With 3 top 10 albums under their belts, tours with the likes of the Foo Fighters, festival headline slots, and a formidable live reputation, you could call Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes a success story, but there was a point after their last album ‘Sticky’ in 2001, when Frank Carter and guitarist Dean Richardson questioned whether they had another Rattlesnakes album in them.
Yet thankfully, following a period of sobriety on Frank’s part and a great deal of soul searching, the duo return with the 5th Rattlesnakes long player entitled ‘Dark Rainbow’. While ‘Sticky’ was a love letter to punk rock and a reaction to the ongoing pandemic, ‘Dark Rainbow’ is a dark and brooding beast full of electronica and atmospheric soundscapes that looks back on the last few years of tumultuous times with themes of reflection and introspection.
If, after exposure to the first two singles, you were left confused and wondering what the hell happened to the punk rock energy of The Rattlesnakes, my advice is to bear with it and expect the unexpected with ‘Dark Rainbow’. Frank went into this album with a newfound sobriety, an introspective headspace, and a desire to take The Rattlesnakes into unchartered territories. The duo dug deep, took stock of all that they had done, and even reworked old song ideas that didn’t fit at the time. The resulting album is a mature rock record that takes time to connect, but give it that time and the rewards are plentiful.
Album opener ‘Honey’ bursts with QOTSA desert rock spikey riffage and cocksure lyricism. It’s a statement of intent and a winner of an album opener, it seems like it’s business as usual for Carter and Richardson. But the second track and first single release ‘Man Of The Hour’ is where it starts to get interesting. A more laid-back affair brimming with electronica and introspection, it’s a welcome departure for the band, and about as far removed from the likes of ‘Go Get A Tattoo’ that you could ask for. It sees the frontman question the whole rock star persona that he found himself thrust into and his ongoing disillusionment with it.
The pulsing electronica of the second single ‘Brambles’ is a showcase for the seductive and sultry soundscapes of ‘Dark Rainbow’. A spikey take on the trials and tribulations of getting lost in love, it sort of hits a sound that puts me in mind of the first two Garbage albums.
They do hit familiar territory throughout the course of the album. The thumping urgent beats and dense, overdriven riffage of ‘Happier Days’ sounds great and the anthemic rocker ‘Self Love’ is classic Rattlesnakes fodder more in tune with the feel of Pure Love or the more upbeat moments of ‘End Of Suffering’. These are the sort of songs designed to energize festival crowds and create mosh pits, and they are welcomed with open arms.
But it’s the haunting piano chords and lonesome vocals of ‘American Spirit’ that stick in the mind, the heart-wrenching, atmosphere created in ‘Sun Bright Golden Happening’ that will linger long after the disc has ceased to spin, the brooding verses of ‘Superstar’ that skulk along like daggers in the dark. These are the moments that set The Rattlesnakes apart from their contemporaries in 2024.
The closing title track is a brooding cinematic epic full of atmosphere and effects. Soaring vocals over electronic beats and an understated guitar refrain as it ebbs and flows to a dramatic climax.
‘Dark Rainbow’ is a brave departure for Carter and Richardson and sees the duo take stock of who they were and where they want The Rattlesnakes to go in the future. By turning the microscope on himself, Frank Carter has maybe exorcised those demons and pathed a future for The Rattlesnakes that wasn’t on the horizon after the last album. ‘Dark Rainbow’ is not as instant or as anthemic as previous offerings and it may see them alienate a portion of their older fanbase, but it sees the Rattlesnakes constantly evolve, constantly be inventive, and always deliver something that is unexpected.
Author: Ben Hughes