Have you heard? Decibel Magazine just launched its 100th issue! We've kinda kept it quiet, only hyping it every other day or so for only the past several months. Turns out we're hosting a celebration show in Philly this weekend! Who knew? I wonder who will headline... As this extremely extreme monument edged closer to becoming reality, dB think tank Nick Green came down with a serious case of the good ideas (a chronic condition with that dude): Since EiC Albert Mudrian assures us that he can divine any review's numerical score from the tone of the review text itself, why not test this claim with a variety of selections from the past 100 issues? Thus was born this exclusive Deciblog special edition Call & Response.
We sent our most beloved extreme music addict six old reviews, identified only by title (with the score and author's name removed). He responded to them with pithy anecdotes and, in at least one case, without actually reading the review!
The Mars Volta - The Bedlam in Goliath Score: 3 Author: Brent Burton Published: #42, April 2008 The Mars Volta, it seems, worked on their latest record until it was so full of jazzy, funky, neo-progressive nonsense that it couldn't hold another note. It is everything against which punk rock was directed. Which is too bad, because these guys are obviously talented, and if 2003 debut De-Loused in the Comatorium is any measure, capable of some interesting songwriting.
On Bedlam in Goliath, however, everything takes a back seat to vocal and instrumental pyrotechnics. The band's fourth proper full-length is so showy and dense that it's easy to forget that it contains actual songs. The problem, of course, is that they can't leave well enough alone. They pile off-kilter rhythms on top of off-kilter rhythms—many of which are performed at breckneck tempos. Guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez treats each song as if it were an opportunity to show off everything he knows. And vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala sings as if he's paid by the word. Just when you think it can't get any thicker or more obtuse, they'll throw in a swirling synth or a snaky sax. Everything about this record stinks of overindulgence.
It's easy to imagine these guys hearing one of Miles Davis' dense jazz-rock albums and thinking, "This would be great if only it were faster and more complex." But it wouldn't. It would be impenetrable. It would sound just like The Bedlam in Goliath.
Albert Says: 5. I remember Bonzo dragged me to see them at the Electric Factory in, like, 2005. They were awful, but I was I drunk enough to heckle “’One-Armed Scissor,’ Motherfucker!”
Bring Me the Horizon - Suicide Season Score: 8 Author: Kirk Miller Published: #50, December 2008 The best moment of this year’s Warped Tour (yes, there were actual best moments) happened in Long Island, when U.K. metal newcomer Bring Me the Horizon found themselves performing on the stage next to pop starlet Katy Perry… or, more specifically, next to the stage where she was just about to perform. Intentionally or not, BMTH cut into the “I Kissed a Girl” singer’s set by a good 10 minutes, encouraging the audience to start a circle pit around the sound tech, eliciting an audience chant of “We will never sleep! Sleep is for the weak!” and, in general, scarring the minds of 13-year-old pop fans forever.
So the guys have energy and sass—do they have chops? Yep. Sure, the whole of Suicide Season leans on familiar hardcore tempos and repeated choruses, making the band’s assault easy to digest; it’s not pop, but it’s certainly on the lighter side of the metalcore spectrum. But the underlying viciousness is ever-present, with “The Comedown” and “Football Season Is Over” sneaking into DevilDriver territory (thanks to vocalist Oli Sykes’ screeches, a vocal tic he otherwise avoids). At their best, the songs are memorable noise, chock full of easy-to-chant choruses, most specifically on “Chelsea Smile” (“Repent! Repent!”) and “Diamonds Aren’t Forever” (the “sleep is for the weak” track).
Admittedly, the screamo closer/title track is, well, “so gay” (to quote Ms. Perry’s other hit), but otherwise, Bring Me the Horizon are a welcome visitor to these shores... and, hopefully, a bad pop concert near you.
Albert Says: 8. This author HAS to be Catherine Yates. She’s the original Kirk Miller of the reviews section.
Jello Biafra with the Melvins - Never Breathe What You Can’t See Score: 5 Author: J Bennett Published: #2, November 2004 Theoretically, this is one of those records that should, at the very least, be “okay.” But, as much as I’d love to, I just can’t get it up for this one. Honestly? Jello Biafra fronting the Melvins doesn’t really sound like that hot of an idea. I like “Holiday In Cambodia” and “Too Drunk to Fuck” as much as the next snide asshole who was too young to get into the Dead Kennedys before they broke up, but I guess I like my Melvins over here and my Jello Biafra over there. Preferably way over there. With Fred Schneider and Johnny Ramone. But that’s judging a book by its cover, I suppose. It’s when you actually put the album on that the real disappointment starts. Swear to god, on “McGruff the Crime Dog,” Biafra implores us to “take a bite out of crime.” “Wholly Buy Bull” is the kind of Ventures’ carnival music that doesn’t sound good when Mr. Bungle actually pull it off at three times the speed; mid-paced, with Jello’s cartoonish warble railing against “the Evil Empire” (while one can certainly appreciate the similarities between the Reagan and Dubya administrations, something tells me Jello has had this one on the back-burner since the Gipper was running guns out of the Oval Office), it just gets tedious. On the other hand, it is the Melvins, and there is a song about McGruff the Crime Dog. Not to mention another one called “Voted off the Island.” So it’s got that going for it, which is nice.
