Label: WormHoleDeath Records
Date: September 2nd, 2022
I’ve selected this album as a soundtrack for my running sessions. Well, to be honest, I could’ve picked better. With regards to giving me that bit of an extra boost, “Rattus Norvegicus” is not quite the record to do so. I mean, it looked the part. The title and cover artwork even suggest punk, or even crust influences that usually mean a nasty crossover meant to supercharge the legs, and not just the legs. Even the rather simplified initial description I’ve come across spoke of thrash metal. Coming from Norway (in case the title didn’t quite give it away), I’ve heard a number of thrash acts and most of them followed the ferocious Teutonic school. That also promised a run of my life.
However, if you opt for a rather normal type of listening session, Under The Oak really do not disappoint. Okay, if you’re close-minded grind noise fan, yes, this quartet will disappoint. But I’m not writing for those people anyway. Regular metalheads shouldn’t mind giving this a few good spins.
Under The Oak is a very weird moniker for a band performing a mixture of classical 1980’s heavy metal and thrash metal of the new millennium. So, the band name suggests some pagan, nature-loving, atmospheric black metal. Cover art and record’s title scream Scandinavian black metal, fused with punk. Photos of band members, on the other hand, reference old, doomy death metal.
And now it’s me being close-minded and focusing way too much on basically irrelevant factors of “Rattus Norvegicus”. But how can you not be when the album starts with a song titled “Total Thrash Metal”?
The opener is one track that goes for a dominantly thrash metal soundscape. “Bangkok Haircut” (talk about a track name) is another one. With perhaps one more excused, the rest neatly “rest their bottoms on both chairs”. Under The Oak is comprised of skilled and experienced musicians that know how to extract the necessities out of a song. Out of a song, just as much as out of the genre at hand. The guys know when to bring about Death Angel and where to liquefy it with some Dio. Testament with Grave Digger. Annihilator with Angel Witch. Etcetera. No to mention the pair of covers that close the album. Tank and Destruction. You get the gist.
Now that that’s out in the open, it is important to also note Under The Oak is not the premium class band. They’re actually far from it, no matter how skillful and well-executed “Rattus Norvegicus” sounds. First of all, the album is in dire need of catchier riffing, not to mention a few choruses that would glue the fans to their respective air-guitars and mics. “Total Thrash Metal” is one of the better examples. “Running with Scissors” and “Loyal to the Core” also give out fine vibe. The rest is, unfortunately, just mediocre. Also, I get the feeling that this would be a much more efficient assault should it have lasted around thirty five minutes. This way it is twenty minutes too long, so that even the mentioned highlights become watered down in retrospect. Though the ending with cover songs ultimately leaves a good taste, it is a cover-up (pun intended).
However, for all its ups and down, “Rattus Norvegicus” leaves me with a positive. Leaves me thinking about Audiopain. Whatever happened to them? Under The Oak is a pleasant listen, for sure. This record will not become an instant classic. Who can tell how it will grow old!? Still, for right here and right now, the Norwegians are good enough. It got me banging my head, even if I’m far from breaking any marathon world records.