Thursday, August 01, 2013

Rockers from half a world away deliver a vintage Motor City sound

They may call Warsaw, Poland, home, but Elvis Deluxe sounds like they've come right out of late 1960s or early 1970s Detroit. They began their musical journey a decade ago as hardcore and punk fans who formed a band to explore the genres' garage rock roots. Elvis Deluxe has now released its third full-length studio album, The Story So Far. The Story So Far features several brand new tracks and re-tooled versions of songs from their previous albums Lazy (2007) and Favourite State of Mind (2011).

The Story So Far opens with "Yourgodfreed". Its two-minute intro is ethereal and space age-y, sounding like someone is screwing around with knobs and buttons on the U.S.S. Enterprise over the music. The bass line and drums are laid back, and the guitar riffs take on a more bluesy sound as the song progresses. When the vocals first hit, they start out as haunting and deep--reminiscent of Lou Reed--especially during the opening line, "You pray to Mother Mary / You pray to Jesus Christ". Singer Ziemba then goes into his slightly higher range, where he stays for the rest of the song and most of the album. "Yourgodfreed", which tells of religious hypocrisy, really has a '60s rock meets '90s alternative feel. It's a very good, song but it does clock at almost eight minutes. I would have probably chosen a less dragging, more energetic song to give the album's first impression.

"No Reason", The Story So Far's single, follows. The intro is heavy on the drumming, thanks to Miko. "No Reason" is a lively, hard-hitting rock song--much more so than "Yourgodfreed". The vocals are cool, sexy, and smoky. (Note to self:  Polish accents can be HOT in rock songs!) I was really drawn to "No Reason," because it really reminds me of one of my favourite bands, The Lovehammers, and their lead singer Marty Casey. "No Reason" has such a catchy hook, and the repetition in the chorus makes it so memorable.

"Out of Life" is the heaviest song from The Story So Far, bordering on metal. The intro riffs feel like they are just absolutely barreling down on you! The guitars still have that "fuzzy" garage rock sound like most of the other songs on the album, but the rapid rhythm is so metal. The vocals are even grittier on this one, and Ziemba really sings with soulful conviction here. The song slows its pace at bridge, giving it an almost grunge feel. "Out of Life" has many diverse components, just as the songs on The Story So Far are diverse. Many are short, sweet, and punkish, while others are much longer--like something from a stoner metal jam band.

While my favourite original song from Elvis Deluxe's The Story So Far is "No Reason", I just can't get enough of their cover of Iggy & The Stooges' "Search and Destroy", which is the final track on the album. I've always been a huge fan of this song, and The Stooges are one of my favourite bands. When I first saw the song title, I thought to myself, "Could it be?" Oh, and it was! Elvis Deluxe accurately captured the spirit and energy of the original. It's a bit more polished, but the guitar work of Bert Trust and Bolek really shines through here. 'Search and Destroy" shows Elvis Deluxe's garage rock roots and proto-punk influences, and it also shows exactly what they are capable of.

As a band, Elvis Deluxe has a lot of energy, they are super talented, and they're absolutely one I'd like to see live. Overall, the songs from The Story So Far are good, but I wish more of them stuck out like the obviously radio-ready single "No Reason" or their "Search and Destroy" cover. It took me a few more listens to really get into any of the other songs. I instantly took to their raw vintage sound, so that definitely made up for it. I would highly suggest Elvis Deluxe's The Story So Far to any metal fans who are looking for something kind of different, but still wanting that heavy, gritty rock with loads of attitude.

6 1/2 out of 10 stars

Metal Mind Productions
Elvis Deluxe on Facebook

"Rat Vendor" successfully sells the Zombie sound and vintage vibes

Just days after his film, Lords of Salem, hit theatres, horror-rock icon Rob Zombie has released his follow-up to 2010's Hellbilly Deluxe 2. While Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor isn't a companion to the film, Zombie's latest offering is as thrilling and macabre as ever.

Guitar mastermind John 5 remains in the band line-up, along with bassist Piggy D. John 5's former Marilyn Manson bandmate Ginger Fish makes his first album appearance with Rob Zombie, replacing drummer Joey Jordison.

