Portland’s Rabbits inhabits (zing!) a scuzzy middle ground between sludge metal and noise rock. Lower Forms is never quite distorted enough nor packed with actual riffs to claim the sludge tag, but it’s quite a bit gnarlier in the vocals and drums department than most noise rock. Think of the classic Amphetamine Reptile catalog in a ten-car pile-up with Southern Lord’s stable from maybe five years back. It’s a nasty, noisy, woozy brew of grumpy sounds that shimmies and shudders along (un)pleasantly enough, but just isn’t my bag.
This mean-spirited sonic amalgamation occasionally hints at Taint (especially the oddly melodic yowling of “A Tale of Tales”), though Rabbits never ends up anywhere near the tragically-defunct Welsh act’s sludge mastery. Elsewhere, the twitchy, off-kilter and interlocking rhythms give off a whiff of math rock, but like an extremely sedated take on Battles or Don Caballero. The most intriguing thing about Rabbits’ sound is the way that the drums punctuate the unflinchingly mid-tempo swing of the guitar riffs with short, self-contained fills of double-time beats, or even the occasional blastbeat (see opener “Burn, Sun, Burn,” about a minute and a half in, or several spots throughout “Duck, The Pigs,” or the end of “Weight Here”). It’s a neat compositional trick that gives songs which otherwise might falter into monotony over the course of four minutes of riff repetition a nice stab of unexpected interest.
“Noise to Share” is not only a fantastic, t-shirt-ready motto for Rabbits, but it’s also one of the best songs on here. This, however, reveals one of the main problems with Lower Forms: the best songs tend to be the ones (like the two-minutes-n-change “Noise to Share” and the intensely punkish “No Depth”) that get in, drink your beers, mess up your hair, and get out before your roommates get back from work. The longer the rest of the songs go on, the more glaring is their relative lack of variation. “Invisibugs,” “The Flow Below,” in fact, pretty much the entire second side of the album ends up dragging quite severely. A notable exception to the longer-songs-equal-boring rule is “Duck, The Pigs,” which succeeds through more of the extra-busy drum-work and the repetition of its quirky chorus of “Hey! Wait! We have some more complaints!”
Lower Forms sort of reminds me of Helmet being dragged slowly through a gutter full of broken glass, except that I fucking hate Helmet, and I don’t hate this. I could see really digging Rabbits live, but on record, their Unsane-meets-Goatsnake (or whatever mad libs mish-mash you feel like concocting) sludge/rock leaves me a bit cold.