Review Summary: Even fans that are used to Deadlock’s quirky style and tendency to change with every album are going to have to take a deep breath and accept their biggest transition yet.
Deadlock has been around since 1997 and over the course of four albums they have constantly pushed their melodic death metal sound in new directions. Whether it is with powerful female vocals, metalcore and techno influences or even a bit of hip-hop, the band has always looked to add more elements to their core sound. That's why it might come as a shock to learn that Bizarro World
is a complete 180 from the 'everything but the kitchen sink' approach of Manifesto
. Instead of trying to add even more elements to this album, the band have shed their death metal roots, cut unnecessary experimentation, reduced the multiple tangents, and replaced it all with a rock and pop influence that places Sabine Weniger's powerful vocals front-and-center.
Although opening track "Virus Jones" begins with enough force, several factors soon reveal that things have definitely changed. The band has almost entirely strayed from their melodic death metal roots in favor of a rock-centric version of metalcore that finds them not only altering their guitar sound but the riffs themselves, as well. Quite simply, the guitar parts are no longer a huge focal point of each song and, as such, lack the focused aggression and creative energy that previous albums contained. Instead the band has moved towards a grittier guitar sound that leaves the riffs with much less personality and power – a change that has also reduced the amount of melodic leads, as well. This was done in order to showcase the stronger pop influence that is created through the use of electro/techno elements, piano melodies and an increased contribution from vocalist, Sabine Weniger. This new approach is augmented by an emphasis on huge hooks that consistently reduce the tempos/aggression in favor of simple, keyboard-driven melodies and Sabine's beautiful vocals. These changes are definitely going to cause some discontent among fans that prefer the band's older style, but this album can definitely grow thanks to Sabine's much larger role.
Tracks such as "State of Decay" might be much tamer than most of Deadlock’s previous work, but it's hard to ignore the infectious quality of the music. The delicate piano melodies contrasted with occasional percussive loops and an undulating synth line work perfectly as a vessel for Sabine's total vocal domination of the track. Thanks to her it's not just the chorus that ends up being catchy, it's the whole damn song. This is also a good time to compliment the band on finally integrating their techno/electro influences into the music instead of just tacking them onto songs haphazardly. It's the reason that a track such as "Renegade" works so well. It begins with Sabine crooning, "All I asked for was a smile…" over a layer of synth that is so poppy and slick that it could have transitioned seamlessly into dance pop without a hiccup. Instead, the techno synths pick up the tempo while introducing a danceable rock beat and death growls. It's really those contrasting dynamics that include gritty riffs, techno/electro interjections, harsh growls and powerful clean singing that make this entire album the enjoyable listen that it is.
It must be said that Bizarro World
is definitely going to require a little work for most listeners. Those unfamiliar with the band are going to be asked to accept a quirky metalcore/rock hybrid that integrates a considerable amount of techno elements while featuring death growls contrasted with very mainstream and poppy female vocals. The group that might have an even harder time with this album, though, are the old fans because they're going to be asked to accept that this isn't Wolves
Part 2. They're going to be asked to grow with the band as they explore a much more refined direction that eschews random tangents and death metal aggression in favor of huge hooks and focused songs. Both of these groups should at least try to let Bizarro World
sink in, though, because not only is it easily Deadlock's most streamlined, focused and accessible album to date, but it's also a damn good metal album that is actually able to occupy its own little niche.