Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wherefore Art Thou Beast?

He sings. 

Unto the black-upturned wondering eyes 

Of mortals that fall back to gaze on him 

When he bestrides the higher-beating fire

And flails upon the bosom of despair.

Literates would recognize the above as a true bastardization of Romeo's lines during the balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. And while translation has been butchered by my changes in an attempt to set the mood for this review, I feel it is only appropriate for the review I am here to give.

Lordi has been my favorite band since, perhaps around 2007. If you are unfamiliar, they are a Hard Rock band from Finland heavily influenced by KISS and other hair metal such as Alice Cooper, Twisted Sister, etc. They do not limit the influence to their own sound. Since the band first went public in the late 1990s and early 2000s, they have hidden their faces.

Mister Lordi, the lead singer and main artist of the band

G-Stealer, the first bassist who left before the band became known, but was the bassist for the newly unearthed "Bend Over and Pray To The Lord" originally recorded in 1997 but not released until 2012

Magnum, the bassist who recorded all the bass for their debut CD "Get Heavy" (2002), but left prior to its release. He also appeared in their first music video "Would You Love A Monsterman" back in 2001.

Kalma(ged), the Bassist who joined the band after Magnum's departure, appearing on the Album for "Get Heavy," appeared and played for their second album "The Monsterican Dream" (2004), and recorded Bass for the album "The Arockalypse" (2006), once again leaving prior its release.

Ox, the current Bassist who appeared on "The Arockalypse" and performed in Eurovision when the Lordi song "HardRock Hallelujah" took home the very first win for Finland in this contest. 

Amen, the guitarist who started with and is still with the band for all these years. 

Enary, the original keyboardist, who is rumored to have been kicked out of the band for physical violence against guitarist Amen. She joined early under the original name 81077 and remained until after "The Monsterican Dream."

Lady Awa, the keyboardist who joined the band for "The Arockalypse" and the Eurovision win, but parted ways with the band in 2012 for personal reasons.

Hella, the current keyboardist.

Kita, the original drummer from 2000, who left in October of 2010 to pursue his side band Stala & So and wanted to appear without his mask. He is currently the lead singer of Stala & So.

Otus, the drummer following Kita's departure. He joined Lordi for their tour following the "Babez for Breakfast" (2010) release. Unfortunately, he passed in early 2012, but his influence to the band brought the more metal attitude of the newest album "To Beast or Not To Beast" (2013).

And finally Mana, the current drummer, who I believe looks like a cross between Rob Zombie and a beetle. 

So now you know the band and a bit of their history. I learned of them in 2007, after they had won the Eurovision song contest and became an instant fan of their style, mainly their costumes and their musical style. At this point, only their "The Arockalypse" album was available in America, so I purchased it on iTunes and ordered their two previous albums. I've been a fan ever since.

On March 1st, 2013, Lordi released their new album with the new lineup. Their first CD with a new drummer in over ten years. It is also one of their heaviest. Each album has their own unique taste to it. "Get Heavy" established their monster rock, with a somewhat industrial sound (Like songs "Biomechanic Man" and "Devil is a Loser"). Comparatively, their second CD "The Monsterican Dream" was slower in tempo, despite the heavy and beastly sound of their single "Blood Red Sandman." The Arockalypse got in touch with their Hair Metal origins, becoming a fan favorite album rather quickly. The next album "Deadache" (2008) was heavy and bassy with the single "Bite it Like a Bulldog." "Babez for Breakfast" (2010) was a heavy return to 80s influence. 

Now, you may have noticed that there has been a pattern: all the CDs (until the most recent "To Beast or Not To Beast") have been released every two years. Another Lordi "tradition" was for the members to change their costumes prior to the release of their CDs, typically reflecting the attitude. 

The promotional band image for their new outfits and new members Mana and Hella for the new CD.

Their newest CD, "To Beast or Not To Beast."

