything that could make it off-putting. After only a couple of listens, you’d be hard pressed not to tap your foot or nod your head along to its unorthodox grooves and pointed lyrics.
Teaser track ‘Old Hitler’ is a testament to just how much fun BATS can be. Try to imagine And So I Watch You From Afar fronted by Brian Molko if he’d majored in theoretical physics or biochemistry, or what the final boss theme of the ill-fated Half Life 3 would sound like. Though distinctive in its abrasiveness, its energy is contagious. There are also plenty of sonic pleasantries subtly buried beneath all the noise. ‘Dyson Sphere’, for example, features atonal saxophone. With all that said, it does require active listening to appreciate the full extent of the meticulous attention to detail.
With their long-awaited third album, BATS certainly live up to the hype afforded them by the likes of NME, Kerrang and Rock Sound. This is a measured album, fusing elements of post-punk, post-hardcore and math rock. It cements BATS’ reputation as one of the more underappreciated experimental acts in Ireland. Teetering on the brink of extreme at times—’Family Planning’ for example—it may confuse listeners at first. However, patience is a virtue that pays dividends here. Wacky and wonderful, Alter Nature urges listeners to join their quest to combat superstition and indulge in their scholarly yet volatile sound. Lend them your ears.