|Lordi - 'To Beast Or Not To Beast' (AFM Records)|
|Written by Gaz E|
|Wednesday, 20 February 2013 03:00|
It's hard to mention Finnish hard rock monsters Lordi without mentioning that famous Eurovision Song Contest win in 2006; my take on it is slightly different, however...
Yes, I too loved how the ghouls upset the rotten apple cart by taking the trophy with a (then) record points total, but I also had another agenda: a friend of mine was obsessed with the Eurovision Song Contest - knew every act from every country and, although slightly humoured at Lordi's inclusion that year, took his Euro Pop very seriously. I didn't mock him much given Lordi's victory...honest...
It was, then, with a little disappointment that I discovered that this motley crew of debauched demons and crypt-dwelling creatures actually peddled an oft putrid form of Euro-sounding hard rock that just wasn't in keeping with their terrifying reputation. And then, when I wanted them to camp things up a little, they decided to go all serious with their very own horror movie, 2008's 'Dark Floors', when surely a completely OTT cinematic experience would have been more in keeping with the band's monstrous master plan: to sum it up, Lordi should have had my horror-loving self by the balls many times over their career, but failed to do so...until now.
Yes, the band's sixth album, 'To Beast Or Not To Beast', is the one that has finally caused my night terrors to cease to exist and my horned hand to raise itself towards the heavens, its reasoning birthed in the very depths of hell.
Or something like that.
Whether it's because of the band's new members - new keyboardist Hella and drummer Manu, replacing former sticksman Otus who sadly died at the beginning of 2012 - or just a case of the planets aligning, Lordi have, with 'To Beast Or Not To Beast', finally turned in a long player that has held me captive for its complete running time.
Okay, it might not be fair to include the final track - 'SCG6 Otus Butcher Clinic', a drum solo tribute to their fallen bandmate - in that, but the ten tracks proper that precede it offer lashings of heavy duty horror rock that sound just like I'd always hoped Lordi would sound. Sure, there are moments when that dreaded (to some - me) Euro rock sound rears its ugly, permed head, but they, happily, are not legion. Instead, Lordi dole out the heavy and, in turn, can walk away with the best album of their career accolade.
On opener 'We're Not Bad For The Kids (We're Worse)' you can almost hear the shift in gears: yes, the song motors along nicely with its chugging axework and its catchy as cooties hook but, when it reaches its mid-point, suddenly transforms into a heaving beast of a tune. It's almost a different song entirely - the pause will throw many listeners - and, in that brief, brutal moment, the Lordi futureworld is exposed.
'I Luv Ugly' channels Metallica at its beginning before darting out keyboard stabs reminiscent of 'Wazbones'-era Tigertailz, that in itself a timely reminder of how a band can rid itself of an image-only reputation and get down and dirty, no matter what the aesthetically-appeased gentlefolk of this world think. Then the album's, maybe the band's, high point arrives tangled somewhere amongst the sinews of first single, 'The Riff'. The, you've guessed, riff that arrives to pull this song above the rampaging horde of undead tunes that litter the streets of Horrorrocksville is, seriously, Gojira-sized (huge dino-beast rather than French metal band) and guaranteed to get your head banging and your air guitar tuned and flung around your shoulders, Brittingham-style: the reason why I suddenly took this album a little more seriously - fact.
'Something Wicked This Way Comes' perfectly fuses the two identities of Lordi that seem to lock horns every other album or so - the heavier hulking brute and the melodic metal mutha - while 'I'm The Best' mixes an almost thrash guitar with '80s horror movie score, and it's the flicks of that decade that provide the backdrop to the slasherama of 'Horrifiction', a song that lyrically invokes Freddy Krueger, Leatherface and Jason Voorhees and sounds like a complete rip-off of Alice Cooper's 'Poison' come chorus time. I love '80s horror yet particularly dislike that commercially-accepted time in the Coop's career, so 'Horrifiction' only survives my cut on a trashy homage level. It works well as a song though, it has to be said.
Not as well as 'Happy New Fear' however, aided and abetted by another monstrous slab of guitar work, while 'Schizo Doll' is bookended by a creepy evil toy refrain that is almost as scary as the over-familiar vocal melody in the verse, happily rectified come the hard-hitting chorus. 'Candy For The Cannibal' is a pure drive-in schlockfest, ridiculously catchy chorus spat all over crazed '80s pop keyboards, before the final song proper, 'Sincerely With Love', threatens to bring the album to a nice conclusion before unleashing a ludicrous "fuck you, asshole" hook that holds you in its ludicrous grasp like a flypaper-handed musical mutant from the planet Zero.
I always chuckle when I read Lordi compared to the likes of KISS and Rob Zombie in music reviews by people who can't see past an image. Muscially, 'To Beast Or Not To Beast' is like a heavier cousin of those mid '80s Alice Cooper albums that saw the Coop return from a Monster Dog-eared career low to reclaim his throne at a juncture primed by in-vogue tongue in cheek horror. Albums like 'Constrictor' and 'Raise Your Fist And Yell', engineered and mixed by a German uber-knob twiddler named Michael Wagener who, coincidentally perhaps, has now produced the last two albums from Lordi. Funny that.
'To Beast Or Not To Beast', that is the question. The answer? It's horrorific!