Lower Forms

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For their sophomore full-length, 2011's Lower Forms, Portland, Oregon's Rabbits bring their lo-fi metalcore to Relapse Records, but one can't help but wonder whether the respected metal label actually expects to achieve great success, never mind turn a profit, off such an inherently un-commercial proposition. It's more like the group's signing is a passion or credibility play on the label's part (and why not? More power to them), but the important thing is that this "step up" didn't convince Rabbits to clean up their act any. In fact, Lower Forms absolutely reeks of willfully under-produced sounds, and one can almost see the dust and smell the mold on particularly grimy tracks like "Noise to Share," "Duck, the Pig," and "No Depth" -- none of which have ever seen the business end of a feather-duster, clearly. That's not to say that Rabbits don't have plenty to work with, compositionally speaking, to keep things interesting, and indeed, memorable fare like "A Tale of Takes," "Weight Here," and "The Flow Below" blend alternating displays of brute force and a light touch, speedy and slothful tempos, dissonance worthy of noise rock and unexpected patches of melody, underneath Joshua Hughes' painfully raw hardcore yelps. But there will still probably be a huge contingent of extreme music listeners to whom Rabbits, with their twin-guitar assault and no bass player, essentially sound like "diet" sludgecore; or like "cvlt" Scandinavian black metal minus the black metal (and Scandinavia); or like EyeHateGod, Burning Witch, and even Sleep with all their doom boiled out of them (see "Invisibugs" in particular), to put it a few different ways (take your pick). So perhaps the only folks who will fully appreciate the Rabbits aesthetic are those capable of brushing these odd first impressions aside and focusing on the rather inventively reconfigured musical components found within. In time, one could see this making a lot more sense, as with all groundbreaking endeavors.

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