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Friday, January 28, 2022

Review: Lordi – Lordiversity

Label: AFM Records

Date: November 26th, 2021

Remember back in 1987, when the rising stars of German heavy metal, Helloween, thought about a double album called “Keeper of the Seven Keys”? If you do, you will also remember that someone in the record label had the nerve to tell them to split it in two. Somebody said it would be easier to sell it that way and the band, whether they agreed or not, accepted the suggestion. And we all know what kind of masterpieces came out in two consecutive years.

Sometime later, in 1991, global megastars Guns N’ Roses had a similar problem with “Use Your Illusion”. That one was also handled as two separate albums in the end, though published at the same time. But I can imagine nobody at Geffen could even suggest another solution to king of ego W. Axl Rose. Then again, listen to these records and be honest. A pair of masterpieces, yet again.

Another few years had passed until Metallica, at the top of the world at that moment, tried to do the same with “Load”. They were also stopped in their tracks. So, somebody had the guts to tell the biggest band in the world what to do. The quality of these records is subject of endless discussions ever since, but that’s beside the point.

Now, you want to tell me nobody at AFM Records thought releasing seven (yes, 7) new records, by a single band, all in one day, is a terrible idea? Or that they had no courage to tell Mr. Lordi it is a bad idea? I don’t buy it! But what did they think about when they said: “Yeah, let’s do it”? “Guinness’ Book of World Records”?

And not only is it seven records published in one day. It is seven records created within less than two years! Nobody is that creative! Period! Iron Maiden had a good run at the start of the 1980’s but that’s seven records in seven years. Tell me Lordi is capable of creating seven in less than two. No, not even close!

So, this is going to be terrible, without a doubt. And it lasts for almost five hours straight… Tiresome, to say the least, considering how many “fillers” must be on it. But let me start from the initial idea Lordi had.

I’ve missed out on the past decade of Lordi. I think I heard the first album that came out after that Eurovision song contest “incident”. Or was it two before I lost interest? Anyway, I must admit I was a fan back then, but the band slipped through my fingers somehow. Apparently, at the start of 2020 they pushed out a fictional compilation record which spanned a couple of decades of popular music and Lordi’s rendition of them. Rock n’ roll, disco, heavy metal, pop and whatever else they could think of. With horror themes to link it all to the actual band. Though one must admit all of these genres had their place in the real sound of Lordi.

So, after pushing such a record, Mr. Lordi had an idea to publish a back catalogue for this “best of” album, which turned out to be “Lordiversity”. A seven album box that will cost you sixty to a hundred and sixty euros, depending on the format. Quite a hefty price, but is it worth it? No! Not only no, but hell no! Nobody is that big of a collector. I’m almost sorry for AFM Records which is an excellent label, but this one move might just ruin them. I’m thinking about the cost of production for such a monster of a release and probably seven or eight albums that could’ve been pushed out with that money.

By the way, have you thought about the actual Lordi back catalogue re-release? That one must have been a much better idea. Box sets of that nature are fairly sought after these days and could work for the future as well.

But no. We’ve got five hours and seventy eight new tracks. Speaking of which, you have all heard the statements of those monsters of rock (that’s right, I’m looking at you Metallica) about how they have created over thirty new songs for the forthcoming record. Ever wondered how they end up with just about ten of them? Scrapping puts quality over quantity and that’s how you get great records. Of course, there are cases of above mentioned works of rock art that might just serve as exception that prove the rule. And there are so few of them.

Back to Lordi and “Lordiversity”, a brand new material from the Finnish creatures from your nightmares, that sounds something like this:

– “Skelectric Dinosaur” is a classical, only slightly hard rocking record. It actually sounds like Deep Purple, seventies edition, meets AC/DC, any edition, but somehow soulless. I think it is the pristine production work that makes it way too crystal clear and plastic. As far as I understood, Lordi used the actual technology of the era to record the album, but they obviously had a much more skilled producer. Well, more skilled or more nitpicking one. If not, there must have been an up to date tech inclusion in the process. Whatever the case may be, I believe that not even the surface noise of a vinyl can help give this piece of the box set any more feeling.

The first of seven records of “Lordiversity” presents the band stripped of all the theatrics, at least in the sound department. The lyrics still revolve around the wordplays, combining horror and romance themes.

