Review Summary: Nick 13 and Co. create the world’s first post-psychobilly album. Patent pending
Tiger Army never dies!
Okay, now that that's out of the way, let's expand upon this idea. First and foremost, there's the Fred Hell situation. In 2004, former drummer Fred Hell took four shots to the head and, though he did sustain injuries (which go without saying, he had a bullet lodged in his brain
), he's alive and kicking. He has since left the group, leaving himself wide open to the dangers of the world.
The slogan extends beyond physical injuries, and stretches all the way to the band's existence as a whole. Tiger Army does not die, musically, so long as Nick 13 is still alive. Since forming, Tiger Army has gone through two bassists and three drummers. Most of these changes have occurred in the past 3 years. As it stands, Nick 13 is the only original member remaining, but thankfully it seems to have been his vision all along. And, in realizing that Nick is the only consistent member of the group, it's safe to say this is his baby.
The group started off a relatively straight-forward act; you take a dab of punk and an equal dose of rockabilly, drive your hearse to the morgue and stir. That sound was fine, at least for their first two albums, but eventually Nick seemed to grow unsatisfied; whether that sparked a conflict of interest resulting in band members leaving and/or getting shot, well, that's extra research you can easily do on your own time.
When "Ghost Tigers Rise" hit shelves in 2004, fans were treated to a more restrained Tiger Army, with the focus being put more on down-tempo tunes with tinges of country and post-punk. Sure, Nick 13 still sounded a fair bit like Davey Havok (who oddly enough appears on every album but
"Ghost Tigers Rise"), luckily, he left the pleather pants and hair-coifs to AFI.
Upon the announcement that the band had started working on new material, Nick 13 was quoted in Alternative Press magazine as saying he had hopes of making Tiger Army the world's first post-psychobilly band. Obviously, it was a goal he planned to execute with the forthcoming release of what would eventually be known as "Music from Regions Beyond".
The album has arrived, and after many listens one can safely assess that Nick 13 has accomplished his goal with varying degrees of success.
Prelude: Signal Return
starts things off sounding more like a Cure song, which is instantly dispelled upon the cry that started this very review. Signal Return
leads into a fast pace, bass-slapping Psychobillyriffic time. Hotprowl
continues things on a fast-paced track comprising of "whoa-ohs" and "heys". Afterworld
enters with an acoustic intro, leading into what could very easily pass as Incorporeal 2.0
. So, where's the post-psychobilly I so ineloquently spoke of? Conveniently enough, it makes its strongest first impression in the following track.
Forever Fades Away
is much like the intro in that its primary structure seems based around something from the mid-80s rather than something from the mid-50s. Yet, still, beyond the new-touches, it still sounds like Tiger Army. Brief instances of stand-up slapping make an appearance between the otherwise pseudo-dance-y bassline. As I implied, Nick 13 has succeeded where he really shouldn't have. And, based on the partial groove in the bass, he's also got the pleather pants on layaway. Just in case…
The album isn't all experimentation, which you'd hopefully have figured out on your own based on the previous two paragraphs. While the band almost jumps the shark with Hechizo De Amor, a Spanish love song that almost has no place on the album (yet somehow doesn't seem out of place), tracks like Ghosts of Memory
, and Afterworld
(which features the mandatory Davey Havok appearance) are pure psychobilly goodness. Well, Pain
leans more towards Rockabilly, but that's just me nitpicking. There is, as I've hinted, less of a punk influence to be found that on the disc, especially when compared to the "Power of Moonlight". But, the "Power of Moonlight" wasn't their last album, "Ghost Tigers Rise" was, so you should probably have seen this coming. And, with Nick's vocals being smoother, and therein less shout-y than before, the transition has continued. In fact, at times Nick 13 almost sounds like Elvis. Just, you know, with tattoos. Lots of them.
If you ignore the fact that As the Cold Rain Falls
sounds like a darkwave B-Side to Blink 182s I Miss You
, you're still left with an album so lost in its goals that it's hard to know what to think. This is a transition album, even more so than "Ghost Tigers Rise". While each sound on the album succeeds on its own, when put together you're left with a total rift. It doesn't come together as well as it should. And, while it's lovely to hear more of an emphasis on moods and such, I really do miss the energy of their first two albums. It's sad to see them move in this direction, though in the same vein it's nice to see them pull it off so well.
I guess a lot of the problems with this album are the same things I'm happy about. The bass is excellent, as always, but there isn't nearly as much of it as I'd have liked. The post-psychobilly thing works quite well, but the emphasis seems to be more on the post than the psychobilly.
When it's all said and done, there's still very little to complain about on this album. Though the it downplays a lot of the group's plusses, it succeeds in representing the more serious side of Psychobilly, a genre often dominated by ghouls, coffins and guys named Kim. And, in mentioning (at least in passing) Mr. Nekroman, I feel it must be said that this album is entirely necessary. There is a dichotomy in the Psychobilly genre represented by the preceding two acts (Tiger Army and the Nekromantix). While the Nekromantix have released arguably the better psychobilly album of 2007, it's entirely different in sound, mood and execution. Tiger Army represents the more serious and experimental side of the genre, the side hellbent on artistry and Edgar Allen Poe. Tiger Army have, beyond all, shown that there is always room to experiment.
"Music From Regions Beyond" is a title I probably wouldn't have chosen. No, I probably would have opted for something along the lines of "Music From Eras Beyond (the 1950s)".
It really is great to see them doing something new in a genre so rooted in the past, even though their new influences are still roughly twenty years behind. It has its problems, which mostly have to do with the post-psychobilly thing often coming of as extemporaneous. It's obvious they went into this with a goal in mind, and they did achieve it; post-psychobilly is found on this album. The main issue is, you have your post-psychobilly tracks and then your 'traditional' Tiger Army tracks. It's not as seamless as I'd have liked.
I look forward to their next album, barring there's actually a line-up there to record it. Let us hope their slogan reigns true once more.
Tiger Army never dies. They adapt.