Hells Headbangers is one of those labels that cranks out the hits faster than I can write about them. And while I’m usually opposed to these types of roundup style reviews, my recent Oodles of Brutals series (HERE and HERE) has taught me that it can actually be pretty fun to write them and other people seem to dig it, which is always a nice perk. Not only that, but let’s be honest, not every metal album, no matter how great it is, warrants a full-on 400 to 700 word review. So without further ado, I present my thoughts on a ton of recent releases from the goddamn mighty HHR. If you’re not familiar with this ridiculously awesome and quality consistent label, consider this a way to get your feet wet. If you’re a longtime fan, you’ve probably snapped all of these up already, so just consider this “bonus material.” Onward and downward…
Hopefully those of you that read THKD on the regular realize that I don’t just listen to death, doom and black metal 24/7. I love all kinds of music, and sometimes I need something big, loud, bright and catchy, with pristine production and intelligible vocals. So it was a pleasant surprise when I discovered Volbeat a few weeks back, opening the Megadeth/Rob Zombie tour that recently wrapped up its trek across the US. I knew little about the Danish band prior to the show, save the one song being played on the radio (“A Warrior’s Call”) that my wife had brought to my attention, and the fact that none other than Mercyful Fate’s Hank Shermann is their touring lead guitarist. “A Warrior’s Call” is about as far removed from Mercyful Fate as it gets, but it is also a catchy, grooving and fun slab of metallic hard rock; sometimes that’s all it takes to pique my interest.
I don’t know what the hell to make of Raunchy. Granted, I’m a little late to the party. This Danish sextet has been putting out albums since 2001. However, I never had an excuse to really listen to them until Lifeforce Records sent me an actual goddamn physical copy of their latest album, A Discord Electric (all the way from dear old Deutchland!).
I like well-crafted pop music. But, I’m not so sure how I feel about pop metal. It feels like the musical equivalent of “crossing the streams”. Granted, pop music and heavy metal have crossed paths in the past, resulting in such unfortunate incidents as Nelson, Winger and Bret Michaels’ entire career. But the thought of pop being crossbred with more extreme forms of metal is even more difficult to comprehend than the popularity of “Unskinny Bop”.
Raunchy is most certainly a pop band. They just happen to you use some of extreme metal’s key elements (distorted, down-tuned guitars, double bass drumming, etc.) to get their point across. On one hand, they’ve got vocal melodies, harmonies and hooks that Justin Timberlake would kill for. On the other, the album’s got one of those ultra-dense, compressed and glossy production schemes that screams modern metal. It isn’t nu metal… it’s something like the aforementioned Mr. Timberlake tearing the club up with Natural Born Chaos-era Soilwork. There are synths and electronic elements that could’ve come from Timbaland or Kanye, causing a vague urge to shake your ass (but, watch yourself!). The beats themselves aren’t particularly danceable (which is unfortunate), but this still just might be the album to put on for your new girlfriend that doesn’t like metal in an effort to spark a night of bad romance. That said, my wife would probably hate Raunchy. She likes Death, Megadeth and Impaled to name a few. Then again, she did download that Katy Perry single from iTunes… dammit, that shit is catchy.
Listening to A Discord Electric begs a question: How has Raunchy not managed to sell out? This is the type of band those slimy trend-hoppers over at Roadrunner could have a field day with. If the major labels had any sense at all, one of them would’ve snapped up Raunchy, made them ditch the faux-harsh vox and double bass, cut their songs down to 3:30 or less, thrown in a collab with Lady Gaga and had a fucking hit on their hands. Then again, I’m not sure that any modern record executives could point out Denmark on a map, let alone sign a band from there.
I’m not saying that Raunchy has won me over by any means or that even I like their music. A Discord Electric is too long, the songs themselves are too long. They need to flat-out ditch some of the remaining extreme vestiges and go with their strengths. Less metal, more melody, more catchiness, more rump shaking. I do applaud their honesty though. A lot of the so-called modern metal bands out there try to hide their pop sensibilities. Raunchy wear them on their fucking sleeves. They are a metal band that really, truly wants to be a pop band. It only takes a few spins of A Discord Electric to figure out what side their bread is buttered on.
Some of you are probably wondering why I’m posting about this album. I wrote this and spent time with the album because I think it opens up a bigger discussion. Can metal and pop music peacefully co-exist? If they can, does it mean they should? Should this stuff even be remotely considered metal? Other underground types of music such as gangsta rap and hip hop have been fully absorbed by the mainstream, so why not extreme metal? What does the existence of a band like Raunchy say about the state of metal? What do the self appointed “guardians of the underground” (I know you’re out there) think of this stuff? Am I just over-thinking this? I don’t have any answers, but I’m curious to hear your opinions.