Then again, as expected, it all seems like something scrapped in the process of publishing a new record. Sort of “b sides”. Like I mentioned to my colleagues a couple of days ago. A group of songs Deep Purple recorded on a rehearsal, but decided were not good enough to appear on the actual release. I still have no better description for what I listened to. Simply put, these songs show that they came out of a creative mind, but forced out without much of a second thought. Come to think of it, there are a couple of neat moments here. Like “Day Off of the Devil” or “The Tragedy of Annie Mae”. The truth is that these two are the only ones bearing the actual Lordi signature, though sounding older.

Altogether, “Skelectric Dinosaur” is not bad, but far from great. After all, this is not something you expect out of a Lordi album.

– As for the second part of this release, I needed some help. I went ahead and asked my mother for opinion. She kind of liked it actually. Perhaps she would like it a bit less if she understood a word Mr. Lordi is singing there, but the music appealed to her. No wonder! It is a purebred disco album and she was raised on Abba, Bee Gees and their likes. Me, on the other hand, I have no idea what’s going on there. Maybe I would have a good time dancing it off, if only I knew how to dance. I’ve only ever been a head banger and there’s nothing to bang my head to on “Superflytrap”. Perhaps if you enjoyed “I Was Made for Lovin’ You”, then you might consider this, too.

Seriously, this is not even a rock / metal album revolving around ideas disco music presented back in its heyday. There were a couple of fine attempts at something like that recently. But this is just disco.

I can understand that Lordi is influenced by it. It has ever clearly showed up on each of their records. Still, recording a full blown disco record, straight up for some devilish roller skate ring? Absolutely not for me, but your mom might like it very much. And if she is a regular Eurovision follower, she will already know who you’re talking about. She might frown a bit at the scenery, but the music will turn her head for sure.

– I’m already way deep into this review, with still three and a half hours of music to go through. So, welcome into day two of writing this epos. I’ve taken another look at the first two chapters to this story and I’m sticking with my original opinions. Though I must admit I had a bit more fun with “Superflytrap” today. I guess this disco stuff gets under your skin after a while.

Anyhow, let’s hear what the next album brings. “The Master Beast from the Moon”, as it is titled. As far as I can tell, this is an attempt at a rock opera. I believe there’s a lyrical concept behind this record and with the instrumental extravaganza on display, it all fits together. The master beast from the Moon attacks a crew of astronauts, to simplify it all. I don’t have the lyrics, so I cannot claim for sure, but it sounds like it. I would also like to know where does the “Spear of the Romans” fit into this type of concept.

The record is swarming with orchestrations giving it this monumental feel. On the other hand, Lordi comes into their own here. This is their own, recognizable sound, only adapted to the storyline and the necessities of a rock opera. Somehow I got reminded of Savatage, with all the progressions included. But there are many other aspects, as we’re used to hear from the Finns. You can recognize the hard rock of the first generation, The Who (yes, I know, the originators of rock opera), mentioned before Deep Purple, Rainbow, Queen… But also some pop music comes to the surface on occasion. Like Sir Elton John, for instance.

In short, glitz and glamour, wrapped into a heavy metal coat. With added fright train (pun very much intended) effect, naturally. Maybe they could’ve gone for some space rock, to fulfill the concept. Seeing how they didn’t, it must be noted that this doesn’t sound bad at all. It’s clear this is the exact spot on “Lordiversity” where Lordi comes into their own. This is already deep within their comfort zone, so no wonder “The Master Beast from the Moon” becomes the best one out of the three I’ve covered so far. Even if it fails to impress completely.

Now, if you would excuse me, my mom dug up some of her own LP’s and my record player has been abducted by an Abba hits compilation.

– I woke up this, the third, morning to the sounds of “Lordiversity”, but it was actually my mother who pushed play. And not to the one disco album on here. Turns out she digs the rest of it, too. Weird, but okay. I’ve finally found a musical piece we can agree upon. I’ve waited a while until we got to “Abusement Park”, the fourth out of seven records within this box, but here we are. So let’s go hear what’s up with this one.

Here’s where the punch is hidden. A heavy metal collection of songs to let the head bang. Also, this seems to be the true Lordi album. It’s nice to hear it after all that’s happened before. Everything that made them a metal household item shows up on “Abusement Park”.

