Review Summary: Dreamin' In A Casket is the impressive alter-ego to 2005's Hardcore Superstar
Now almost a decade old, Swedish gutter rockers Hardcore Superstar are only recently beginning to justify the immense reputation they’ve cultivated as Gothenburg’s premier pop metal act- the wave of acclaim which greeted 2005’s Hardcore Superstar
was as much an expression of relief as it was excitement on the part of the heavy metal community. Starting life as a grimy punk rock unit, Hardcore Superstar had drifted with increasing speed towards MOR radio rock hell- and no matter what anybody says, nobody really
likes the Foo Fighters- since the release of their debut album proper Bad Sneakers and a Piña Colada
in 2000. Three albums in, in 2004, they took a six-month break to decide whether it was worth continuing at all. The soul-searching obviously worked. The name Hardcore Superstar
summed up the resulting album perfectly: a raw, decadent mix of Stones-descended sleaze rock and thrash metal, it was the sound the band were always supposed to have, but had never quite realised. Dreamin’ in a Casket
is another leap away from the failings of old, more polished than its predecessor but also heavier and more aggressive.
Dreamin’ in a Casket
kicks off in almost identical style to Hardcore Superstar
, with slowly building electronics, before opening song ‘Need No Company’ crashes in with pulsating, ‘Battery’-like rhythms. What’s most immediately striking is the vast improvement in the band’s instrumental performance. Drummer Adde Andreasson has managed to tear himself away from his double bass pedals and rediscovered the joys of his full kit. His over-reliance on the low-end on Hardcore Superstar
effectively shoved bass guitarist Martin Sandvick off the album and made for a dull and lightweight rhythm section. On Dreamin’ in a Casket
, his playing is far more varied, and Sandvick is much more prominently featured, his rumbling lines permeating ‘Spreadin’ the News’ and ‘This Is For The Mentally Damaged’ to great effect. Frontman Jocke Berg’s high-pitched squeal and Steven Tyler strut are present and correct, but disappointing by their absence are the crushing gang vocals which graced tracks like ‘We Don’t Celebrate Sundays’ and ‘Bag On Your Head.’ Meaty of head though they were, they added some real hardcore muscle to the radio-ready choruses, and are sadly missed here.
Guitarist Thomas Silver’s riffs are as strong as they’ve ever been, and he lays them down more generously than ever before. ‘Sorry for the Shape I’m In,’ ‘Need No Company’ and ‘This is for the Mentally Damaged’ are graced with some of his heaviest riffs to date, but at their core the tracks are made of the same groove-based material as Hardcore Superstar
’s best material. In Silver’s case, it’s his leads that have shown a marked improvement. On Hardcore Superstar
, his solo spots sometimes sounded half-finished- they’d begin well but wind up going nowhere and segueing meekly back in the body of the song- but on Dreamin’ in a Casket
his soloing is top class, particularly the Joe Perry-meets-Nuno Bettencourt harmonised solo which graces destined-to-be second single ‘Sophisticated Ladies.’ A heavy blues rocker in the vein of Aerosmith’s Rocks
via Guns N’ Roses, ‘Sophisticated Ladies’ is Hardcore Superstar at their gloriously-lacking-in-subtlety best, resting on the chorus: “I don’t wanna sleep with sophisticated ladies / I just want to live in filth with some deadbeats.”
Dreamin’ in a Casket
’s main problem is its lack of singles, or rather a dearth of proper pop melodies, the band’s one consistent strength throughout their career. While the crybaby guitar-driven ‘Lesson In Violence’ and pounding rocker ‘This is for the Mentally Damaged’ could rank among the very best tracks in the band’s catalogue, and boast choruses that are catchy without being particularly radio-friendly, it was the party singles that drove Hardcore Superstar
from the base: ferociously catchy tracks like ‘Wild Boyz’ and ‘My Good Reputation.’ Adding in couple of really mediocre tracks- ‘Sensitive to the Light,’ ‘Sorry For The Shape I’m In’ and ‘No Resistance’- it’s a lack of top-drawer quality which really prevents Dreamin’ in a Casket
from being as good as it should be. This is why the decision to leave summer single ‘Bastards’ off the album is slightly confusing- with the exception of ‘Sophisticated Ladies,’ Dreamin’ in a Casket
is thematically consistent, but in doing so loses the inherent sense of fun which made Hardcore Superstar
such a great record to listen to.