Oh Lordi, Lordi, Lordi... let's face it, few bands on earth are more polarizing than than Finland's musical monster squad: their fans are loyal from here to the grave (and maybe beyond), their detractors dismiss them as an overly theatrical arena retro-rock act or the lyrically “safe” version of their notorious US counterparts GWAR, and the rest of the world just scratch their heads in confusion. But let's face it – this is a band who put a helluva lot of time and energy into building an elaborate horror-centric world where monsters rock and rule... and even a slightly off-kilter fusion of Alice Cooper-style macabre theatrics and the pyrotechnics and fist-pumping cock rock of bands like KISS and W.A.S.P. is probably going to be a pretty good time, especially if you have a soft spot (or a hard one, for that matter) for those classic inspirations.
Band founder & frontman Mr. Lordi and his team have put the usual energetic push behind their fifth studio release Babez For Breakfast, and I finally got to spend a little quality time with this goofy little bundle of retro-joy. Flip the page for the complete review!
The cover art shown here (painted by Mr. Lordi himself), combined with the album title, is pretty much a litmus test for any possible takers: if you can't get past the seriously skeevy hand-painted image of an infant Mr. Lordi enjoying a bloody boobie-snack, then you're probably better off stopping right now, because subtlety is not exactly Lordi's strong suit. But loopy, over-the-top extravagance IS their thing, and has elevated them to the status of pop-culture icons in their native Finland – along with marketing campaigns rivaling the most clever devised since the members of KISS donated their own blood to the ink used in their comic books.
Now this isn't the kind of music that commands thoughtful track-by-track analysis... hell no, in fact. This is the kind of music that makes you jump around like an idiot. Not that this is a bad thing – I think very few bands manage to generate that hard rock party vibe these days, even if they specifically aim for it. Lordi tries very hard to achieve this, and usually they succeed. Taking in a Lordi release is kinda like eating popcorn during a monster movie: you scarf it down quickly without thinking much about it, watching those nasty beasties tear up the screen, and when the lights come up you move on text your pals, do your laundry or whatever... but you wouldn't mind going another round when you get the chance.
Babez For Breakfast is actually a slight step up in overall entertainment value from the band's 2008 studio release Deadache – which was fun and atmospheric, and sold well, but lacked some of the strength and variety of the band's previous release The Arockalypse, or their 2002 debut Get Heavy (the record which Babez most resembles at heart). If there's something that Lordi knows well, it's how to stir a bubbling stew of different musical styles – from bombastic arena rock to thunderous hair-metal – with plenty of horror atmospherics and tongue-in-cheek sound effects for seasoning. One of the cooks involved with Babez is producer Michael Wagener, who is an ideal pick for the album's solid core of '80s rock and metal thanks to his work on Alice Cooper's Constrictor, W.A.S.P.'s Inside the Electric Circus, Motley Crüe's Too Fast for Love and Skid Row's self-titled debut. That same hook-filled songwriting, production and sense of malicious fun permeates many of these tracks, and should give you some idea of where they're going with this project. Mr. Lordi gave the nod to that '80s influence directly when describing the new material, which he considers “more melodic and a lot less sinister” than its predecessor.
Sinister or not, the record makes its intentions clear by front-loading with the most energetic tunes of the bunch – including the first single This Is Heavy Metal, which the band released last month, followed by a slick new video that we showed you here on FEARnet... by the way, let's have another look at that one, shall we?
While this track is the album's catchiest and most memorable, recalling the band's early hit Hard Rock Hallelujah with its cool trashy riffs, '80s-style synth breaks and a suitably in-your-face attitude (“This is heavy metal... no matter what you say!”), it sits quite well alongside the album's equally strong title track – which should earn some kind of points for the sheer audacity of its lyrics alone. Rock Police is lighter in tone musically, considering its violent theme, but has a fun chorus that's packed to bursting with vocal harmonies that are both cheesy and cheerful. Discoevil captures that same party atmosphere, and integrates both halves of its title with equal enthusiasm, while the heavy and gritty Zombie Rawk Machine is a continuation of the visual theme of “living dead dancing out in the street” that we literally saw in the clip above. The speedy raunch-rock vibe of Nonstop Nite or Loud and Loaded is about as hair-metal as it gets, and if that's a plus in your book, then you've got two solid winners there.
The band's eternal loyalty to KISS takes a more direct route with the epic power ballad Call Off the Wedding, which was co-written by former KISS lead guitarist Bruce Kulick and features the band's first-ever orchestral backing tracks, resulting in one of their better recent efforts. More metal legends are given a tip of the axe in I Am Bigger Than You, wherein Mr. Lordi effectively channels Motörhead's gravel-throated Lemmy Kilmister while the rough-and-ready instrumental approach feels like vintage Crüe. The same reverence infuses Midnite Lover, which nicely summons the '80s-era Alice Cooper flavor of classics like Poison, and Granny's Gone Crazy serves up King Diamond style horror-movie mayhem with its bloody tale of pensioners rising up against their oppressors. In an interesting variation on these various homages, Give Your Life for Rock and Roll offers a surprisingly sentimental direct tribute to rock's fallen heroes, cleverly citing the legacies of Dimebag Darrell, Wendy O. Williams and Randy Rhoads.
The record's rocky core is further fleshed out with some brief eerie instrumental moments, including the sweeping, gothic album-opener It's A Boy! and the short acoustic guitar interlude Amen's Lament to Ra; the suitably epic closer Devil's Lullaby weaves gothic organ breaks and music-box touches into an ironic tune of evil forces watching over unwitting folks as they sleep. But despite these bits of atmospheric flair, there's less cinematic sweep to the album overall; Babez is essentially a collection of raucous Halloween party pieces that don't necessarily need a unifying theme to tie them together.
If anything, the glue that holds the tracks together is really just a thick wad of good old '80s nostalgia, leading me to recall Mr. Lordi's description of the artwork he created for the first single: “I wanted to paint a picture which at the same time crystallizes something of the essence of '80s metal and also pays a visual tribute to many of our own idols of that era,” he said. “I created a Frankenstein monster made out of bits and pieces of members of Twisted Sister, KISS, W.A.S.P. and Alice Cooper.” Oddly enough, in musical terms that's pretty much the summary for Babez For Breakfast itself – a lumbering, kinda crude but tough patchwork creation that gets its electrical jolt of life from those very influences, along with the same sense of fun that attracts you to a really cheesy horror flick that you find yourself popping in the DVD player once or twice a year.