Dear Thought Industry,
You had to have known that if you made an album that people were going to call “Progressive Metal” and then did everything you could to scare fans of Prog away, that your fan base would remain small. I mean, where are the soaring vocals, sweeping melodies, intricate guitar solos, and faux-emotional lyrics that most fans of Prog love to have in abundance? Instead the vocals sound more like a Punk vocalist when they’re understandable, and more like the guy from Minor Threat
when you’re screaming. Instead of beautiful guitar melodies you’ve given us atonal riffs that start and stop on a dime, and there are no solos at all! Instead of those pseudo-meaningful lyrics that most Prog bands use, you’ve given us stream of conscious lyrics where individual sentences and sometimes whole sections make sense, but when combined with the rest of the song are confusing as hell. Also you’ve chosen to rail against politics, God and Religion, people in general, and condone violence, drug use, and drunkenness.
We can easily just start with your first song on the album for examples. It starts with Brent taking a deep breath before he just starts screaming like his vocal chords are about to shred. When I say screaming I don’t mean like these Metalcore bands do, I mean like that guy from Minor Threat; just raw throat-shredding anger. The riffs on that song are just so weird, like Voivod
or something, and it doesn’t help things when they stop on a dime and go into other random sections that sound nothing like what you were just playing. A good example is that section at the end where you play some weird Funk bass line for like twenty seconds and then switch to speed metal for like ten seconds and then back to the screaming and weird bouncy riffs. Lyrically this song is all over the place too, from killing drunken bus drivers, to being a pretentious rock star, to lonely women with “morals like frozen piss”, it covers a whole spectrum of topics.
If the first track was an isolated occurrence and you returned to more conventional structures and lyrics then the Metal world might have embraced this album, instead we have “Daterape Cookbook”. That’s a great name for a song that talks about puking in church, blowing up the Republican National Convention, beating the crap out of your girlfriend because she’s a “social whore”, and killing a telemarketing Grandma. Musically things aren’t any less challenging; it has more heavy riffs played in strange sounding chord progressions while the drummer plays rhythms that would sound like a drum solo if that’s all I was listening to. You also continue to have jarring changes and sections within the song that would cause some poor metalhead to break a hip if he was trying to mosh to it.
I understand that the next three songs scale things back a little bit, but not enough to appeal to the masses. Yes, “Gelatin” has a nice grooving bass line, guitar riffs that are almost normal, and a catchy chorus but you couldn’t let the listener become too comfortable so you included the freak-out Punk/Metal section where you scream indecipherably until the end when we can clearly hear you screaming “I am over-***ing rated” again and again. “Jane Whitfield is Dead” could even be played on Rock radio despite the jarring change from verse to chorus, due to its catchiness and some well played acoustic guitars mixed with the distorted ones, except you include another high speed Punk part at the end of it.
I love you guys, but there’s a reason this album remained so obscure. You can’t write a minute and forty-five second Punk Rock play about drinking Guinness and Cuervo with Jesus at a bar, where the two of you discuss religion and politics until Jesus has to leave to go pick his wife up at the Laundromat. You can’t name a song “Smirk the Godblender” where you, among other things, call out most major religions specifically by name for the crimes they’re responsible for. It’s a shame too, because that song has a great main riff that reminds me of a quirkier version of some of Helmet
’s riffs and it even has some piano during the verses. Of course it would have never made it on the radio anyway due to the part where you’re calling out all the religions while in the background are drums playing in reverse, convoluted guitar noise and a high pitched, almost cartoon-like voice you choose to use while naming them.
So, yes, your deconstruction of all the Metal and Punk conventions into something wholly original is just about flawless. Yes, the instrumental at the end that sounds like a cross between Cynic
is mind-blowing and the whole album really is a masterpiece both musically and lyrically, but I think it may have been a little too different for people back when it was released. Maybe if you had dropped the acoustic/electronic hybrid drum kit, the fretless bass and guitars, the violent alcohol and drug addled rages and the throat ripping screaming and maybe wrote something a little more normal you could have appealed to a wider audience, but I’m glad you didn’t. I’m glad you didn’t because instead you created a classic album within the Metal genre, both you and I know it, but due to the effort it requires to understand, it seems most will never get a chance to figure that out.