Review Summary: The best Cooper record to date, this is a near perfect slice of industrial metal
Alice Cooper is widely regarded as one of the best and most influential solo hard rock acts of all time. Originally born as Vincent Damien Furnier, he began his career in the band of the same name in the 1960's before branching off and creating solo albums under the name of Alice Cooper. Over the years many of his albums have sold very well including Trash which is still held in high regard for the success of the song Poison. Other hits of his include Feed My Frankenstein (notorious for the infamous line "We're not worthy" on Wayne's World), Schools Out and Billion Dollar Babies. His musical style has consistently evolved from blues influenced rock to straightforward hard rock to glam metal and, on 2000 he made the shift toward an industrial metal sound to create his best album to date, Brutal Planet.
This album makes use of heavily down tuned riffing and a much heavier sound than anything he had done before hand. This album marks the second part of a trilogy of concept albums started with The Last Temptation, following on from that album and is set on the titular Brutal Planet. The songs on here tell stories of starvation, school shootings, greed and life in a hellish world and such themes could arguably not be better suited to any other artist. The album clocks in just shy of forty eight minutes and is eleven tracks long of which each progresses the story of the album beautifully whilst having undertones of social commentary in the real life world. The lyrics stand out as some of the best Alice has ever written with some great tongue in cheek styling found on the songs Sanctuary (I guess I'll find the perfect wife, nd I'll have 2.3 perfect kids, and if i work real hard and die real fast, they'll all turn out just like me) and Gimme (I hate to repeat myself but nothing's free). Many of the songs are also very dark and Eat Some More stands testament to this with its lyrics dealing both with starvation on the Planet and also serving to speak on the African hunger problems. It is safe to say that without the lyrics this album would arguably not be half as good as it actually is.
The guitar work is very chuggy and the low-end guitar tones compliment this style of riffing really well. There is a lot of use of open strings played fairly slowly but this suits to create a dark and evil back drop for the vocals to be slotted over. This album also contains the occasional solo such as on the title track which break up the songs really well and serve for a bit of variety by mixing high tones among the murky sound created by many of the riffs. There is also some nice piano work on Take It Like A Woman which would not be out of place at a funeral and really does add another dimension to the music. This song also has some really well written lyrics about domestic abuse, with Alice continuing his trend of being a friend to abused wives and women everywhere. The way that Alice croons these lyrics over the top of such a desolate soundtrack makes for such a hard impact on the emotions that it will have you rooted to your seat. This stands out as one of his best songs to date and arguably topples the mighty Only Women Bleed as his finest soft ballad to date, which is some achievement given that it is clearly just a case of Alice ripping off that particular song.
The vocals on each of these songs are handled in a very different manner and are performed masterfully by Alice. Unlike albums such as Trash where the instrumental work and the lyrics were what drove them, the vocals are the focal point of Brutal Planet. Alice's voice on It's The Little Things almost sounds like a homage to Elvis Presley with the odd accent he puts on, whereas the low and gravelly voice on Brutal Planet compliments the sound the instrumental to that song strives to create. Gimme has some really sarcastic-sounding vocals to it whilst Cold Machines almost sounds optimistic as though the character on the planet is trying to look forward to a better life. The vocal performance on here is so diverse that it almost harkens back to the Godly title track from Billion Dollar Babies where Cooper essentially showed off how schizophrenic his vocals can be. His best vocals on here are found on Pick Up The Bones where he steadily gets more and more aggressive as he narrates the finding of the body parts of his family as the rage and intensity of the song picks up.
The songs themselves are really well written and there truly isn't a bad song on here. Eat Some More sticks out as the absolute heaviest track that Alice has ever done with some crushing, brutal riffs that show off the change in sound Alice has undergone for this release really well. This is a heavy as balls album throughout but at times Alice also gives off some nostalgic nods to his older sound. Blow Me A Kiss has an anthemic and catchy chorus akin to Trash whereas It's The Little Things returns to his straightforward rock sound a little. Wicked Young Man has rightfully gone on to be considered a modern Cooper classic due to its memorable nature, fast and intense riffing and deep, thought-provoking lyrics about school shootings that are even more relevant now than they ever have been given the events concerning school shootings recently. The way Cooper bellows the chorus to Sanctuary is one more highlight to the album and another would be Gimme's sarcastic lyrics and aggressive nature in general. This is one long slab of awesomeness that pulls no punches and just kicks the listener straight in the face. Alice Cooper created a masterpiece with this album that everyone should check out no matter what their music taste.