Albert Says: 5. Pretty sure this is Bennett. He only reviews, 9s, 5s and zeros.
Kittie - Never Again Score: 8 Author: Andrew Parks Published: #19, May 2006 Anyone else remember when Kittie were hyped on one of MTV’s “You Hear It First” segments? That geek chic blowhard Gideon Yago––or maybe it was the best bald TV personality ever, Matt Pinfield—was all like, “whoa, this Morgan Lander chick can scream and shit!” (Plus, she’s hot in a damaged girl way, said his inner dialogue.) As if it were a revelation that a woman can rock, let alone lead a savage metal quartet with a screaming, screeching single called “Spit.” They’ve lost half their lineup in the decade since (everyone but Lander and sister/drummer Mercedes), but this digital-only EP (download it from iTunes to get all four tracks) props 2006 up as a promising year for the quartet.
A clear teaser, it shows four distinct sides: the Pantera scream/Sabbath stomp/slight guitar solo side (the title track), the Rice Krispie crunchy, melodic modern rock side (“Breathe”), the schizo, Morgan-got-range side (“This Too Shall Pass”), and the sorta soaring power ballad side, with a hefty bottom end and persistent riffage (“Everything That Could Have Been”). Here comes the clichéd pun to cap this review off, then: Kittie have their claws sharpened, so you best watch out for their LP later this year. Meeee-yow! You heard it here first, folks.
Albert Says: 7. Fuck you for making me remember Gideon Yago.
Static-X - Cannibal Score: 6 Author: Daniel Lukes Published: #31, May 2007 If you ever needed proof that the cliché “any publicity is good publicity” is bullshit, then the vicissitudes of Static-X—never media darlings in the first place—over the last couple of years should suit you fine. What puzzles is that in these days of “nü-metal sucked all along” orthodoxy, they’re still on a major label. Fact is, for anyone who cares to look beyond the big hair, dumb lyrics and “evil disco” shtick—or will admit that we’ll probably find Trivium or Killswitch as mockworthy in five or so years (or even now)—Static-X have always been a pretty decent band, whether grinding out straight-up Prong/White Zombie/Ministry industrial metal, or indulging in Korn/Deadsy-style balladry à la “Cold” or “Just in Case.”
Reports on Cannibal promised a heavier outlook, and in some respects Static-X have noticeably moved with the times. This fifth (!) album not only sounds decidedly thrashier, but is definitely also the least pop-metal they’ve ever been: “No Submission” could almost be a mechanized Deicide. Most notable in their (understandable) desire to appeal to the “we grew up on milk and Maiden” crowd is the fact that Cannibal is plastered with (widdlesomely impressive, actually) solos, courtesy of returning member Koichi Fukuda, who on “Cuts You Up” even sounds like Bill Steer! Those who aren’t ashamed to ’fess up as fans will find moments to enjoy here—the lead-laden Celldweller techno rave part in “Behemoth,” the classic Static-X groove of “Destroyer” that could be right off 2001’s Machine—but there’s also much energy-lacking, uninspired Static-by-rote filler, and on the whole Cannibal tends to smack somewhat of that typical syndrome of bands going for “heavy” over “creative, interesting or different,” as if the two options were mutually exclusive.
Albert Says: 6. This is amazingly prophetic: “Fact is, for anyone who cares to look beyond the big hair, dumb lyrics and “evil disco” shtick—or will admit that we’ll probably find Trivium or Killswitch as mockworthy in five or so years (or even now).”
[Pay close attention to this last review for two reasons: a) the second paragraph might be the best writing in the history of writing; b) the final sentence paired with Mr. Mudrian’s guess give me the giggles, and I see no reason you shouldn’t share in the mirth.]
Pendulum - Immersion Score: 1 Author: Shane Mehling Published: #77, March 2011 This review was initially written in the span of the first six-and-a-half-minute song. It was like a fugue state that ended with a compendium of insult after insult that picked apart the generic, almost abusive electronica-rock rubbish that was expelling from my speakers. And this was before I heard the vocals.
What can I say about Pendulum’s Immersion that hasn’t been said about shitting your pants in a restaurant? This is the kind of music that you hear in foreign movies and think, “The radio sucks, but at least I’m not in that dance club right now.” I would love to be more erudite, but the bottom line is this is music for stupid babies.
I mean, would I rather listen to modern R&B? Like actually choose to listen to the new record by Maxwell instead? Actually, I think I would. Hell, I’d rather hear a mob of women laugh at my failure to maintain an erection than plow through “Watercolour” again.
The reason I’m not giving Pendulum a zero is because maybe, like certain forms of extreme music, there is a level of skill and taste that I’m just not accustomed to and can’t appreciate. Possibly if someone more versed in the genre pinpointed the highlights and explained why these are revolutionary or awe-inspiring, I’d realize that I just wasn’t giving Immersion a fair shake. But the reason I’m giving it a one is because if I’m wrong, I don’t want to be right.