I prefer my reviews to be serious and informative. ‘First Impressions’ allow for a more director’s commentary approach. I can be silly and talk bollox, or make points that only a handful of people will understand. Usually I will deliver insights into my history with similar music as well as into how my mind works and how both of these things change over time. You will have to either possess a fairly detailed understanding of Rock and Metal history and Subgenre conventions or have a second tab open at Wikipedia to fully follow every single point that I make, but don’t let that put you off…I’m not honestly expecting you to know every single riff or tone I’ll point out off by heart.
Ok. I’ve had a godawful, horrible day. The kind of day that involves lying on the floor crying curled up in the foetal position like some strange emo cherub. I’ve also finished the exams that were coming up interrupting the previous two First Impressions articles, and that would leave me feeling odd and burned anyway.
Now, as much as I’d like to get blind drunk, or start a fight with a stranger or jump in front of a train or any of those other good coping strategies out there, I think I’m going to take the blogging direction of escapism.
I have a few options available for this entry… more Proto-Punk, some grim noisy hardcore, some challenging oppressive Black Metal, some angry British Nu Metal and some blasty Death Metal. However, I’ve had a bad day, so I’m going to go for some cheery-ass Hair Metal. Hair Metal with a funk twist no less.
I’ve written enough about Hair Metal already, so I’ll talk about Funk in Metal. I remember Exhorder (the gnarly, heavy as hell Thrash Metal, come-Groove Metal Pioneers) have some unexpected Slap bass interludes, check out the out-of-nowhere funk explosion 15-seconds into ‘Un-Born Again.’ Mudvayne drop a tiny bit in on LD50, check out 1.09 mins into ‘Nothing To Gein.’ Powerman 5000’s debut is full of slap bass (and even congas and stuff) and pretty Funk centric basically all the ay through. Slipknot’s Mate Feed Kill Repeat even had ‘Do Nothing/Bitchslap’ and ‘Confessions.’
Then there’s Faith No More. Enough said really.
There’s also Primus but I never really heard a tonne of Primus, just the odd single now and again. I’ve hear enough Les Claypool to know he’s generally pretty funky though.
When working on my list, I also listened to quiet a bit of Infectious Grooves, a deliberately outwardly self-affirmed Funk-Metal band (featuring Rob Trujillo). That was pretty funky. Wasn’t to my tastes at the time, but it certainly existed.
So. Extreme then. Two of my main memories about the band are that when I was in college, some six years ago now, my teacher, who was a guitar prodigy, told all the “rocker” students about Extreme and showed off their “hectic” guitarist’s skills to much admiration. He’s supposedly rather good. Secondly, I remember that he plays live for Rhiana (Umberella-ella singer) now. Good on him, I say. Why slug it out in pubs and clubs when you could have a steady job doing what you love, even without the artistic satisfaction of it being your own band. Better than being Korn’s Guitarist or Slipknot’s bassist and having to play behind the stage. And better than being in Great White and just playing tiny clubs.
Also apparently, their singer was in Van Halen for a while. Also, apparently Mike Mangini (Drummer on Annhilator’s 3rd, 10th and 12th albums; and current Dream Theater drummer) was in them, but not on this particular album.
Also apparently, apparently also soal enntlyappr.
Ok. A third memory. I remember the general impression from the Metal Hammer podcast that no one likes Extreme these days. I think someone jokingly mentioned their name and everyone laughed.
But what ho. I’ll give it a chance anyway. People were like that about Queensryche about two years ago. And look how trying out a Queensryche album ended up for me. (Well. It turned out well for me. I really, really enjoyed Queensryche when I tried them out. Keep up.)
‘Decadence Dance’ opens the album up quietly with the sound effects of rain and thunder. Then some classical sounding keyboards. Have I put on a Cradle Of Filth record by mistake? Well, no, of course not. Also they’re bright and happy sounding keys. It then takes this very Coheed & Cambria sounding turn, it still hasn’t started yet though, it’s a sort of build-up of the atmosphere. Lead guitar wails out, then BAM.
The main riff comes in. Its got that kind of sex-rock feel of Guns N’ Roses song ‘Nighttrain’ or Motley Crue’s song ‘Rattlesnake Shake’ or Skid Row’s also-named-Rattle-snake-shake song ‘Rattle Snake Shake.’
Its very bright and big and loud. His vocals sound quiet like Paul Stanley, if Paul Stanley was from Texas.
At this point, I really start to notice what a crazy-good guitarist they have. Its that sort of Dragonforce, Annihilator, Van Halen thing where the virtuosity takes over the song and its just built in to it in a way that makes the whole song seem like a giant solo.
