Review Summary: The Butcher Babies take faulty footsteps into the metal world, and produce a debut effort which is at the very best, average.
Black Gaffer-taped boobies? Check. Catchy band name? Check. A seemingly enigmatic frontwoman to steal the show? Check...Actually, double check, and definitely double the trouble. For what is currently one of the most hype-ridden acts of the US metal scene, Butcher Babies don't at first appear as fake or ridiculous as you might think. It's only been about a year since the band garnered proper mainstream recognition for their obvious “talents” and already the media is trying their hardest to convince everyone the band are something special. So, not exactly worlds apart from, say, Babymetal then? Except Babymetal consists of three young girlies who surprisingly enough are a more compelling act than Butcher Babies claim to be.
The thing is with Butcher Babies, the music is decently solid. The band's image is, when considered by a passing metal fan, somewhat convincing. But the vocals are pretty embarrassing, and the songwriting often comes across as either confusing or half-baked. We might as well get the good bits out of the way first then. For the most part, the instrumentation on Butcher Babies' debut album Goliath
is actually fairly well performed. The production makes for a greatly audible sound and does the standard albeit choppy riffs justice. The fist-pumping action of the rhythm section, including mostly audible bass work and some neat drum-based interludes, is enough to get metalheads moving into the moshpit. The only songs which don't succeed with these successful features are “C8h18 (Gasoline)” and “Give me Reason”, and are as a result pretty damn terrible. Thank heavens then for songs like enigmatic opener “I smell a Massacre” and its popular successor “Magnolia Blvd” (which is evidently influenced by Devildriver's style). What's more is that there's an overall vicious, hateful feeling running throughout the album, so despite its inconsistency, it makes for a sometimes invigorating listen.
Unfortunately, there are more flaws with the album and its sound than there are advantages. Firstly, the vocals. Oh good lord, those vocals don't work at all. When you have one person shrieking like a disembowelled eagle and another trying to harmonize with admittedly beautiful clean hooks-at the same time, to exacerbate the matter-it sounds like a complete and utter mess. Of course, the choruses of songs such as “Grim Sleeper” and “The Mirror never lies” are largely helped by those infectious clean melodies, courtesy of Carla Harvey, and on its own this particular vocal style is ideal. Yet when Harvey's soulmate, Heidi Shepherd, thinks it's a good idea to scream 95% of the album's lyrics out of the stereo, listeners will probably opt for an instrumental version of the recording. The harsher vocal style isn't terrible, but it just distracts from the good instrumentation far too often, and what we're left with is a seemingly hesitant musical consistency, something which plagues the production in the process.
The other major flaw is how at least half of the album is so incoherent. The band often seem to mix infectious nu-metal grooves with a fast-paced, almost thrash metal-esque style, and although this sounds like a naturally brilliant hybrid sound, Butcher Babies simply manage to confuse the two sub-genres in a really bad way. The title track is excellent for the first twenty seconds or so, and then somehow slumps into an irritatingly confusing sound. Throughout the following three or four minutes, you just can't decide whether the band want to be vicious, soft, evocative with clean vocals or all of these three elements put together. The instrumentation just doesn't flow that well, and the vocals are unfortunately out of place. Because of this, the song feels rushed, and following in its footsteps are three or four other songs which continue to prove the band's inconsistent musicianship and songwriting.
You could moan and groan about other things which stop Goliath
from being anything more than average, but the two major disadvantages are enough to mark Butcher Babies' debut album as simply nothing special. It's disappointing too, when you want an album like this to be so brilliant and it just disappoints time and again. Perhaps the band can create a more consistent, decisive sound with the next album, but as over-hyped as they are, there's nothing creative or indeed magic here. Truth is, if you can put aside the annoying vocals and headbang along to a more or less incoherent song structure, then it might be the album for you. But for anyone else, it will be an album put to the side to collect dust.