Minus the extremely catchy, hit songs to conquer the top lists. Unfortunately, even the ones who carry the potential are somehow miles away from “Devil is a Loser”, “Would You Love a Monsterman?” or “Blood Red Sandman”. Watering down of this monumental release and spreading great ideas all over the place, and way too thin, must have caused this. Never mind the sonic fireworks of “Carousel” or “Pinball Machine”, they are also quite forgettable. Especially in the bigger picture of the entire box set.

Probably the best Lordi has come up with here is the creepy Christmas cheer in “Blah Blah Blah”. It comes just in time for the holidays and it could become a perfect carol for those of rotten blood. Accompanied by the great video, the song rushes at you like a fly to sh… Hm, like ants to a picnic party.

But other than that, “Abusement Park” presents a group of fine moments, scattered all over the place. Hardly something the fans will hold on a pedestal with the classics from fifteen years ago. If only they published just this one disc and packed it up to the brim with all the fragments wasted on the others. Alas, they’ve wasted an opportunity to bulldoze the walls in our bedrooms.

The second part of their compilation “Zombilation” is something like this. Unreleased, and for good reason, songs that somehow got their chance on plastic.

By the way, my mom seems to be liking this more and more. She went full Bilbo Baggins (you know, that one scene) on me for a split second when I tried to stop it, but was okay when I needed to repeat “Abusement Park” for the sake of finishing the review.

– I’ve been feeling under the weather for a while now. It’s a couple of days now, and counting. I barely made it out of bed to continue on my way to close this review. I’m still not sure I will be able to finish it today. Actually, I’m quite certain I will not.

But don’t worry, it’s not the Covid infection. I’ve simply been fatigued, feeling exhausted, gone a bit pale… However, my mom is at the top of her game. She seems to be turning 180 degrees. I caught her browsing through my record collection. At first I thought she was just dusting, but no. For some reason she took Bathory to her liking. Quite a rapid transmission, but who am I to judge.

On the other hand, her hissy fits are getting worse. Up to a point where she called me a poser for putting on “Humanimals”, the fifth piece to “Lordiversity”, a Dr. Frankenstein’s monster of a release. I cannot blame her all that much, as this is as sugary sweet as it gets, while sticking to the rock n’ roll as a musical background. To make matters more interesting, this might have been just up to her taste almost a week ago.

The thing is that “Humanimals” starts, aside of the introduction, with basically a synth pop tune. “Borderline” sounds like it was made for some A-ha record. A real surprise, but luckily we get to a harder bit just after it. Well, not much harder, but for a metal heart still a much more acceptable noise.

The rest of “Humanimals” goes along the glam rock lines. Big hairs, hairy chests and glittering spandex. Van Halen or Bon Jovi, in short. Still synth driven but with more obvious guitars thrown in the mix. Yet again, as with the previous disc, this one misses out on “Jump”, “The Final Countdown” or “Livin’ on a Prayer”, remaining a testament to Lordi’s ability to adapt to a specific genre without too much trouble, but failing to reach its heights. Despite “The Bullet Bites Back” or “Like a Bee to the Honey”, “Humanimals” remains a relatively weak record. To a point where last year’s “best of” that kicked off “Lordiversity” starts to seem like a grand idea, as opposed to this one.

– Thankfully, the next album comes to bite down hard. I say thankfully, since she was getting quite nervous with the previous one. I’m referring to her as a “she” mostly because there’s less and less of my mama dear to be found there. I swear to God, her finger nails grew half an inch in the meantime. Even that one that she was missing for the past forty years is slowly growing back. And that smile… Bone chilling, to say the least.

On a plus side, she seems more vital than ever. Is it the never-ending energy of extreme metal music that gives way to her blushing cheeks and firm stance? At this point, I’m still considering it a plus, but I’m not becoming less worried. Particularly because I’m growing ever more tired, day after day. Something like whatever’s left of my youthful prowess transfers into her. But that’s hard to believe, isn’t it?

Anyway, “Abracadaver” is next in line. And this is where Lordi goes over and above their prior reputation. As far as I can tell, this is something the Finns have not incorporated in their opus. Not even as a slight influence, though I’m sure they personally quite like what’s offered by the bands that inspired such a record.

