Student Life Archives (2001-2008)

Album Reviews

Bernell Dorrough

Probot
Probot
Southern Lord Records
Grade: A
Final Word: A tribute to classic metal that will shake your blood.

Probot, the side project of Foo Fighters front-man and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, has finally arrived. On the self-titled debut album, Dave Grohl moves back behind the drum kit-and plays most of the other instruments as well-crafting driving ’80s style heavy metal. Each of the eleven tracks features a different underground metal singer from the thrash heyday, and the resulting album is both a fitting tribute to the old days of thrash and an album that currently sounds better than most of the metal being made today.

From the opening yells of Venom’s Cronos on “Centuries of Sin” to the closing operatic cries of Mercyful Fate’s King Diamond on the Sabbath-sounding “Sweet Dreams,” the album does not let up. Alternating between the jackhammer thrash of hardcore influenced crossover metal and the sludgy, Sabbath-influenced stoner rock most lately played by Grohl’s compatriots in Queens of the Stone Age, this is a diverse metal offering that could satisfy any fan of extreme, yet melodic music.

The album’s highlight is the just-over-a-minute “Access Babylon,” sung by Mike Dean of hardcore heavyweights Corrosion of Conformity, which features a noisy guitar lead from Bubba Dupree, once a member of the seminal D.C. free jazz-punk outfit Void. Combining all of the elements that make punk and hardcore great with metal’s technical ferocity, the song is an instant piss-off-your-parents classic.

Other notable tracks are the Sepultura-influenced alt-metal anthem “Red War,” the sleazy “Shake Your Blood”-sung by the king of rock and roll sleaze, Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister-and the plodding “The Emerald Law,” with guitar work and lead vocals by metal god and sometime rusty-switchblade carrier Scott “Wino” Weinrich of the Obsessed and St. Vitus.

If nu-metal is getting you down, try some new metal. Dave Grohl’s way.

The Bled
Pass the Flask
Fiddler Records
Grade: B-
Final Word: A hardcore band undone by pretensions and arrogance.

The Bled are a band that have been recently receiving a lot of music press hype. Their second album, “Pass the Flask,” recently gained distribution through the big Virgin music machine, the profitability of emotional post-hardcore music creating a lot of industry buzz for bands that have poetic, despair-filled lyrics and guitar noise that can cut glass. The Bled are a little better than the average hardcore band, mostly because of pretensions that lead either to a really cool musical idea or an overwrought, overdone, half-baked exercise in trying to outsmart the audience.

The Bled-who are much less impressive live than they are on record-are a relentlessly technical machine of a band. Guitar leads intertwine and harmonize, the rhythm section can stop on a dime, and the band executes dynamic shifts very well. The main weakness is the very average, Cookie Monster hardcore vocals of lead singer James Muoz. He sounds like the yelling, screaming guy at the front of any number of bands.

The Bled’s lyrics are also quite pretentious. Some of these pretensions are alleviated somewhat by the silly song titles that accompany them-“Dale Earnhardt’s Seat Belt,” “Ruth Buzzi Better Watch Her Back,” “Get Up You Son Of A Bitch, Cause Mickey Loves Ya.”

The Bled have the potential to be a very good band in the future. They have taken a lot of musical influences-Refused, Converge, and in some places, At the Drive-In-and brought their own ideas in to create a nice noise. But the vocals need work, and the band is a little too arrogant to be endearing. Maybe they haven’t Bled enough.

Oneida
Secret Wars
Jagjaguwar 2004 Records
Grade: A-
Final Word: New York rock that’s dope when on dope

It’s a given that today’s New York music scene typically decries anything remotely “prog” or “psychedelic.” (Can you imagine the Strokes jamming on some Emerson, Lake, and Palmer? Didn’t think so.) But Brooklyn’s Oneida is keeping the freak-out alive with their sixth full-length, “Secret Wars.”

The band has traditionally combined elements of different genres of rock, from the proto-punk of the Stooges to the stoner noodling of Blue Cheer, with a psychedelic sense of noise and repetition. Their last release, “Each One Teach One,” was a messy double album that contained one song, “Sheets of Easter,” that featured the same two chords repeated over and over for fifteen minutes. Luckily, “Secret Wars” is a bit slimmer and more refined. The opener, “Treasure Plane,” has a droning guitar sound that should recall Spacemen 3, and “Caesar’s Column,” while a bit more up-tempo, continues the dope-induced feel. Then comes “Wild Horses” (quite a ballsy choice for a song title considering the Stones’ huge hit), which settles into a more typical rock structure. Reminiscent of one of Neil Young’s slow guitar anthems, the song’s highlights include a ringing chorus riff that seems to rain down from on high and a meaty concluding solo.

The second half of the album reveals Oneida’s penchant for experimentation. The Eastern-flavored “The Last Act, Everytime” is based around a Sitar-sounding guitar line that might have been an outtake from one of George Harrison and Ravi Shankar’s jams. Add to that a “Flight of the Bumblebee”-ish, buzzing solo and you’ve got a great little hippie gem. “The Winter Shaker” is like “Sheets of Easter Lite,” in that the same riff and cymbal crash repeat ad nauseam with mantra-like chanting courtesy of lead singer Papa Crazy. (Did I forget to mention the goofy names? Fat Bobby, Kid Millions and Hanoi Jane round out this eclectic troupe.)

Then there’s “Changes in the City.” Beginning with a rumbling, ominous bass line, this live studio freak-out builds into a 14-minute epic of four-way independent drumming, ebullient organ squeals, and an ever-increasing wall of feedback. Play it before you fall asleep and prepare for a possibly terrifying, definitely interesting somnial experience. It’s the perfect cap to a solid experimental rock album.

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