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Bargain Bin Thrash - 54%

Byrgan, August 17th, 2008

Following a release once a year up till Who Are the True, with a two year gap and an album that is once again a different metal direction Vulcano would take. Also, flying solo on the last two full lengths, Zhema teams with past guitarist Soto Jr. from Live and Bloody Vengeance releases.

The production on Ratrace is without a doubt the best and clearest that Vulcano would have up to that point. The drums, especially, are spaced and equally audible, and it sounds like each drum carries a microphone. The guitars don't have that raw buzz that was on previous releases. And the vocals are leveled with a warm recorded feel, but a not-so-welcoming presentation.

This time Vulcano play a more emerging 90's improvised thrash sound. With things becoming bassier and thicker, rather than their table-sawing trebly sound in the 80s. Opting, instead, with an abundance of chug on the guitars to heed to this weighted, obese embodiment. Which seems more of a hindering anchor, rather than sailing through with a guiding engine. The guitars literally never let up with that constant crunching riffing style. By the first few tracks in, it sounds like one continuous, similar song. There's even palm mutes when the overall pace becomes faster. Rather than a heavy sound, it comes across as a failing attempt at actually being heavy. The drums don't break into blasting. They might use mid-thrashy chops, with a peaking faster thrash beat. But mostly the beat stays at a mid-pacing. Probably to accent the guitars more, while literally crunching themselves into the ground with no clear game plan. Like a blind mole who just roams and instinctively digs for the sake of digging. Although, on the other hand, it is strange to hear Vulcano at that point with an all-around clear and mixed to evenness production. The drums carry more bassier poundings than ever before. Which, in this case, the overall music didn't help them out unfortunately.

Angel's vocals don't have the bellow he was most known for on prior releases. They are at a mostly quick, but more higher toned, throat strained standpoint. With a few quick gang-shouts thrown in as well, used as a reinforcement, rather than as an extended chorus section. Along with the guitars, the main vocals have little to no versatility. Basically they just follow the riffs in a speedier fashion, while staying on the same vocal level. They are lower in the mix in comparison to the guitars. Not by a far degree, but don't carry the bass tone that is on the other instruments. So they sound a little less fitting in the mixture of the album. Like he isn't carrying the weighty crown of front-man. Certainly not as humiliating as a complimentary Burger King crown either. But ruling instead of reigning, with a princely head-piece to the overbearing and foreshadowing guitar's kingly head-ornament.

This album, by initial glance, looks quite promising. With a two year gap between the last album for preparation. And a re-emergence of a past guitarist from their highest point. But after listening to this, it isn't a complete ghastly attempt, although Vulcano specifically hits the nail on the head of the word 'ho-hum' with deadly accuracy. The main problem is it just sounds far too chuggy and repetitive with aiming to do so. Instead of being Chug-O-Licious, it is more or less Chug-O-Matic. Pumping out mostly plastic tasting riffs, instead of riffs with an overall pang of sweet or spice. From track 1 to 8 it is non-stop, and then a break with an acoustic outro on the 9th and last. Probably Vulcano's coffee and cigarette break, except the listener needs it more than Vulcano did.

I can see someone momentarily enjoying this who hasn't caught their other albums with various sounding variations of Vulcano. But since this album is hard to find at this point, I don't see the point in it. Furthermore, a fan of a past release might be turned off by its monotony. Although, might enjoy the all-around audible production. So it is a toss up of what you prefer. Although, this album for me doesn't hit a high point. And seems better as background metal playing. Not to be over indulged and soaked up at every possible second. You could literally join in at any moment on the recording and it might appear like you didn't even have a gap in listening. Ratrace is like being forced to listen to a blabber-mouth, and the only thing coming from the one-sided conversation is ceaseless chugging noise. Fortunately, you have a few options. 1: If you are a gosh-to-goodness respectable listener. You could nod your head like a drone. 2: It isn't your cup of tea and you make an excuse to leave. Or option 3: Press the stop button, which would be the equivalent of punching them in the stomach out of annoyance. A fourth choice of 'all of the above' is something I eventually sampled with this album.

Ratrace comes across as a below average, emerging 90's thrash album, that is a little bit harder to find than others. And I wouldn't recommend seeking after it with a high degree either. Apparently this wasn't distributed even in South America, where the band is from, but in Europe instead, due to a European record company putting funds up for it. If you look at the logo, it is changed quite a bit too.

Ratrace is certainly not completely horrible or revolting to be in the presence of. Hypothetically speaking, I think if they took their best moments and made an EP instead, it would probably have scored higher. But as it is, some of the good moments are spread thinly though, resulting with only a few here-and-there occurrences that are treasureable. But it is like finding a shiny coin in a pool of mud. Is it your lucky day? Do you want to sift through thick mud to find more? Mostly endless, caked mud. Figuratively speaking, it could be possible that someone doesn't stumble upon that much money. And for the riff-peasants and their occasional hair-whipping wives, this album wears holes in its pockets, spilling out things faster than they are put in. With only a few left over, clinging inside your pocket to be possibly worthwhile later. But ultimately more troublesome than its worth, to carry around, like a weight that looks heavier than it is. Instead of a bulky, compacted piece of gold, that is heavier than it looks. It is mostly dull thrash-metal, built in a square and straight forward boxed shape, due to its run-of-the-mill craftsmanship. And after the day, of Vulcano's sweating, basic, up-and-down, pounding, handy-but-not-so-dandy work, this is a surprisingly good paper weight. Or a bulky stepping-stool, ready to lift your two feet up and move on. Once you realize it takes up space, you'll use it a few times and then off to trade to the local merchant for something more redeemable.

The best analogy I can possibly apply here is: Vulcano's Ratrace is the epitome of a bargain bin thrash album. Instead of its numerous clearance priced stickers overlapping one another, making it cheaper and cheaper, you might find yourself dishing out unnecessary amounts of cash for a relic that is too straight forward and just doesn't entirely cut it.