Now I'm sure you may have noticed their newest CD is twist on the classic line from Hamlet "To Be or not to-"... You know the line. However, why start everything here with a twisted version of Romeo and Juliet's balcony scene? Because, amusingly, Hamlet is not the sole Shakespeare reference in this Hard Rock/Theatrical Metal album. The fourth song is a line lifted right from Macbeth.

Pt. 1: Artwork
I'm no stranger to the gorgeous artwork tat adorns the albums. Mister Lordi, aside from being lead singer, song writer, and a mind behind their movie (Dark Floors; 2007), he is also a painter. Galleries have featured his artwork previously, but he has also painted all the album covers. This is the second album in which Lordi has not pictured the full band on their cover, aside from the side albums and singles. Their fifth studio album "Babez For Breakfast" was the first album in which the full band did not appear on the album. It is difficult to describe the album cover, so here it is. 

Babez For Breakfast (2010)

Pretty creepy, eh? Well, ironically, I find this album to be more comical than the others with songs like "This is Heavy Metal," "Rock Police," "ZombieRawkMachine," and "Granny's Gone Crazy." I do enjoy the cover of the new album, it has a bunch of clashing time periods that they are referencing. Our cover girl is definitely a spin on the common Pin-Up girl, typically seen in the mid 1990s culture. While the album name itself is derived from Shakespeare, obviously far preceding the twentieth century, by over 300 years in fact. And, once you open the case and remove the CD, you are looking at a mutation of Leonardo Da Vinci's "Vetruvian Man." Overall, the references of the past are rather scattered, but it works well well for The album's already scattered themes.

Now within the Album book, the artwork is less extravagant to its predecessor. In "Babez For Breakfast,"the album was filled with colorful and rather grotesque images that, frankly, were appropriately cheesy. They also, as most of their studio albums had the lyrics on display. While "To Beast or Not To Beast" still possesses the traditional page for each band member displaying their personas alongside of the lyrics, the artwork is limited to haunting skeletons floating across the pages with almost an eerie impermanence. Overall, while the album book is attractive, it pales in comparison, but given the recent tragedy of Otus's death, it's more than understandable. 

I would rate the art of this album as a nice even 7.5/10. 

Pt. 2: Music
The first thing that struck me about the music of this album was the absence of the introduction piece, a tradition of Lordi's studio albums. The first album "Get Heavy" (not including "Bend Over and Pray to the Lord" as it was not of the lineup of Lordi albums, having just been unearthed from the Scarchives) began with the haunting instrumental "Scarctic Circle Gathering" to set the mood of the album. "The Monsterican Dream" began with a movie trailer, introducing the sequel to the Scarctic Circle Gathering. The tradition continued until this album, which throws you right into the action with the wild and heavy track "We're Not Bad For The Kids (We're Worse)". The song begins with barely a second of indiscernible (or at least for me) speaking, which makes the listener try to listen closer, right as all the instruments and Mr. Lordi's scream erupts.

 Mister Lordi, in a still from "Hard Rock Hallelujah's" music video

Lordi's sound has certainly grown more aggressive thanks to the late Otus's influence. However, they are still true to the Lordi sound and style as it has always remained flexible.  

I may not be a music genius like my little brother, but I am more than familiar with Lordi's work. When compared to their previous albums, as I have stated previously, this is heavy. But it also possesses the band's ironic and amusing lyrics. A few noteworthy lines from the past follows:

Go berserk Miss Piggy Style
Kermit's Legs are gonna fry!
"Girls Go Chopping"
Deadache, 2008

Spasmodic '84
Electric Dinosaur
Desperado Vampire
"Get Heavy"
Get Heavy, 2002

'Cause the Devil is a loser and he's my bitch
For better or for worse and you don't care which
'Cause the Devil is a loser and he's my bitch
Runnin' into trouble you skitch, he's my bitch
"Devil Is A Loser"
Get Heavy, 2002

Young lives by my side,
Keep me awake and sleep at night,
It's all porn on TV,
The whole world's gotten too obscene,
Little girls dressing up like whores,
Mothers too fat to fit out the door,
Grown men dressing up like girls,
This is not my world!
"Granny's Gone Crazy"
Babez For Breakfast, 2010

You get the idea. Well, these songs have their own fair share of the ironic style Lordi fans have loved and find humor in. In fact, the track "Horrifiction," a song about a broken barrier between horror movies and reality, starts out singing praise to Freddy Krueger (one of my favorite horror villains) within the first two lines.

