lordi-2016

LORDI – Monstereophonic: Theaterror Vs. Demonarchy

lordi-monsterephonicLet me tell you, I’m such a big sucker for the underdog, for the dedicated musicians and artists that keeps on doing what they love and never give in an inch and refuses to compromise what they do. Lordi started out as far back as 1992 but it would take them 10 years to release their debut album Get Heavy in 2002. For the first few years and albums – the follow up The Monsterican Dream came out in 2004 – Lordi were, to most parts of the world, an underground phenomenon that despite writing catchy hard rock tunes and having a number one single in Finland for “Would You Love A Monsterman” from the debut. The guys went all in on creating a big horror theater with masks and huge costumes that made Kiss, Alice Cooper and W.A.S.P. look like a kids’ masquarade in comparison. Also, the guys showed that they could write some really catchy and hitty songs that bore much resemblance to bands such as Bon Jovi, Europe, late 80’s Kiss, stuff that easily could (should?) have been hits but they weren’t strangers to pure heavy metal either, a good mix that could satisfy both fans of the heavier stuff and the more soft and poppy fans. The thing is, I often wonder if the big costumes and masks were a hinder for the band in the beginning, that maybe they would have had their hits if they were just a regular band. But things would change drastically for the band. Back in 2006, against all odds the band participated in the Finnish version of the Eurovision Song Contest and what was even more surprising, they also the won the whole ESC. The fact is, Lordi actually won that contest bigger than any other act in ESC’s history – the artist on second place didn’t stand a chance. But that was also the band’s downfall. Overnight, the whole world knew who Lordi were and the song in question, “Hard Rock Hallelujah” became a monster (sic!) hit all over the world. But in tow of the contest came the fact that Lordi became a circus, one for small kids – a Lordi gig wasn’t underground anymore and their early fans probably had it with sharing venues with whole families that came just to hear THAT song and had no clue what the band was all about. In just a few years, Lordi had went from an underground heavy metal band to huge to a band that most rockers didn’t wanna know and it has since then been almost shameful to admit that you like the band. Nothing is more untrue for a true rocker than being a Lordi fan. How ridiculous.

But that’s not the band’s fault and you have to give it to them, they have never stopped doing what they love to do and they have never apologized for anything. Today, Lordi is fighting against the hard winds and they have problems getting booked because they’re not a draw anymore. An example, this year they were booked to play Sweden Rock Festival – at noon, as the first band of the day. At 12 o’clock, when the sun was shining and the skies were bluer than blue, they went on stage to try to create a monster show. Not an ideal time for a band like Lordi, but they did it because what else could they do? I really feel sorry for them because I think they deserve more. But what is more worrying is that the quality of their music has also gone down. The albums they released after The Arockalypse (2006) has been less and less interesting and it feels like they have been running on empty and writing a lot of songs on repeat. Deadache (2008) was ok, but Babez For Breakfast (2010) and To Beast Or Not To Beast (2013) were uneven products that just went in one ear and out the other. Their last album Scare Force One (2014) was a small step up but nowhere near the glory days of their first three records. Any hope for the new one then? Well, never underestimate musicians that really loves what they do and are determined to break the cycle, so sure, why not. it’s worth checking out anyway, just to make sure.

The album opens with the intro  “SCG8 One Message Waiting” which is a message on an answering machine by a psychopath giving instructions on what will happen to said person. It’s a scary and disturbing message that would give anyone the creeps if it was real. First real track is called “Let’s Go Slaughter He-Man (I Wanna Be the Beast-Man In The Masters Of The Universe)” – how’s that for a song title, huh, folks? The tune is the kind of pop-metal we’re used to from this band, but this song is way better than anything they have released in a very long time. It’s full of dark hooks and catchy melodies and the black sense of humor is pivotal in a song like this – a winner. With “Hug You Hardcore”, Lordi goes in a more heavy metal way with a say, not very kids-friendly topic. Still it comes with a very catchy and memorable refrain. It’s chosen as the first single / video and it comes in two versions, one censored and one uncensored. A pretty brave move if you’re looking for a hit single. It’s a damn good song, though. “Down With The Devil” is also clearly single material. This is a melodic hard rocker with clear influences from Alice Cooper and King Diamond and a chorus that could have been written by Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and Desmond Child back in the day. And it contains a cowbell! What’s not to love about all that? Brilliant stuff, I tell you. “Mary Is Dead” is a slower paced, ballad-like tune with some very heavy Black Sabbath like riffing. It sure has a blues influence but also in the mix there is some early 90’s melodic rock – a really good song that sticks. The core of “Sick Flick” is clearly heavy metal and it has a riff that comes right out the Accept box, but it also comes with a Alice Cooper vibe and a very pop chorus that nails itself right to the brain. Yes, when Lordi plays their cards right, they’re a damn good band. “None For One” is a straight forward pop-metal song with a catchy and hot refrain, very memorable stuff. And that’s the end of part one.

