CD REVIEWS ISSUE 11 Page 5
By Bob Nalbandian
STABBING THE DRAMA
When it comes to extreme, death, thrash, or whatever kind of metal you want to call it, Soilwork have it down pact! This is how it's supposed to be done, and when it comes to extreme technical-metal, leave it to the Swedes to do it right! True, the vocals get a bit overbearing at times but the intense, brilliant musicianship and unique melodies more than make up for it. Great songs, great production, brutal riffs and superb musicianship...what more can you ask for from a modern-day metal band? Soilwork nails it when it comes to blending progressive and extreme metal. I was surprised of the fact that Stabbing the Drama is the band's seventh studio effort (their first being the 1998 release Steelbath Suicide), and their vast musical experience and expertise certainly shows on this latest release. Studio drummer Dirk Verbeuren really shines, providing some jaw-dropping double-bass while duel guitarists Peter Wicheres and Ola Frenning are riff-master extraordinares! But what gives Soilwork that tasteful flare is the work of keyboardist Sven Karisson who provides the perfect blend of subtle, melodic savory without the overbearing sappiness (as so many keyboardists tend to do in metal). I agree with Rob Halford when he states, "Soilwork is a band to watch for in the new millennium!"
At first glance, the back cover and inner-sleeve photos of the group brought upon feelings of anguish. I thought to myself, "God help us! As if this world needs another teen-pop-wannabe hardcore punk-Good Charlotte-sounding shit-ass band!" As I literally force myself to place the CD into the player thinking of different ways to 'politely' rip this band to shreds (didn't wanna piss of the Chipster too much since Maiden and Priest are coming back into town...) I hear the first chords of the opening track "Down," and I'm pleasantly shocked! This band is indeed what the world needs...a young, talented hard rock band that exudes both power and class. This just goes to show you once again that you can't judge a CD by its cover. Not surprisingly, Mennen hail from Europe, Holland to be exact, and they certainly bring back great memories of such classy early '80s Dutch hard rock groups like Bodine, Picture, Highway Chile, Vengeance, and Vandenberg. After reading the bio I realize this band is comprised of Joss Mennen, the former Zinatra front man. Surprisingly, this group has been together with Joss and guitarist Erik van de Kerkhof since 1994 as a side project, in fact Freakazoid is actually Mennen's fifth studio release, which further explains their classy brand of sophisticated 70's-flavored hard rock. I still find the group photo baffling...they literally look like a bunch of 18-year-old skateboard punks (the Dutch seem to have a way of holding onto their youth.) The songs are well written and once again exude of talent, class and superb vocal harmonies. At times the harmonies get a bit abundant and tend to sound sappy but the tasteful guitar work from Kerkhof more than makes up for it. The production is also first-rate (the CD is self-produced and mixed by Erwin Musper) and Kerhof's guitar tone sounds incredible - rich, thick and raw - giving the band a much heavier and authentic Van Halen-esque sound rather than all those over-produced and over sampled '80s rock bands ala Def Leppard and Bon Jovi. Mennin bring back great rock and roll memories as they do an excellent job of combining the best of LA's '80s hard rock sound ala Lynch Mob and Badlands with the classiness of the European hard rock scene of the '80s [particularly the terribly neglected French and Scandinavian bands of that time such as Warning, Voie De Fait, Ocean, Sortilege, Overdrive, TNT, Glory, Madison, as well as the aforementioned Dutch groups]. Highlight tracks include; "Down," "These Good Times," "Wicked White," and my personal anthem "Bob."
Shockwaves CD REVIEWS ISSUE 11 Page 6