Review Summary: The Calabrese brothers take another step towards cementing their horror punk hegemony.
Calabrese, the self-proclaimed world's greatest horror rock band, are back with the follow-up to their really rather good 2007 effort, The Travelling Vampire Show. Unfortunately, in a genre such as horror rock/punk, which imposes some pretty severe stylistic limitations upon its adherents, producing a gem such as The Travelling Vampire Show is often akin to shooting yourself in the foot when it comes to impressing with your next effort. However, with Calabrese III: They Call Us Death
, the three brothers Calabrese have, all things considered, managed to produce an album on par with its sterling predecessor.
The first thing that I'm sure springs to mind is: what could they possibly have improved upon? Short of a stylistic change, how could everybody's favourite ghoulish guido trio (I apologise in advance) have evolved their sound further? Well, in truth, not much has changed here at all. Improvements found in They Call Us Death
– and there are indeed improvements – are hardly of the cataclysmic persuasion. It's very much a case of baby steps. The Travelling Vampire Show was characterised by sharpened instrumental hooks and melodic diversification; Calabrese's first effort, 13 Halloweens, was very much the case of one song – granted a very good song – repeated twelve times. Here that refinement continues. Sure, there remains a certain degree of deja vu as you progress through They Call Us Death
, but ultimately that is part and parcel of horror punk's unabashed kitsch charm. Calabrese will always live or die according to Bobby's (and, to a lesser extent, Jimmy's) ability to carry a song with a nifty vocal melody. The important thing, however, is that Calabrese continue to grow as songwriters, trimming all the fat they can off the music they love and upping the potency of their particular brand of foot-tapping goodness.
That being said, where They Call Us Death
fails to clearly outshine its predecessor is in the consistency department. When the tighter instrumental parts and more inventive vocal melodies coalesce on tracks such as "Summon The Beyond", "Violet Hellfire" and "Blood Of The Wolf", it is quite impressive. Unfortunately there are a lot of tracks where its really a case of it being either one thing or the other; an interesting tune will fall flat because of an uninspired chorus or vice-versa. The upshot of this is that there are plenty of songs that fall under the "good" rather than "great" banner. A lot of tracks are enjoyable to listen to, but are never in danger of sticking in your head for any length of time. When producing sonic brain glue is your stock-in-trade, this becomes problematic.
Thus, They Call Us Death
provides us with somewhat of a dilemma. On the one hand, the album demonstrates progression and improvement, with plenty of nuggets nestled amongst the track-listing. On the other hand, the album lacks the same cumulative punch as The Travelling Vampire Show, with some efforts lacking that certain special something. Ultimately though, They Call Us Death
can't be bashed excessively. It really is a good album – one which, when evaluated objectively, really can't be considered worse than that which came before. What Calabrese have achieved then is an aggregate horizontal progression, but, happily, a horizontal progression at the top of the horror punk food chain. If you like your music carousing and contagious, this album is worth the investment. If you are a fan of horror punk, this should already be in your collection.