BATS’ ‘Alter Nature’ isn’t just a damn good metal album; it also forces us to reckon with our own understanding of the universe and the implications of our actions within it.
Information has never been easier to access. Libraries are everywhere and amazing – like they’ve been for millennia – but now we have the internet to supplement any areas they lack in. Billions of cyber-pages teem with facts and theories at the click of a button. Social media brings the experts closer to us than ever before and YouTube is an endless catalogue of lectures and TedTalks. We should be more educated than ever.
Listen: ‘Alter Nature’ – BATS
Yet here we are, in the age of anti-intellectualism. We’re turning our backs on the science which lives perpetually on the screen in the palm of our hands. We’re choosing tarot cards and palm readings over reason and logic, at a time when we definitely can’t afford to.
Irish rockers BATS are here to change that.
“That’s always been our buzz – combatting anti-intellectualism. In one way you can say we’ve failed because the world has gotten worse but it just means we have more fertile ground for BATS to spear,” says Rupert Morris, lead singer of BATS.
It’s been seven years since the bombastic five piece’s last LP – 2012’s The Sleep of Reason – was released into a very different world. “There’s been such a massive change in terms of digital media and in terms of politics, in the last seven years, there’s been a lot of fertile ground for the BATS style of commentary on science and culture and religion.”
This commentary comes is accompanied by a heavy, ever-changing chugging metal, equal parts early 2000’s post-hardcore and early Enter Shikari’s danceability. “[At The Drive In’s] Relationship of Command came out two or three years before we formed as a band so bands like At The Drive-In, Thursday, Blood Brothers all those guys are big influences,” says Morris. “But then in the last ten years, we’ve been bringing in a lot of different influences. We all love hip-hop and that does creep in there in certain ways – that last Danny Brown record, just the fucking violence and the intensity and abrasiveness of it. Our bass player, one of the band’s he’s been listening to lately is a band called Drab Majesty – they’re a million miles away from us but there are certain things I can hear him doing that I can tell he’s picked up from them.”
Listen: “Ergot” – BATS
This convergence of sounds – complete with the occasional disco beat – creates a ripping record that is never boring. “It’s got something for everyone. It’s very eclectic – I know our albums generally are but I think this one is even more different colours in the spectrum of music.” There is one constant theme however: “The genres and the styles change but it always sounds like BATS.”
This grounds their newest album – Alter Nature.
BATS – seven years older and “a little more mature… or maybe not” – have found a comfort level that sometimes felt missing on previous releases. They know their sound and how to do it, and without label deadlines, they had a freedom to complete their vision: “We really took our time with it this time, we really gave each song the time it needed just to evolve it and square off all the edges and polish them. Keeping the weirdness and spontaneity but still refining them down to exactly what we wanted to do,” Morris says about the new album. “It’s tighter. It’s our shortest record, which we’re happy about. Our last one [The Sleep of Reason]was over an hour-long, this one is only 41 minutes, so I think we really trimmed the fat this time. The style developed a bit in certain directions, I think we’re starting to sound less like our influences and more like ourselves.”
Summing it up later, Morris states “We’re definitely the most confident we’ve ever been in terms of our sound and our style.”
With their genre-bending sound now firmly their own – nowadays Morris has “resorted to calling it science metal, it’s just easier” – it’s lyrically that they become the band we need in 2019.
It’s an album about embracing and harnessing our intelligence.
From the dark side of AI – roaring album opener “Summoning The Demon” – to the inner workings of CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) – the album standout and infinitely catchy “In The Court Of The CRISPR King” – there’s no broken hearts or night outs to be found. “I was sick of hearing songs about people’s ex-girlfriends and blah blah blah – I wanted to write about something different so that’s where it came from.” He continues “There’s so much awesome stuff to write songs about that people just don’t because it sounds too complicated or they’re not used to writings songs about esoteric scientific things but it works for us.”
However, even for a man who has been obsessed with “nature, animals, dinosaurs, sea monsters” since being a child the decision to be the hardcore-scientist seems an unusual one. “About the time we were starting the band was around the time I was getting heavily into skepticism and physicist and science communicators and reading books about popular science so just by osmosis it just happened.”
It’s turned into more than a creative outlet for their collective “geekdom” however – it’s become an avenue for them to try to open people’s mind and force them to reconsider their values in a time where we’re shutting down and letting other people – and increasingly machines – do our mental heavy lifting. “Firstly, I want people to enjoy the music and get something out of it and then secondly, I want it to get to people to think – to think about things that are real and important. Things like artificial intelligence or the dangers of superstitions or even just concepts in astronomy.”
Listen: “The Call of Cthulhu” – BATS
Alter Nature isn’t just a damn good metal album; it forces us to reckon with our own understanding of the universe and the implications of our actions within it: “Alter Nature refers to using your mind to affect your environment, so using science basically to change things and make things better. We’re altering nature all the time, but it can also mean you have the ability to change your own nature and to think for yourself and look at the world differently and alter your way of thinking.”
If there’s one thing you can take away from this album, other than a couple of earworms, it’s “Just to appreciate the universe and question it and dig a bit deeper, pick up the stones and look underneath things and don’t take anyone’s word for anything and think for yourself – that’s the message.”
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📸 © 2019
an album by BATS