Now let's get one key bit of trivia out of the way first: in case you've been hiding under a rock or something for the past year, “future metal” unit Powerman 5000 is the musical creation of FEARnet's very own on-camera correspondent Spider One (secret identity: Michael Cummings), who also happens to be the brother of another talented fellow by the name of Rob Zombie – you might be familiar with his work also – but just because Spider's batting for the home team, that's not the real reason I was so stoked to get a hold of their sixth studio release, which just hit stores this week. Three years in the making (and after a couple of false starts), Somewhere on the Other Side of Nowhere is fine FEARnet fodder like no other, jam-packed to the brim with Spider's tried-and-true themes of murderous robots, rampaging vampires and diabolical masterminds. What's not to love?
Hit the jump and learn about this eleven-track horror/sci-fi extravaganza of groovetastic robo-metal that, in the lingo of Clockwork Orange anti-hero Alex DeLarge (one of the band's many genre inspirations), "purrs along real horror-show."
Whether you've heard the name or not, if you're a fan of extreme entertainment you've probably had your socks rocked by a Powerman tune at some point: their music has been featured in films like Freddy vs. Jason and games like Twisted Metal and WWE Smackdown (in fact, WWE tag-team The Dudley Boyz have used Powerman songs as their entrance fanfare on more than one occasion). But over the past decade, it's the raw industrial power of the Powerman stage show that burned their hooks, beats and indelible imagery into the brains of the heavy-music faithful. Spider has described the band's sound as akin to "the footsteps of a giant robot," and a more fitting description for the Powerman experience has yet to be found.
Arguably the biggest boost to the band's reputation came with the blockbuster 1999 release Tonight the Stars Revolt! which solidified those solid sci-fi/horror themes, fused them to a cynical world-view and bolted the whole machine onto a foundation of groove-based industrial rock that put PM5K on the modern metal map. Over the years, Spider and his ever-revolving band lineup have tweaked and experimented with that approach like rocket surgeons, while usually retaining the street grit of their rap-metal origins... but Other Side seems to cleave more faithfully to that successful formula than its slightly more punk-flavored predecessors Transform and Destroy What You Enjoy. One could almost consider this project to be a direct sequel to Stars Revolt, and if the old adage "if it ain't broke..." is worth anything, I'd wager this outing is going to make a lot of people very happy indeed.
Spider's claim that the Other Side songwriting sessions were fueled by endless marathons of Ultraman and Godzilla flicks is not hard to believe after the opening cosmic strains of intro track Intelligent Creatures (featuring an awesome bit of dialog from Mario Bava's Planet of the Vampires), after which the grungy hook and air-punchable refrain of Show Me What You've Got announces that Spider and his robot army are ready to 'rock it like a terrorist.' Simple, mean and brutal, it stands well alongside brother Rob's meatiest Hellbilly efforts. Super Villain has been circulating the web for a while, and it's got a lot of the grit of the previous cut, but with a sleazier edge and smokier vocal treatments that make it a lot more memorable; Spider's got old-school, arena-rock pipes and they're firing perfectly here. But while we're speaking of sleazy.... V is for Vampire does the sultry necro-porn-rock thing an extra-hot turn, with hilariously sardonic lyrics (“How does it feel when your heart turns black/And you're looking at yourself/But you ain't looking back?”) and a tightly-gated, burnt guitar riff that will get itself stuck in your gray matter for at least a month – and you won't mind the intrusion at all.
Do Your Thing falters a bit into more straightforward groove-rock, feeling more wry and caustic than the radioactive blast of the preceding material, but the title track which follows manages to ease the lid off the coffin again with doomy string-washes and baritone vocal harmonies, producing a chilling intermission before the sordid violence of the second half kicks in, beginning with the buzzing synth arpeggios and crushing '80s-style riffs & beats of Time Bomb and the epic, echoing tremolo guitars of Get Your Bones. The next cut Make Us Insane continues that '80s vibe with another wild, curlicued riff that spits in the face of the lyric “the people all scream, they say rock is dead.”
Technology Eats Its Young is the second ambient sci-fi instrumental (featuring another creepy soundbite from the Bava classic), which segues into the spooky synth pulse of the aptly-titled Horror Show (note the Clockwork Orange influence I mentioned before) which is a strong call-back to the band's early rap-rock cult classic Mega! Kung Fu Radio, featuring some cool tribal percussion and a wiggy guitar solo. If ever in doubt before, by this closer the album's party-record rep is pretty secure, even as the final track sinks into a nearly subconscious drone, ending with the chilling line Help us! At this point, I knew that most of these cuts were going to find a home in this year's Halloween party playlist. Chances are you'll be ripping a few of these demon babies yourself.
Somewhere on the Other Side of Nowhere is out now, so be sure to check it out pronto... and you'll know in a rush why these dudes carry FEARnet's bloody stamp of approval.