It’s a record that you would hardly associate with Lordi if you heard it without knowing who performs it. Apart of the lyrics which still revolve around the same themes, almost nothing here suggests Lordi. Maybe when the keyboards kick it up a notch, or a couple of choruses, but that’s it. What’s more, upon listening you might think this is another one of Phil Anselmo’s projects. Mr. Lordi’s voice here strands from harsh and brutal shouting, such as Mr. Anselmo is known for, to high pitched screams of one Mr. Rob Halford. Stopping, frequently, somewhere in the middle at Mr. Lordi’s regular voice, of course.

Furthermore, the music present on “Abracadaver” is also a mixture of the two. Namely, Judas Priest (“Painkiller” and onward, including the “Ripper era” and Halford’s solo efforts) and Pantera (excluding the “Power Metal” monstrosity). It has that crystal clear, diamond cutting sharp heavy metal foundation, coupled with the down-tuned, southern rock feeling the Texans so vigorously introduced into heavy music.

I’ve got to hand it to Lordi, they did manage a decent flow through and the two elements fuse nicely. The album is as heavy as the sun and a definite ear candy for the enthusiasts of both previously mentioned bands. However, it suffers from the same illness as its predecessors in this box. Little to nothing here deserves further mentioning, elongated spinning sessions, not to mention any eventual spot on future set lists. It is simply another show of what Lordi is capable of crafting.

Another genre, another album and another swing and a miss. Even if this is the most heavy metal record out of the Finns kitchen yet, it fails to impress and then some. For the lack of more hurtful words, dull and unnecessary.

The cover art for it also speaks volumes of the lack of creative inspiration. By far the weakest one of the bunch. But that’s of lesser importance, since it is hidden behind somewhat less uninspired cover for the whole package. And that’s also of lesser importance, considering how much this whole release is good for.

– Well, it’s worked wonders on the female that once ejected me from her body. I might be wrong here, but I’m worried sick. On top of being very sick indeed. Is she feeding off me, as once I did off her? Draining my energy somehow? I cannot find any discernible marks that would point to sucking me dry of blood, but I’m still a shadow of my prior complexion.

She seems a proper goth at this point. Basically, she a full blown metalhead now, black clothes, make-up and all, which would be just fine, preferable at that, if there wasn’t for the behavioral patterns that are seemingly normal, but giving me goosebumps time and again. The mentioned smile, fingernails, eyes with a specific glare… Even the mundane movements seem out of the ordinary. Downright creepy.

I’ve thought of vampirism, of that Countess Bathory insanity and even of the simple puberty black metal obsessions with satanic rituals. I’ve been reading a whole lot about it all my life. But this doesn’t seem like any of it. At the same time, I can barely type anymore, how exhausted I am. Luckily, my new keyboard has soft keys which take no big effort to press. Fortunately, of course, as it seems my life goal at this point to finish up this thing and seek help as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Lordi is finishing this up with “Spooky Sextravaganza Spectacular”. A monument to the industrial metal, no less. A full spectrum of the genre has been covered. Ministry to Sisters Of Mercy to Manson. As opposed to the previous album, this one has a more obvious Lordi stamp on it. One might also add some gothic influence, but it is all grinded into industrialized machinery.

Funnily enough, I’ve thought of every kind of folklore creature my mother dear might be turning into, but failed to think of drekavac. Until Lordi pointed it out, weirdly enough. It’s a ghoulish creature in old Slavic belief system, said to be a child which died before being baptized. Her pitched hiss at the question of being baptized made me feel uneasy, to say the least. Furthermore, the creature’s appearance is said to announce the death of one who finds him or herself in its shadow.

Frightened to the bone, thank you for asking. If you don’t read another review soon, be worried. Not that we’re on good terms, but please God help me…  

– Woke up this morning thinking it was all but a dream. I’m feeling fine and my mother her good old self. Surely, it was all a dream. Nobody is that silly to publish seven new albums all at once. And what are the odds of mom liking anything heavy metallic, or even slightly adjacent. Least of all, becoming a metal aficionado.

I’ve heard of sleepwalking, but sleep writing? Is that even a thing?

Then again, Lordi promo kit is downloading. And it seems to be a massive file… What the…