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Milwaukee Music Premiere: Rat Bath, ‘Cold Steel on the Road’

Five people dressed in western gothic clothing look at the camera with knowing expressions on their faces while seated in front of a large cabinet.
La Lux Photography
Rat Bath have unleashed the first chapter of what promises to be a wild, album-length story.

Every week, Milwaukee Music Premiere connects the city’s artists with our listening audience. If you’re an artist with a track you’d like us to debut exclusively on Radio Milwaukee, head over to our Music Submission page to learn how.

Read (or write) enough music-analysis-type things like this, and you start to notice certain words popping up with regularity. Suffice to say, “murder country rock opera” are not among them.

This is the joy of having a band like Rat Bath plying their trade in your neighborhood. The all-transgender collection of Cora Bequeaith, Fred Kenyon, Ivy Escobedo, Róisín Shields and Nikki Nelson doesn’t seem terribly interested in doing anything that could be described as “typical.” Founding members Bequeaith and Kenyon have been doing the y’allternative thing since before it was trending on TikTok, and this Milwaukee Music Premiere of “Cold Steel on the Road” sidles up right nicely to that sound.

If you haven’t yet hit “Listen” at the top of the page, my best attempt to relay what you’re in for would involve crossing over My Chemical Romance with Johnny Cash. The galloping beat at the song’s outset conjures thoughts of “Ring of Fire,” although lyrically the Man in Black’s talk of going “down, down, down” was metaphorical. Given what the Rat Bath gang are up to in “Cold Steel …” a fiery place might just be their final destination:

In a house by a pond just south of Milan
Is where I found my man
I figure him the type to like company at night 
So I hatched me up a plan

Well I strolled into town wearing rouge and a gown
He never did suspect
Till I left him for dead bleeding out on the bed
Two daggers in his neck

Some backstory about the song might be a good idea right about now. See, Cadence, a 13th century mercenary, comes home to find her twin brother murdered and gets her bloody revenge. A chase ensues, the end appears nigh, and then — like most of your classic Westerns — Cadence is saved by time travel.

Thankfully, “Cold Steel …” is merely one chapter of that delicious story. The track is part of Rat Bath’s upcoming concept album, Call Me a Monster, that follows Cadence’s timey-wimey journey and subsequent romance with a vampire named Susanna. A classic tale, to be sure, and one you can hear a piece of right now, with the full album due out Nov. 10.

That night, Rat Bath will celebrate their album’s digital release by performing it end-to-end in The Back Room, with Gold Steps and Kat & The Hurricane opening the festivities. You can pick up tickets now online or at the Pabst/Riverside box offices.

Art by Alicia Krupsky