The album opens with the wildly titled "Teenage Nosferatu Pussy" which begins with young woman talking, sounding like a clip from an old movie. She says "It's here! Can't you feel it?" followed by more talk about feeling free and seeing all the molecules and the colours in the air. It's an absolute trip right away. The music starts, and it has a hard-hitting industrial feel with especially heavy drumming. A Deep Purple-esque organ soon joins in. It's only in the forefront briefly, but it remains rather subtle for the rest of the song.  Rob's vocals really have an Alice Cooper tone and attitude here. It becomes increasingly apparent when you notice the rhythm in how he sings, "I am so hazardous / My name is Lazarus," and the chorus, "Teenage Nosferatu Pussy / Turn it on! / Turn it on!" When describing the new Zombie record to my best friend and fellow rocker, my exact words were, "It is SO Alice. Alice Cooper with more sex and violence, of course!"

The next track, "Dead City Radio & The Gods of Supertown", is Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor's lead single. It begins in a manner similar to "Teenage Nosferatu Pussy", featuring an old film clip (or possibly a radio recording) of a man repeating, "Radio has changed our lives and probably saved our lives", as the massive riffs hit. It's a very heavy, modern song--but it has undeniable '60s and '70s influences. Rob's vocals on this track still have the Alice Cooper sound, and the chorus is filled to the brim with the electric organ. I also really dig that big, bright guitar lick that's just before the chorus.

Because of the "shock rock" image, Rob Zombie will always draw comparisons to Alice Cooper. However, that isn't the only reason why Alice's name keeps getting thrown around. As it turns out, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor was produced by Bob Marlette--the guy who produced Alice Cooper's foray into the darker industrial side of metal, Brutal Planet, back in 2000.

While the industrial Alice Cooper-y hard rock sound is at the forefront of Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, there are some significant departures from that. "Theme from the Rat Vendor" is a short but noteworthy instrumental with psychedelic and Eastern/Indian characteristics. The strangely danceable "Rock and Roll (In a Black Hole)" begins with a dark electronic beat but takes on a moshing metal style for the chorus. With it's fascinating lyrics mentioning Captain Kirk and black holes, I'm all over this one.

"Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga" deserves some kind of award for its crazy title. Hell, I deserve some kind of an award for spelling it out! I like to pretend it originally meant something, like how "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" was supposed to be "In the Garden of Eden".  The lyrics are just as interesting as the title. No matter how many times I listen to this song, I never cease to be amused by the line, "Strapped behind the wheel of a flat-bed truck / A payload of pussy and Peking Duck", which starts off the chorus. Musically, it features elements common to many of Zombie's other songs, but "Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga" is certainly one of a kind. It's awesome regardless, but the more you listen to it, the cooler it gets.

Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor also features a live cover of Grand Funk Railroad's classic, "We're An American Band". I've been fortunate enough to see Rob Zombie live, and this recording spectacularly captures the band's energy and sound. Rob's vocals are gritty, soulful, and full of power, and John 5's guitar work is electrifying. The band really does this song justice, and they don't do anything too wild with it. It's basically a heavier version of the original, but it too good to go unnoticed.

The album ends with "Trade in Your Guns for a Coffin". The intro guitar riffs are low and fuzzy, and with a giant screech they get louder. It actually sounds as if the music gets closer. "Trade in Your Guns for a Coffin" contains clever lyrics about the misplaced priorities of today's youth--laziness, apathy, and self-serving attitudes. One line about the constant pursuit to get high--"Baby's shootin' vodka in her eyes again", particularly stands out. The chorus of "It's why we suck and why we fuck / Alright! Alright! / Trade in your guns for a coffin / Alright! Alright!" is lively and catchy. This is a very energetic and hard rocking song with some thought-provoking commentary on society.

Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor is a fantastic metal record with industrial, psychedelic, and classic rock overtones. It has all the things you would expect from a Rob Zombie album--overt sexuality, horror, and the use of sound clips from cult films and pornos. Nobody else sounds quite like Rob Zombie. So, unless he completely changes his musical direction--which in itself would be horrifying--his records will be familiar. While there will always be this familiarity, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor does sound new, creative, and modern. It leaves a solid lasting impression, and with the right exposure, it could become as memorable as his more venerated earlier works.

8 1/2 out of 10 stars

Zodiac Swan Records/T-Boy Records/Universal Music Enterprises
Official Rob Zombie Website