review published: 3/7/2015
Not to be confused with the New York City rap group of the same name, this Ratking is a hardcore band based in Perth, Australia.
Commonwealth, the group's debut full length is a blistering twenty minutes with most of its eleven tracks barely reaching the 90 second mark. All the ingredients for a straight forward hardcore record are here but Ratking have rooted their sound deeply in rock and roll.
Bands like Trash Talk certainly come to mind as the aptly titled "Straight Out The Gate" opens the record. It rolls along at a mid-paced tempo; a simple palm muted riff opens up to a loud chorus accompanied by plenty of group vocal sections. This is the more rock side of Ratking's sound.
The pace picks up with "Sentinel." The first half of the track features an up-tempo riff anchored by a blast beat, but halfway through, the band slows it down, offering a shift in overall feel. That is what Ratking excels at. They shift seamlessly through brutal hardcore arrangements and fun rock and roll sections.
Tracks like "THMe" (my favorite of the bunch), and "Life Drain" focus more on the melodic while "Leeches" and "Circles" offer the more brutal hardcore approach. There are little lead guitar parts interspersed throughout the record ("THMe", "Sentinel") that while not all that technically impressive, offer a change in dynamic from the normal hardcore sound that is certainly welcome. Part of what makes Commonwealth so enjoyable is not the simplicity of the playing, but the cleverness of the arrangements.
Sitting right in the middle of it all is "CTDM," a track that stands all its own. Halfway through, the band breaks down to a slow, heavy staccato riff. An effect laden lead guitar provides a counterpart to the main riff as the vocalists gritty scream leads you through one of the albums heaviest parts.
Commonwealth sounds great. It is rough enough to complement Ratking's aggressive style, but clean enough to clearly distinguish everything that is happening. The vocals are harshly screamed but mostly decipherable, allowing you to make out the politically charged lyrics.
Things draw to a conclusion on "In The Defence of Lost Causes," a pretty straight forward hardcore song that stereotypically (though, not in a bad way) ends on a group vocal section. The last twenty seconds of the album are pretty fun.
Bottom Line: Ratking have a knack for writing super catchy, memorable hardcore songs with a focus on the more rock side than the tough guy. Commonwealth packs more than enough into its short running time to keep your attention and demand a replay.
Track Listing: 01. Straight Out The Gate 02. Sentinel 03. THMe 04. Leeches 05. Girt 06. CTDM 07. Life Drain 08. Circles 09. Our Reptilian Overlords 10. Cavalier 11. In Defence Of Lost Causes