He keeps doing squeals and slides and pinches that sound like Dime and Zack. When the actual solo comes in (as if the million lead lines weren’t solos enough) it sounds like Slash in a November Rain sort of a way. It ends with a little drum solo and a very Pantera-ized version of the main riff. Cool.
Next up comes ‘Little Jack Horny.’ It starts with some sad sounding harmonics that suggest a soppy ballad, but then another strip-club riff comes in. Then some horns. Hmm. Horns ruin ‘Move To The City’ and whatever else by Gun N Roses, and some Lynyrd Skynyrd too. Less horns please. Anyway. I’ll try ignore them. The actual song isn’t as good as the first one. When the song breaks down into a slower bit, with a really fast guitar solo, I like it. Its got a lot going for it. But that chorus comes back, its just a bit out of my cup-of-tea zone.
Hmm. One good, one not-for-me. What’s next?
‘When I’m President’ is next, that what is next. It opens up with a Beastie Boys sort of rap ala that Sum 41 song ‘Fat Lip’ if you count the music video. Then, this quirky riff that keeps falling back into its chair over a snare roll. Then more of those riffs that sound halfway between Pantera and Motley Crue. Then there’s some of that jive-talking that Axl Rose sometimes did. Y’know what I mean, like he kind of talks in a boasting Texan fake voice?
The chorus is kind of confusing. But when it goes into a slightly heavier bit with a solo, its right up my street. Its like Black Label Society with the Stoner filtered out. When you think it ends though, it stops then launches back in with an absolutely awesome riff and slow drumbeat, but that fades away.
Next comes ‘Get The Funk Out,’ which is unsurprisingly a bit Funky. Its different from the previous songs, which is cool. Stops the album being too repetitive. The pre-chorus is cool. Then aww. A chorus that is not up my alley at all (and more horns). The second time the chorus comes in, the guitar seems heavier and cooler, but the vocals and horns are still a bit off-putting.
Then the breakdown, even with its horns, is very fun. Its got a kind of 21st Century Schizoid Man feel to it. Then a brilliant guitar solo. A really long, multifaceted one. Hooray. The final chorus has a bit more going on and a cool fill bit, and is generally a lot more listenable. Cool even.
Some acoustic guitar, the kind from a song in a manipulative family car advertisement comes on. Its really pleasant. The vocals are really sweet and not cheesy. ‘More Than Words’ its called. Although it has a kind of Elvis vibe to it as an aftertaste. Kind of cool. Unique. I’ve not heard a rock band play in this direction. It reminds me a bit of Pearl Jam ballads, I guess, but, still not very closely. They put a bit of umph into it in parts and its very cool. It ends with a little bit of show off. Its about two minutes too long, but very welcome on the album overall.
‘Money (In God We Trust)’ follows up with a riff that sounds like it is the soundtrack to speedboats and sunshine. The song in general, is more of that strip-club rock. The chorus is a lot more pleasant than in the ones with horns. It has an American Football movie feeling about it. Guess what I’m going to say next? Yup. Cool guitar solo. Predictable ey? Well, excuse me for having preferences. The ending is cool.
The oddly titled ‘It (‘s A Monster)’ starts up promisingly with a little drum solo action and then a faster, slightly different and more tasteful version of their stripper-core bread and butter. Then it goes into this heavier pre-chorus with cool Annihilator by way of Dime through the filter of sleaze style riffs, the chorus isn’t as cool, but the pre-chorus comes back soon enough. It breaks down into this really cool mid section that is the coolest thing on the album so far, hard to describe really, sort of ZZ Top via Coheed. Then a brilliant, best one so far, solo (yeah, yeah, I know). When the chorus comes back afterwards they make it a bit more energetic and it works well. Then yet another solo. And a very good ending.
The title-track is next. Its riff is very complicated. Then it has a very proggy, complex extra intro. Then a super show-offy, sleaze meets prog meets funk riff that keeps shapeshifting. The kicks in the verse are fun. This song is all over the place. The chorus comes in, the vocals are a bit confusing sounding, but overall the whole thing is cool .It actually reminds me a hell of a lot of Dream Theater for some reason.
The song takes a couple of twists and turns and is full of lead guitar bits here there and everywhere. It goes into this bit that’s like the intro to The Mob Goes Wild or Good Times Bad Times but covered in solos. Then a funk bit. Hey. I’d forgotten about the whole funk thing. This song is both to my, and not to my, tastes at the same time.
I’m going to stop writing tonight, I have to go and be with people. There’s a sort of posh vegetarian dinner party going on with my flatemates-of-next-year and I think I should attend… out of place and a massive downer though I may be.
Ok. It’s the morning after. I’m on a train, going back to my parent’s house for the weekend. Someone beside me is eating a burger and chips. I’m one of those knobs with their laptop out on the train. People may think I’m doing some work. Not blogging. Although look at me, of course I’m not blogging.