Yes, the album is divided in two parts where the second part is meant to be some kind of rock opera or a conceptual story about the classic movie monsters as vampires, zombies, lycanthrope and witches. Sounds cheesy? Well, maybe, but it is very much in store of what Lordi is all about, isn’t it? Also, this is the first time they have put together something like this so let’s see how it goes. It opens with another intro called “SCG VIII Opening Scene”, a more traditional intro that sounds like a soundtrack to a horror movie which kind of fits this little horror story. The real opening track “Demonarchy” is fast, aggressive heavy metal with some catchy melodies but the sound just goes on without really leaving a mark. Good, but a little forgettable. “The Unholy Gathering” is great, though. It starts as an Accept influenced heavy ballad, but it soon turns into a real metal track with some cool licks borrowed from Megadeth. The melody is very direct and memorable and the mix of metal and catchiness makes the song stand out. “Heaven Sent Hell On Earth” is a hard metal track but with the 80’s keyboards and the pop melodies always present. And there are some thrash metal influences squeezed in for good measure as well. A bombastic chorus really nails the tune and I must say, I really dig this. “And The Zombie Says” is an in-your-face full-blown metal track with a big punch and a striking melody. Mr Lordi’s high-pitched screams reminds me not so little of one Udo Dirkschneider. It’s an ok song, but it has a problem taking off for real. “Break Of Dawn” has some major Judas Priest influences but also some King Diamond influenced breaks – very atmospheric and theatrical – a great tune. The grande finale is called “The Night The Monsters Died” and is a slower paced metal goes pop tune with a horror cinematic feel. The chorus is brilliant, catchy and sticky without being cheesy. There’s also a more direct and fast heavy metal part that is all Priest meets Accept. An awesome track and a glorious way to end this rather grandiose project.

Some people might call the second leg of the record a bit pretentious and maybe, they’re right but the thing is, Lordi totally gets away with it. As an album, this is easily the best album they have made since the first three records. As a matter of fact, this might just be the best album to date. Not only are the songs very well written and almost every one of them has a refrain that catches on like super glue and just refuses to let go, but there is also a spark and a fighting spirit here that has been lacking for so many albums now. All of this makes me feel a little sorry for Lordi because I have the feeling that no matter how good albums they make, minds of naysayers will never be changed anyway. To many, Lordi will always be a kids act, not to be taken seriously as true musicians which is a shame. Once again, I believe that if they had changed their name, removed the masks and released this album without the horror theme, it could probably have been treated with more respect, but at the same time, I’m glad that they stuck to their guns and that they haven’t changed for anybody. That shows guts and as Alice Cooper once sung – the world needs guts. For the open-minded – this is a record highly recommended.

8/10

Other Lordi reviews:

Scare For One
To Beast Or Not To Beast
Babez For Breakfast

Tracklist:

1. SCG8 One Message Waiting
2. Let’s Go Slaughter He-Man (I Wanna Be the Beast-Man In The Masters Of The Universe)
3. Hug You Hardcore
4. Down With The Devil
5. Mary Is Dead
6. Sick Flick
7. None For One
8. SCG VIII Opening Scene
9. Demonarchy
10. The Unholy Gathering
11. Heaven Sent Hell On Earth
12. And The Zombie Says
13. Break Of Dawn
14. The Night The Monsters Died