Tuesday, 11 March 2014
Album Review; Butcher Babies - Goliath
1. I Smell A Massacre
2. Magnolia Blvd.
3. C8h18 (Gasoline)
4. Grim Sleeper
6. In Denial
7. Give Me Reason
8. The Mirror Never Lies
9. Dead Poet
10. The Deathsurround
11. Axe Wound
I've always made it clear to people that whenever I am faced with a new album, I do my best to be open minded and honest about it. I don't like to base my opinions in regards to any Metal album or band on appearance, genre, or anybody else's opinion. Hell, my favourite band ever is Motorhead, yet if they released a bad album, I'd be the first one to admit it. On the flip side, I was massively surprised at how great last year's BMTH album 'Sempiternal' was. I still listen to it, a proper quality album. However, there will always be a few bands round the corner that, while considered controversial, I cannot in good conscience, ignore. (There's a few more coming up, I assure you)
Butcher Babies are one of these bands. Their early exposure was mainly due to some idea of shock value meets sex appeal. The band has two frontwomen; Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey, who spent the early days of the band performing onstage in barely any clothes, with nipple tape and smearings of fake blood. They say the look was inspired by Wendy O Williams of the Plasmatics, but it's tricky to take their claims seriously. The vehement reaction of a lot of Metalheads is understandable by that factor alone! Reality is, unless this turns out to be the first Metal band you've listened to; there's no shock in this at all, so a lot of people just saw it as a means to grab attention. To be fair, whether it was positive or negative attention they received, they got it. The album 'Goliath' came out last year, but it is only now that I decided "Screw it, I'll give it a shot!"
Basically, what I've heard on this album is a very strange beast. There's elements of Modern Metal bands like The Defiled and other, more melodic Metalcore bands. There's a lot of Pantera influence in the groove. It's far from terrible, but at the end of the day, it's something that a lot of people won't really know what to do with.
The problem comes in the vocals. Heidi Shepherd's screams are alright. She's no Angela Gossow, obviously, but for what Butcher Babies are doing, it fits without being exceptional. It's very limited in range; nine times out of ten, it's high or nothing. The real weakness lies in the clean vocals, which more often than not sound too mall-of-America. That is, there's a palpable feel of L.A. pretence. It's sugar sweet over the top of what is sometimes rather good, if familiar music. Opening tracks 'I Smell A Massacre' and 'Magnolia Blvd' suffer from this problem. Though they are, in themselves, decent songs. 'C8H18 (Gasoline)' uses a clean sang melody that suits the vocal style a bit better, and is the better song for it. Musically, it could be a song by The Defiled. There are places where the vocals seem more vulnerable in mood, or tense, that show a third dimension to the sound.
Catchiness is one thing this album has by the truckload. The riffs, while often unremarkable, are catchy. The choruses and vocal lines are also really catchy. 'Grim Sleeper' also bears that stamp that reminds me of The Defiled. Lyrically, it's a bit too wet for me, "Calling out no one knows I'm here, I'm nameless and faceless as fear" makes it a bit of a tired attempt at reaching out to emo kids.
The title track 'Goliath' starts out with a solid riff that is just underused more than anything. There's a great pace to this song too. Lyrically, it's more venomous than I'd expected this band to come out with. It actually lives up to it's namesake. 'In Denial' sees the sugar sweet vocals return again, annoyingly. It also starts out with a guitar lead that could've jumped right off of Bullet For My Valentine's 'Fever' album. There's a pretty boring breakdown followed by another BFMV-esque guitar solo. There's another venture into heartbroken, traumatised territory with a short vocal line that sounds on the verge of tears. It'll convince some while it pisses others off.
'Give Me Reason' is a definite low point. There's nothing striking about it, and again those clean vocals are too prominent. 'The Mirror Never Lies' is a better, more sinister song (Well, sinister for this kind of Metal). There's a bit of a swagger in the way the verses are delivered and the groove is about as slick as it gets. Alongside 'Dead Poet', these two songs show an almost Disturbed tinge to the band's repertoire. There's also a decent lower-register scream vocal shown.
'The Deathsurround' brings in another Defiled-type riff, and another groove to fit. There's a real stomp to it though, which makes it a stand-out track. In the light of what this band has done so far, it only seems obvious that they close the album with a track called 'Axe Wound'. To be frank, it doesn't end on a high note. It would've been wiser to have more of a party Metal vibe closing the record.
The sound of this band is mainstream. There's no getting past that. This is not, nor was it ever going to be an album aimed at Black or Death Metal fans. This is safe Metalcore meets Groove Metal, but as that goes, it's not actually that bad, musically. I can see the appeal to many, because in terms of sound it is a step away from the predictability of BFMV and Avenged Sevenfold. That's what this band is aimed at; people who want their fix of passably heavy music to have fun to. I have been surprised by this album, but I wouldn't call it brilliant. There are things that it is better than, including the last Nickelback album, Of Mice & Men's 'Restoring Force' and BFMV's 'Temper Temper'. The real test will be seeing if this band is a flash in the pan (No pun intended!) or if it has staying power. I'll remain a skeptic on that issue for the foreseeable future. And just to be clear, this band is a Metal band, in sound. Though it may be debatable if they are Metal in spirit or execution.