There are many impressive things about this debut, and at least two pretty big problems but, on the whole, it’s the auspicious debut of a fully formed band.
So, as I said, this band’s sound is already sorted out: a mixture of punk attitude, goth rock, doom metal and progressive metal, among other things. I’ve heard a later album from this band but otherwise I might have said I’ve never heard anything like it. It’s fairly rare that bands know what they want to be on their debut and they’re this ambitious. And they mostly pull it off.
The ambition is obvious and perhaps a little beyond what they could have actually accomplished entirely successfully. But I’m glad they tried. Not every track works all the time, but they work more than they don’t. They’re pulling from lots of places, and that makes even the less effective sections more appealing than if they were just some fusion of progressive metal and crossover thrash or whatever.
Steele’s extremely distinct voice (and I bet his stature) make him a compelling and distinct performer and at least he has two modes, the punk-like vocals and that gloriously deep voice he occasionally uses.
Everything good so far, right?
So, there are the lyrics. Clearly some of them are made in jest. (Just look at those sound titles.) But like everyone who sings about stuff like this with, um, “humour” you’re never entirely sure whether or not they’re serious. When I was younger, I was much more willing to believe they were entirely joking. But enough stories of musicians doing terrible things (or getting into stupid shit) makes me less willing to just accept the “It’s a joke!” excuse. All accounts (um, by other white, male metal musicians) are that Steele was a really nice guy. So let’s hope so and assume this is mostly a joke. It still can be hard to take some times. As David Lynch once said about his work (I’m paraphrasing), “It’s not me you have to be worried about, as it call comes out in the work; it’s the people making Disney cartoons.”
And then there’s the production: it sucks. (This is also a problem later in their career, somehow.) The bass or guitar (sometimes both!) is treated with some stupid effect a lot of the time, that makes it sound soooo early ’90s (or even late ’80s). And it just sounds awful. (But his voice doesn’t and the drums don’t and the keyboards don’t always, so go figure.) Like who are you, Husker Du? Get a producer.
Anyway, musically it’s still pretty damn impressive, a pretty unique fusion of a bunch of disparate stuff that nobody else was quite mixing up in this way.