Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Review of Rob Zombie's Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor

As if 2010’s Hellbilly Deluxe 2 wasn’t enough of an indicator, it seems like Rob Zombie has gotten complacent with how things are looking in his music career. The somewhat awkwardly titled Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor is his first album to come out in three years, a downright blur by Zombie standards when you also consider the release of the long delayed Lords of Salem film. But there are a few subtle changes afoot if events like the hiring of former Marilyn Manson drummer Ginger Fish and the move to a self-run label are anything to go by.

For the most part, you could describe this as a somewhat “typical” Rob Zombie album. Most of the songs on here are executed in the garage metal swagger that was established two albums prior and the horror-erotica lyrics are as ridiculous as their titles would lead you to expect. The band also stays in their set roles as the album continues to be defined by obscure samples, John 5’s clunks, a solid percussive foundation, and Rob’s distorted calls to arms.

On the other end, this album does manage to bring back the industrial influence that had been thoroughly abandoned since the days of The Sinister Urge. This can best be seen in “Revelation Revolution” and “The Girl Who Loved The Monsters” as they both channel the “Dragula” sound with their dance beats, building verses, and party friendly choruses. There are still some growing pains that can be heard but it does seem to be a step in the right direction that could potentially interest those who have been out of the loop.

Unfortunately, the songs end up being another mixed bag thanks to some awkward writing and the underutilized talents of John 5. Tracks like “Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga” and “White Trash Freaks” offer promising ideas but are ultimately unrealized due to the lack of a strong guitar presence while others such as “Behold, The Pretty Filthy Creatures” fall into filler territory due to their rather haphazard structuring. The quality is never bad but you get the feeling that “Rock And Roll (In A Black Hole)” could’ve been the next “Superbeast” if they had arranged it a little more cohesively.

But with that said, there are still plenty of entertaining moments. The opening “Teenage Nosferatu Pussy” is the stomping anthem that “Jesus Frankenstein” wanted to be, “Lucifer Rising” is an intense speed metal number that recalls “Let It All Bleed Out,” and lead single “Dead City Radio And The New Gods Of Supertown” is a fun arena filler once you get past the cheesy spoken segments before the verses. I also gotta give props to the cover of “We’re An American Band,” which avoids sounding too contrived thanks to a borderline doom vibe that reminds me of classic Pentagram.

Overall, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor is probably on the same level as its predecessor in terms of quality, but I think this may have been the album that really should’ve been called Hellbilly Deluxe 2. The industrial tracks give this album a feel that is much closer to Rob Zombie’s roots as a solo artist and there seems to be a bit more energy than there was on his most recent releases. The rocky writing and band dynamic may not make it an essential purchase but fans of Zombie’s past works should know what to expect by now.

Current Highlights:
“Teenage Nosferatu Pussy”
“Dead City Radio And The New Gods of Supertown”
“Revelation Revolution”
“Lucifer Rising”
“The Girl Who Loved the Monsters”

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Review of Ghost's Infestissumam

Now officially known as Ghost B.C. here in the United States (I like that name better personally), Ghost is one of the more interesting bands in today’s mainstream metal scene. They gradually acquired a cult following after the release of 2010’s Opus Eponymous for their over the top Satanic image and throwback occult metal sound, two elements that aren’t quite as groundbreaking when you’ve listened to any underground metal from the last twenty years. It can be safely said that their sophomore album is as controversial as ever, though not for the reasons that one would think.

For starters, it’s a pretty big stretch to refer to Infestissumam as a metal album. The content and presentation are as theatrical as ever but the debut’s Mercyful Fate influence is nowhere near as prominent and there is much more genre experimentation afoot. Instead, we have a more rock-oriented album with influence from pop, heavy metal, classical and choral music, circus themes on “Secular Haze,” and even disco on “Year Zero.” It kinda sounds like what would’ve happened if Sigh had started out playing doom instead of black metal but it could also be described as a culmination of all the styles Alice Cooper and KISS messed with during the 70s.

The band dynamic has also undergone some changes since their debut. The Nameless Ghouls playing the guitars and bass have more of a backing role this time around and allow the keyboards and choral vocals to define the album’s tone. The only element that seems to be securely held in place is frontman Papa Emeritus II, whose voice grabs the listener’s attention in a way that seems to be more hypnotic than charismatic.

Fortunately, the songs themselves manage to stay fairly consistent despite being a pretty mixed bag. Nothing on here is that riff driven, but just about every song still finds a way to stand out. “Jigolo Har Megiddo” and “Idolatrine” serve as upbeat romps as the choruses on tunes like “Body And Blood” and the closing “Monstrance Clock” should be pretty secure in your head for some time. “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen” has also earned its reputation as an early fan favorite thanks to its spooky ballad beginning and more upbeat second half.

But with that said, there are moments where either awkward song structuring or the lack of a strong guitar presence makes things rather rocky. This can best be seen in “Year Zero,” an odd disco rock bonanza that actually ends up being the album’s most memorable track. The Gregorian chants and funky verses are enough to make one want to sacrifice a goat while dancing like John Travolta, but the song seems to overlook these elements in favor of spending a little too much time on its jarringly slow chorus. It could be argued that such tantalizing leads to higher replay value, but it also makes one realize that the band was just an adjusted structure away from the biggest cult hit of 2013.

While some listeners may be crying foul over Infestissumam for the numerous modifications that Ghost has made to their sound, its flaws seem to be more related to songwriting than anything else. Continuing the riff-driven sound that was so prominent on Opus Eponymous probably would’ve made this an easier pill to swallow, but some tighter structuring may have served it better in the long run. Fortunately, the music is far from bad and the fun factor does warrant further listens. It’s hard to tell where the band will go from here but the debut still makes for a more solid initiation.

Current Highlights:
“Jigolo Har Megiddo”
“Ghuleh/Zombie Queen”
“Year Zero”
“Body And Blood”
“Monstrance Clock”

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

An Introduction

This is my latest attempt in maintaining a blog. I've lost count of how many blogs I've published in the past but I certainly have covered a good number of subjects since I started doing it my sophomore year of high school. Like anyone else, I had my moments of adolescent angst with my first blog but I had better luck with the travel blog I maintained during my trip to Greece three years ago and the others that I have dedicated to music reviews. Of course, that's not even going into the diaries I've tried keeping and the numerous sites that I have contributed to like the Encyclopedia Metallum, Sputnik Music, or Suite101.

 So what am I going to be using this blog for? Pretty much anything I can think of, really. Being the die-hard metalhead and music fan that I am, a good portion of my writing will be going towards album reviews and general observations of all things music related. I may also try to do some non-music commentary whether it be based on movies, books, or just random experiences in my life or others that I feel are worth talking about. I want to see what kinds of things I can learn about myself and hope to get some insights from others that I may not have thought possible. I've always been one to welcome a thoughtful discussion and hope to see some good ones pop up over time.

 In addition, I really need to get myself back on a consistent regiment if I ever want to call myself a true writer or have any of my various novel ideas to come into fruition. Music writing and band politics have come much easier for me in recent years, but I've always wanted to see what kind of balance can be achieved between the two. And in the words of the Skynyrd song that I was listening to a couple of hours ago, all I can do is write about it.

 So I'd like to be the first to welcome you to the soon-to-be clusterfuck known as Psychic Shorts. Stick around for some more in-depth ranting and we'll see how long I can make this one last!