I admit, I fully embraced Steel Panther’s juvenile and pubertal piss-take on 80’s glam-metal – which also included a big passion and love for the genre – from go. Their debut album Feel The Steel (2009) still puts a moronic grin on my face when I hear it. But, Steel Panther weren’t only a joke-band, the guys could – and still can – play like the best of them and they sure know their way around a big hook and a catchy chorus. When I saw the band live the first time it was part rock-concert and part Heavy Metal stand-up comedy. I laughed myself silly and I wasn’t the only one. But I also wondered just how far Steel Panther could take their brand before it got old. Too bad for Steel Panther, it didn’t last all that long. I liked their second album Balls Out (2011) as well and another brain-dead in the name of fun gig at Sweden Rock brought on a good time for me. But after that, I found it hard to go further with the band.
Sure, third album All You Can Eat (2014) did have some damn good songs but the laughter got stuck in the throat this time – the dirty jokes weren’t as funny the third time around and it certainly wasn’t tasty when they heated up their meal for the third time. That’s when I thought that they had taken it as far as they could. When fourth album Lower The Bar (2017) didn’t even could come up with the goods musically, my interest started to fade for real so when Steel Panther now returns for the fifth time, it’s hard to even take it on with any larger interest. That said, I always have an open mind – or at least I’m trying to – when I listen to music for reviewing purposes and sure, I can embrace the Heavy Metal Rules title but one look at the song-titles was enough to see that Steel Panther hasn’t tuned anything down, in fact it looked like the contrary.
The intro “Zebraman” is an interview from the short movie “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” with a not entirely sober dude who gave his opinions on music with comments such as “heavy metal rules, all that punk shit sucks”, “Madonna can go to hell, she’s a dick” etc. Not the best movie to promote hard-rockers out there with and it’s cringy but it’s impossible not to smirk a bit when you watch it. Ah well, it’s perfect as an intro on a Steel Panther record. This leads us into the album’s opening track and first single “All I Wanna Do Is Fuck (Myself Tonight)”. This is total 80’s glossy Hard Rock, big on melodies, hooks and a refrain so catchy it has stuck in your head after two seconds. Musically, it screams Steel Panther all the way and the fact is, I think the tune is great. But the lyrical content is really getting old even though this one is an ode to masturbation which, at least, is a small step outside the tiny panther-box.
In a mid-pace and with a punchy groove, the drug-infested “Let’s Get High Tonight” moves on with a topic done a million times by this band by now. Am I laughing? Nope. I’m not even smiling. Still the hooks catches on right from hello and this pop-laden, late 80’s rocker is right up my alley, musically. Crunchy and with a striking refrain, I think the tune is really good. Next up, power ballad time and the second single. A Steel Panther album must have a power ballad, of course. This one’s called “Always Gonna Be A Ho” – and I’m sorry, but I’m not laughing. Not even a tiny smile. This is so old. Musically, it’s really good, though. The verses are all late 80’s/early 90’s power-balladry, big on keyboards and acoustic guitars in a slower pace. The refrain is massive with a heavier touch, it’s punchier with a lot of hooks – very, very catchy. There’s also a really heavy passage that comes in and changes the dynamics and another more laid-back and soft passage right after the solo. Musically, I have a weak spot for power ballads like this.
Heavy, aggressive riffing opens “I’m Not Your Bitch”. My first thought was “Machine Gun” by Warrant with a thrashy edge and then the song goes off rowdy, rough and ready to rip. It’s a very in-your-face rocker with a clear Metal influence and an effective and striking chorus. It’s a loudmouth of a song that will work great live. Latest single “Fuck Everybody” is very straightforward, raunchy and hard-edged but with a big melody, hooky but not pop-hitty. It’s a total 80’s arena-rocker but here and there some slight progressive moments shows up and a softer and stripped passage comes along before the song lets rip again. It’s a decent tune but it fails to go all the way for me. The gritty and ballsy title-track is a heavy piece of music and darker than we’re used to from this lot. The Metal outlook here is made for some headbanging and the big melodies are here for you all to chant along with. Good one.
The crunchy, groove-laden rocker “Sneaky Little Bitch” holds a tough and driven rhythm and a party-rock vibe. With lots of attitude, edge and an effective and spot-on refrain, the song is one of the album’s finest moments. “Gods Of Pussy” (really? I cringe when I hear this, this is a lower low even by Steel Panther’s standards, lyrically) is somewhat darker and quite heavy but also hook-laden and the the hard-rock-swing is quite irresistible. The lyrics aside, the chorus is one of those that etches itself to the brain after a few seconds, catchy as hell without going “whoa whoa – livin’ on a prayer” on us. Great tune. They round things up for now with an acoustic guitar based ballad called “I Ain’t Buying What You’re Selling”. It’s laid-back, stripped and mellow with only some keyboard-strings in the background accompanying Michael Starr’s vocals and Satchtel’s guitar. It’s actually quite emotional (huh?) and fine-tuned which is a longed-for contrast to the rest of the album. Very good.
It’s safe to say now with their fifth album out, it’s not funny anymore – and it hasn’t been funny for quite some time. What once was funny, somewhat provocative and new has become predictable and ridiculous – same old, same old. Especially when they now have to go out of their way to become more and more gross to get a reaction and with this album it’s more filthy sex, and drugs than ever – and less about how Metal rules. Which is too bad because musically, this album is probably their best since the debut – or at least since Balls Out – another reason for me thinking it’s a shame to milk this until the last drop. The thing is, the guys in Steel Panther are all solid musicians and they know how to write damn good and catchy tunes which would make it so easy for them to put the band to rest and start anew as a serious band. Maybe it’s just me who had enough, maybe people still think this is fun but in my book, you can only pull a thing like this so many times before it gets old.
More Steel Panther reviews:
2. All I Wanna Do Is Fuck (Myself Tonight)
3. Let’s Get High Tonight
4. Always Gonna Be A Ho
5. I’m Not Your Bitch
6. Fuck Everybody
7. Heavy Metal Rules
8. Sneaky Little Bitch
9. Gods Of Pussy
10. I Ain’t Buying What You’re Selling