Album Review: HEALTH – RAT WARS

3.5/5

It’s crazy to think that in two years, HEALTH will be 20 years old. The trio from LA still feel like a new band doing new things, as their first self-titled LP from 2007 still feels fresh, even though its heavier, harsher, noisier update on post-punk was definitely of its time. They sound very little like that band now, having moved away from abrasive guitar sounds over the years to industrial rock that’s geared more towards the dance floor than the pit. But it was a direction that just made sense for them, made evident by the fact their second release was a dance remix of their first album.

While the band are probably best known for its contributions to the Max Payne 3 soundtrack, they really should be known for being part of a movement that’s updating the industrial music of yore. Bands like Odonis Odonis and Diesel Dudes have to tip their hats to legends like Front 242 and Skinny Puppy, but they’re driving into their own territories, thanks to access to much better equipment than what the old heads had.

HEALTH’s RAT WARS, the band’s sixth album, is another contribution to this new wave of industrial. To put it succinctly, every song would’ve been perfect for The Crow soundtrack. Tracks like “FUTURE OF HELL” and “HATEFUL” are full of the cold synth lines and bouncy, driving drum machine grooves that make you want to throw on some vinyl pants, platform shoes, and eyeliner and head to the local goth club. But don’t get it twisted—This is still HEALTH, and so there’s still plenty of dynamics and atmosphere mixed in with the hard-driving, electronic body music beats.

The one complaint is that there are moments on this album where Jake Duzsik’s soft, monotone vocals don’t seem to match the power of the music. This is best exemplified in the track “CRACK METAL,” a rocking track that harkens the industrial metal sounds of Psalm 69-era Ministry. Duzsik’s vocals, while perfect for so many of HEALTH’s heavier, atmospheric tracks, just don’t meet the moment. Missing a Jourgenson-like scream somewhere in there seems like a missed opportunity.

Then again, this is a personal preference, and HEALTH should continue to do what they want. HEALTH has been doing this for almost 20 years now, so it’s clear they know what they’re doing. They’ve even recorded a song with Nine Inch Nails! So congrats to HEALTH for releasing another album, and here’s to another 20 years.

Check out HEALTH’s RAT WARS here.

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