As headliners BATS took to the stage of Portobello’s Lower Deck late on Saturday night, the atmosphere was palpable. It was the band’s final show, a fundraiser, before they were set to regroup in Salem, Massachusetts to record their debut album. ‘We need the money,’ announced frontman/guitarist Rupert Morris.
Early support act Jenny & the Deadites, an electro-hip hop duo from Dublin, were more or less doomed from the start. They began quietly and were quickly drowned out by the chatter of the steadily growing crowd. It got worse as the set wore on: a shame because, up close, they were a far more interesting in the musical sense than the band that followed.
Wounds, also from Dublin, were nothing if not spirited, but very little of that spirit spilled over to the crowd. The floppy-haired frontman’s otherwise grandiose entrance hit an awkward snag when he screamed into his microphone only to find out it was switched off. What followed was a half-hour of MOR thrashy hardcore, interrupted only by the occasional burst of self-conscious mathy technicality. The Wounds boys can clearly play their instruments- and the tracks on their MySpace are admittedly rather good – but it was a performance so lacking in subtlety that it could only serve to highlight the gap in professionalism between main and support acts.
In the days following this performance, BATS would converge upon metalcore kingpin Kurt Ballou’s God City record studios. On the evidence of their farewell, there’s the making of a fantastic record there. They elected not to play any tracks from their one and only EP, 2007’s ‘Cruel Sea Scientist’, as the album will comprise only ‘new’ material (though a couple of older, previously unrecorded tracks have survived). Instead, they treated the audience to an almost-full preview of the record as written, including new crowd favourite Shadow Fucker and BATS Spelled Backwards Is STAB, one of the aforementioned older tracks that’s survived more or less intact.
The songwriting is just as crisp as before. It’s a little heavier, more progressive, and a little less prone to the jazzy, post-rocky interludes of old, but it’s still unmistakeably BATS, and, by that measure, still unmistakeably BATSHIT. Juggling guitar duties between three and vocal duties between five, BATS already have an energy and versatility that most bands would kill for. There’s no guarantee that this will transfer well to their recordings, but already there’s a tinge of greatness about this band.