Review Summary: The Wendy's to AC/DC's McDonald's.
In the world of music, as everywhere else, copycatting is nothing new. Once a band strikes upon a successful formula, sundry others will pop up doing their own approximation of it and hoping for the same level of success. Then, as the original band(s) become veterans, an entirely new batch crops up paying homage to their sound and - hopefully - rejuvenating it for a new audience. The phenomenon is nothing new, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it when it is done tastefully. The problem is that, like most other things in life, plagiarism (or 'homage-paying') has a flipside; and that flipside is what gives rise to bands like Big Ball.
In case the band name was not explicit enough, Big Ball are yet another group seeking to pay homage to the no-frills hard rock sound perpetuated by a duo of diminutive Scottish brothers for what will soon be 40 years. Yes, these Germans are AC/DC fans, and proud of it. Things are, however, not quite that simple, as more than sounding like AC/DC, Tomas Gurrath and his cronies seem to directly emulate 'junior AC/DC' Airbourne - which, in practice, makes them a clone of a clone.
Imagine, then, Udo Dirkschneider singing for Airbourne; the result is bound to come dangerously close to Big Ball's sound. And in that regard, the band do everything right. They pilfer the riffs and the swagger from AC/DC, the repetitive choruses and the ability to pretend they do not get their own innuendo from Airbourne, and Gurrath's raspy, throaty whine from Accept, then sprinkle the whole thing with a dash of tongue-in-cheek Krokus preposterouness. In theory, it should
work. In practice, it does anything but.
In fact, to describe the group's debut album as 'bad' would be to soften a well-deserved blow. Hotter Than Hell
is, at best, as boring and unoriginal as its title and, at worst, the type of nigh-unbearable nails-on-chalkboard experience a record of this sort should never be. A lot of this is down to Gurrath's voice. The singer has his Udo and Brian Johnson impressions down to a science, but somehow the mixture of these two flavours does not result in anything even remotely savoury; instead, the listener's reaction throughout most of these 13 songs is more akin to 'MAKE IT STOP'.
However, the vocals are far from the only problem evidenced by Big Ball. A much larger one has to do with their poor command of the English language - which, when the style of choice is death metal (as theirs was for seven years previously) is not a problem, but when it comes to even semi-clean vocals, yields risible results. Actual lines from this album include 'she makes me jumpin'/makes my heart pumpin'"
(sic) and "we are some heartbreakers/misty lawbreakers/we are some crazy rockers/not some loser suckers"
; throw in a couple of perfectly expendable curse words (to show how 'dirty' you are) and a few single-entendres (Porna Lisa
) and you are set. Or maybe not.
Again, however, Big Ball's problems do not stop at painful vocals, bad lyrics or obvious ripoffism (compare and contrast the riffs on Big Ball Crew
and Safe In New York City
from AC/DC's Stiff Upper Lip
). The group's knack for creating a semi-decent groove now and again is further hampered by choruses dumb enough to make Airbourne proud, which significantly accelerate their descent into the realm of parody. Were one to cast an eye over Hotter Than Hell
's song titles and imagine them repeated four times, perhaps with the odd extra word thrown in ("she is/hotter than hell", "I'm a killdozer", "we are the Big Ball crew"
) one would have a pretty good idea of 98% of the choruses on this album. Exceptions, when they happen, are either laughable ("I'm plugged in/my baby girl"
) or surprisingly decent (Shooter
, wherein the band demonstrates that they are actually capable of penning an enjoyable song). At length, it all becomes too much to bear, melding in with all of the group's other flaws to negate the few positive traits and make large stretches of the album almost unlistenable, even for hardcore AC/DC fans.
In the end, then, there is absolutely nothing to recommend about Big Ball or Hotter Than Hell
. While the group are honest about their influences (there are 'tributes' all over the place, with expressions such as 'shoot to thrill/fire at will', 'like a rolling thunder'
or 'no guts no glory'
being honest-to-God parts of the lyrical content), the whole thing is executed poorly enough to border on self-parody - and, as a consequence, deter AC/DC and Airbourne fans. In a world where AC/DC are McDonald's (serving up something comfortingly familiar which has long ceased to actually taste good) and Airbourne are Burger King (presenting an upgrade of the same product whilst trying their hardest to pass it off as something new and different), Big Ball are Wendy's: the distant, inferior third option no one ever remembers until they find themselves hungry and with no other restaurants around. If you ever wondered whether there could be a worse AC/DC pastiche than AB/CD, congratulations - you found it. At least AB/CD admitted
they were a joke, though...