Ever get the feeling something’s watching you from the shadows? Clawing its way from the rancid detritus of a punk tradition long thought past its expiration date, Rats Eyes is a rebirth of all that’s wonderfully wretched about hardcore. Apparently punk’s not yet dead. Rats Eyes is redefining the genre, prying the nails from its coffin and defibrillating the corpse inside. Headed up by the snarling vocals of Gabe Serbian (The Locust, Holy Molar, Head Wound City, Cattle Decapitation), Rats Eyes features a sordid cast of vermin including Jason Blackmore (Sirhan Sirhan) on guitar, Jimmy Armbrust (Louis XIV) on bass and John Cota (Hostile Comb-Over, City of Whores) on drums. This is a cadre of San Diego’s old guard and its experience is patent. With the percussive precision of a Kalashnikov, Cota lays a blistering groundwork that’s reinforced by Armbrust’s rumbling bass lines. Blackie’s guitar work is like open-heart surgery with a rusty box-cutter. And when it comes to the vocals put forth by Serbian—well, gird your fucking eardrums, ye hapless victims. It all amounts to a sonic assault on par with the best 80s-era hardcore: Black Flag, Battalion of Saints, GBH, Discharge, Adolescents, et al. The band’s name itself comes from one of Black Flag’s most caustic tracks. (Picture a half-naked Henry Rollins growling “I see the world through Rats Eyes!” and you will begin to see the world as San Diego’s best new hardcore band sees it.) Rats Eyes’ live performance is as rabid as you would expect. Cota, Armbrust and Blackie roil in frenzy of sweat and spit. Serbian is nothing short of a man possessed—bound in audio cable, careering into the audience, howling into a fistful of microphone. Songs like “Drink Yer Drool” and “Bottom Feeder” are staples in a set that’s quickly becoming one of the most talked-about in town.
Somewhere behind the dumpster of pop music you’ll find hardcore’s latest pests. “It’s not the flu, I’m sick of everything,” sings Serbian on “Revenge Quest.” Fortunately Rats Eyes, like hantavirus, is a sickness that’s going to spread.