Judging Albums by Their Covers
In which we review a bunch of terrible-looking metal albums–without having listened to them first.
In order to do this, I am indulging one of my most heinous character flaws: the instinct to pre-judge all things. In social situations, pre-judging is not great. In survival situations, where the preservation and propagation of the genome is paramount, pre-judging is highly useful:
Example 1: Those berries look poisonous. Don’t eat them.
Example 2: That animal looks carnivorous. Don’t try to ride it.
Example 3: That dude with the human skull for a mask looks like he’s hankerin’ to wear your skull as a mask. Don’t ask him for directions.
In metal situations, namely the highly sensual ritual of shopping for metal, pre-judging can swing either way. As a young metalhead, you probably fell prey to the allure of an album you’d never heard at least once. You forgot the entire list of albums you came to the record store to buy and, amidst your aimless browsing, you came upon an unknown album whose cover art was a feast for your eyes. You were naive, you were insatiable, you were dying to be cool: you bought the record. With all the metal floating around in this bloated garbage heap of a genre, so much of it adorned with attractive-yet-ambiguous-and-ultimately-misleading artwork, the odds in favor of your disappointment were fairly astronomical. But years have passed and now you are a wizened metalhead; you have a much firmer grasp on what you like and you know how to avoid the usual traps. Which is why you appreciate it when a band gives it to you straight with their album artwork. Or I do anyway. I like it when bands dispense with the mystique or the hifalutin artistry and adhere to the well-established (read: cliché) visual tropes of their chosen sub-genre. Plus, it’s good for a chuckle.
Take Der Gerwelt, for instance, the first subject in our case study today.
The WTF? Factor is so high here that I almost bought this album out of sheer morbid curiosity. I’m going to go waaaaaaaaaay out on a limb and say this is black metal. It’s just a feeling. I could be wrong. Could be rapcore. I’m going to go a bit further out on that limb and say these guys are dead – fucking – serious (although how could they be?). The phrase “Knights Against Christ” comes instantly to mind. I’m also detecting the faint reek of closeted NS tendencies. I don’t know in what year this album was recorded, but it clearly suffers from that old We’ve Seen the Video for Immortal’s “Call of the Wintermoon” About 666 Times Too Many Syndrome. The dude on the right is clearly the drummer; only a drummer would deign to show off his tan while wearing corpse paint. The chap on the left must be the vocalist; as the frontman, he takes his craft so seriously that not even the evident heatwave can drive him to cast off his armor like his good buddy Klaus over there. Why the daytime photo shoot? That’s not very kvlt. I bet their parents don’t own a camera with a decent flash. And Klaus was worried about the shadows obscuring his cutting abdominal definition. But enough lambasting the photography. What about the music? Hmmm…tinny, bassless, tremolo-laden tracks that toggle between disheveled blastbeats and majestic mid-tempos. Squashed toad vocals and a smattering of poorly synchronized keyboards. Whiffs of early Dimmu Borgir and Old Man’s Child. Why hasn’t Der Gerwelt risen to infamy? They’re still lost in the woods.
For my second subject: The one, the only, the BROLOAF.
Say it with me. Boloaf. Bro. Loaf. Loaf of Bro. Bros of the Loaf. BROLOAF. And never stop saying it, because this is your new mantra. Pleasant to the ears, pleasant on the tongue, a perfect thematic encapsulation of your existence. No mystery here. Champions on Parade sounds like any Five Finger Death Punch record–but with a sense of humor about itself. So, maybe they’re like a FFDP party where Circle Jerks showed up and, without asking what kind of party it was, inserted their genitals into the mashed potatoes. Actually, BROLOAF could be a straight-up FFDP parody band. Maybe this is just their day job. (At night they’re in a brutal death metal band called Inseminating the Divine.) Whatever the case, Champions on Parade is metal for WINNERS. Metal for ALPHAS. Metal for DUDES who meet other DUDES at bars to drink Anheuser-Busch products and watch MMA fights on the BIGSCREEN. But with a distinctive fun-loving frat party edge in place of the usual southern fried bullshit. It’s all right there on the cover: trophies, beer pong, cocaine and that infamous Level 10 Sex Move, “The Shocker”(cue nauseated groaning). At heart, this is basically a date-rape training manual.
And if BROLOAF wasn’t ALPHA enough for you, here we have Battlecross:
Yet another Five Finger Death Punch clone–except these guys take themselves 100% seriously. War of Will is your standard recruiting album for the U.S. Marines. Metal made by and for your dyed-in-the-wool coal-rolling, Trump-voting, commie-hating, eagle-loving, roid-raging BDubs Bro. Want to ship off to the desert to blow up villages and eradicate xenocultures? Put this on your Zune, blast it through your headphones and Fire At Will.
Next up: Bloody Hammers.
News Flash: Black Sabbath cover band strikes out on their own to pen original material. Sounds like Sabbath. But, you know, not good. Next.
“Gurp derp gurp furp, squeeeeeeeeeeee, chugga chugga blast-blast-blast-blast-blast-blast chugga grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrruff — fap-fap-fap-fap-fap-fap-fap-fap-fap/djun-djun-djun-djun– — — Uhn!”
Onward to Bowels Out (for Harambe?):
See above, in re: Bloodsoaked.
And finally, Exmortus:
If you squint at the pink sticker on the cover you’ll suspect that the purity of this experiment has been compromised by Some Other Dickbag Blog. But I assure you in all honesty that I did not read that pink sticker before writing this review, so it has fallen to my predictive powers alone to decree that Ride Forth is not at all another garbage power metal album but instead a melange of thrash, death metal and shred. It thrashes, it death metals, it shreds. But does it Manowar? Yes, it Manowars. Also, despite not being power metal, it sucks.
For the record, I cannot believe I discovered such a treasure trove of (probable) awfulness all in one go. (Also for the record, my assistant found most of these while I was fondling a Nightmare on Elm Street 8-disc box set.) I have forbidden myself to listen to these albums until this article is published. So it falls to you, the Toilet, to listen and cast aspersions upon my psychic abilities. Have at it.
(Header Image Via)