Next up, a sort of Frank Sinatra, terribly American, very cheesy, slightly jazzy ballad comes on. It sounds like a Family Guy song. I don’t like this sort of music at all. It makes my ears cringe on first impression the way a 90-year-old Grandma would cringe hearing Tomb Of The Mutilated. Just…. Ugh, out of my comfort zone. I’m fairly open minded so I’ll give it a few more chances in the future, but right now…yuck.
Next comes ‘Suzie (Wants It All Day).’ First bit is very good. It’s a less Strip-club version of the familiar sounds so far. There’s a second part that’s a bit more shimmering and wedding-y, then a chorus which couldn’t exist outside of the Hair Metal era, but which is very good. There is some very Van Halen touches in parts after that. I like this song. It kind of reminds me of Use Your Illusions, like, all of Both the albums, all at once. Surprisingly, no minute-long guitar solo.
Next up comes some MIDI sounding double-kicks and a neoclassical solo running along on its own without any bass, rhythm guitar or vocals backing it up. I imagine this would have been a very ‘must-learn’ piece at the time. A sort of ‘Eruption’ for the 90s. Perhaps not. Who knows? People in the past. That’s who. Not me though. I wasn’t paying attention in the past. I was busy with Push Pops and Power Rangers and whatever else existed in 1990/1991.
Then the song part of the song starts. Its called ‘He-Man Woman Hater’ which is an odd choice of song title. I wonder if its misogynistic like it appears, or if its critical of misogynists. I can’t really focus on the spirit of the lyrics right now while simultaneously traveling, writing, and blocking out the noise of the train announcements.
You’ll find comfort in the familiarity of me enjoying the bit in the song with the guitar solo. You will. Here it goes. I like the bit with the guitar solo. See? Comforting, wasn’t it ?
There’s some other nice touches elsewhere in the song. In fact, this one is full of little touches. Its got a great bit where a note hangs for aaaaages. Its got a riff that sounds like Zack Wylde wrote it. Its got a few breaks with vocals like I like.
Second last song. Its called ‘Song For Love.’ Its another ballad. Sometimes his vocals remind me of Bon Jovie. Sometimes, there’s little twiddling guitar lines that remind me of Itally. In as much as they sound like the stereotype Itallian American restraint scene background music. There’s some strings hat remind me of Queensryche’s ‘Silent Lucidity.’ The song actually shifts shape quite a few different ways. At points it sounds like Ozzy’s ‘Mamma I’m Coming Home,’ and it also drops one of those big Novemeber Rain cliff-top guitar solos, that sounds really cinematic and like the solo itself is telling a story. There’s also a Modern -Rush-esque quality to parts of it, and a Kiss quality to it in parts. It also for some reason reminds me of Roger Waters The Wall Live In Berlin version of ‘Young Lust’ with Bryan Adams on vocals…y’know that version? It reminds me of that in parts. No idea why though.
Last song comes in, it sounds like Rush’s ‘Circumstances’ might start but then instead a jangly southern rock sounding, country influenced acoustic number starts, which sounds like a bizarre mixture of Blackfoot and Rush’s ‘Closer To The Heart’ with shades of Queen’s best ballad (‘39’ …unless you count ‘You And I’ as a ballad. In which case that’s their best ballad. Unless you count Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ as a Queen Song, in which case YOU ARE OFF YOUR ROCKER) but with Paul Stanley guesting on vocals intermittently. Its terribly good fun, but I have no idea why it’s the album closer, it feels like bad mathematics. Mathematics be damned though, this is good. It ends with some of that rain, like at the start of the album. Cyclical. Easy smile points. Well done.
Ok. That’s the record over. It’s a bit of a weird set of twin circumstances to have heard it in, boiling on a sunny-but-raining train and in my room feeling like shit. But what are you gunna do?
One note, the funk part of this record has been greatly exaggerated. Its not exactly Infectious Grooves. Not that I mind. I’m not chomping at the bit, desperate for some funk.
What did I think of it? Hmmm. It was very impressive. I’m not sure how much of it I liked, or would like. It definitely needs a lot more listens to get to grips with. Do the cheesy parts become less obnoxious with familiarity? Or do all the guitar hero moments lose their shine once the novelty has worn off?
Once I accept it for what it actually is do I like that thing? Or once the fun of identifying the parts it sounds like, and predicting what direction it might go in has gone, is all I’m left with an unsatisfying, slightly repetitive, ballad-heavy album of rock in a style I don’t particularly enjoy ?
Who knows? Future people. That’s who know. I’m stuck here in the present. With train journey’s and post exam decamp periods and heartbreak and whatever else they have in 2012/2013.
Next up, look forward to something like Speed Metal Symphony or Feel The Darkness.