Album Review: “Bitter Agony” by Rasmus


Let’s play a quick word association game. What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “baseball music”? “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”? Walk-up music? Others will mention John Forgerty’s “Centerfield” without any hesitation. Perhaps the more in-the-know will mention Bronson Arroyo’s “Covering the Bases” or Joe West’s “Blue Cowboy.” But we’d bet our bottom dollar that death metal would be pretty close to last on your list of responses.

So, brace yourselves. Houston Astros outfielder Colby Rasmus is taking the music world by storm with his first foray into death metal.

And it is excellent.

“A lot of the guys didn’t believe me when I told them what kind of music it was gonna be,” Rasmus admitted with a smile. “I’m a Georgia boy through and through. It don’t take long to figure that out when you talk to me. But my musical roots are all over the place.”

Colby provides vocals for Rasmus, and the band is made up of close friends of his from his childhood in Georgia. “We’d kicked around the idea for a while. It wasn’t until I hit the DL for my cyst when we finally said, hey, let’s get this thing done.”

Death metal is a subgenre of heavy metal. Beware, as the album is not for the feint of heart and is a dramatic shift away from even traditional heavy metal. “Bitter Agony” is filled with break-neck guitar speeds and Rasmus’ practically unintelligible yells.  Comparisons could be made to Puig Destroyer, a grindcore supergroup that writes songs centered around Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig. “It ain’t for everybody,” Rasmus laughed.

Rasmus kept the project close to his chest because he fears that teammates would take it the wrong way. “It’s not about the Astros or how we’re doing. It’s a commentary on human struggle and the apathy of the world around us,” Rasmus clarified. He told no one on the team about the album until its release last week. “It’s too rough to be played as walk-up music or during games, but we’ve been doing warmups with it on. The guys really dig it.”

The four song EP, which barely cracks ten total minutes, has drawn rave reviews and universal acclaim from every nook and cranny of music journalism. Pitchfork rated it a 9.3 out of 10 and gave it the “Best New Music” classification, praising the album’s ‘masterful fusion of musical styles and ‘apoplectic wall of sound that lunges for your throat.’ The album opens with a thunderous cover of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Rude Mood”, which most listeners would only recognize if they read the track listing.

“If anything, I’d like the album to challenge what a conventional ballplayer is. We’re very unique individuals with a wide spectrum of interests,” Rasmus commented. “There ain’t a single lyric about baseball in the whole EP. This is a separate deal for me, and I think it’s got something for everyone.”

“Bitter Agony” is out today on Southern Lord Records. Find it here.

Track list:
1. Rude Mood (Stevie Ray Vaughan cover)
2. Bitter Agony
3. Obscene Apathy
4. Ominous Clouds