You love that man, with his fingers of knives
The red and green sweater is framed
You bought a chainsaw and you carved it up right
"The saw is the family" it says on the blade
To Beast Or Not To Beast, 2013

These ironic and comedic lines do not start nor stop here. I point into the direction of a couple other tracks, mainly "Candy for the Cannibal" and "Sincerely with Love," which begins with "Fuck you, asshole. Fuck you asshole, Sincerely with Love!"

There is even a song all based off the Shakespeare line "Something Wicked This Way Comes." It is the fourth track in the album and is a soft song (comparatively). While there are other songs of this title. this is not a cover. The song is just foreboding of an unstated and coming horror.

I could go on more about each song, but there are only two that I feel completely necessary to discuss" The Riff and SCG6.

The Riff

"The Riff" is the single from this album. It is also the subject of their music video.

While this music video is, like "This Is Heavy Metal," much different than their previous video themes. Ever since their second music video "Devil is a Loser"(2003), the music videos have consisted of an established individual or group enjoying themselves when Lordi begins to play, shit begins to go down,  Lordi appears, and it eventually ends with the established party murdered.

Below are a few examples:

"Devil is A Loser" 2003

"Blood Red Sandman" (2004 (?))

"Hard Rock Hallelujah" (2006)

As can be seen above, Lordi has had little focus on sexual appeal before the new video. That and they are bringing their humor out of just the lyrics. I would prefer if their interest remained more in the horror  and more thought was put into the video. The main segment of the video was too reminiscent of ZombieLand. 

The song itself is dripping with what Lordi fans love: the comic lyrics and the Lordi sound we all adore. The whole song tells the story of Mister Lordi being picked up in Death's van to give input on the Grim Reaper's attempt at a song. Featuring a heavy instrumental track and a great guitar solo by Amen, Lordi fans can still rock out to this great single.

But the other song that I really must discuss is SCG6


As I have mentioned earlier, SCG is a recurring acronym in Lordi albums, standing for their trademark tracks "Scarctic Circle Gathering."

 Scarctic Circle Gathering from Get Heavy

Theatrical Trailer from The Monsterican Dream

 SCG3 Special Report from The Arockalypse

SCG IV from Deadache

SCG5: It's A Boy! from Babez for Breakfast

All these Scarctic Circle Gatherings were the aforementioned opening tracks for each album. They all set up the mood of the album quite well. However, To Beast or Not To Beast's SCG(VI) is an album closer and a tribute. 

The full name of the track is "SCG6: Otus' Butcher Clinic" and consists of two parts: a brutal and industrial introduction which was used as a backing track while Otus performed in the summer of 2011, when he went off on a heavy drum solo and an actual live recording of his performance in Paris, France in the same year. These two halves of the track is separated by Otus himself growling "No! Let's Kick Some Ass!"

Despite the fact that Otus never recorded anything but both halves of this track, his influence for such a short time is apparent in this new album. This track is a fantastic tribute to the monster and the man underneath.

Pt 3: Overview

This review has gone on long enough and I won't make it even longer by repeating previous points. I will just say this: After the introduction of Otus and then his passing, this album reflects his influence and the sorrow in his passing. This is also a fantastic introduction to the new players, who, for the first time in Lordi history, both appear and play on their premiere album.

My rating? 8.5/10

\m/ Rock on, mates \m/

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