Review Summary: Trace Of A Stranger is "must listen to" horror punk.
In the wake of horror punk godfathers The Misfits, countless bands have emerged with a twist on the ghoul old horror rock sound. Mainstream artists such as Nofx, AFI, and Pennywise even draw inspiration from The Misfits, despite being in different musical categories. Psychobilly bands like Tiger Army, Mad Sin and The Horrorpops sing about graveyard nights and Halloween accompanied by twangy rock n roll 50s guitar riffs, with the dry rhythm of a stand up bass. Though the fusion of rockabilly and horror rock is interesting, its not for everyone. Those who prefer distortion from their six-string and the rapid speed of punk, might be partial to Calabrese, Mister Monster, Cancerslug and one of the greatest bands of contemporary horror punk: Blitzkid.
The first and most obvious thing that sets Blitzkid apart from other artists of their kind is its un-horrific name. Reason being, they began as a more basic punk rock band. They gained the name Blitzkid from the first song they wrote that dealt with B-horror movies. Officially forming during the winter of 1997 in West Virginia, the current line up includes the only founding member TB Monstrosity, Argyle Goolsby (of Dr. Chuds X-Ward, Wednesday 13, Gorgeous Frankenstein), J-Sin Trioxin (Mister Monster, and ex-Misfits vocalist Michael Graves band), and Billy Bones (The Independents).
[Trace of a Stranger] is their second full length album, released in 2003. They ve reissued it this year with bonus material.
1. "Lets Go To the Cemetery": Drumsticks being smashed together, One, two, three, four! As the stick makes contact with the snare head theirs a blistering intro...And so begins Trace of a Stranger.
After eight seconds of pure speed, a bouncy rhythm is established. Theirs no hoarse screeching, deep growling or just plain numb-nut vocals hear. TB, a heavier man, has a thick voice with great range. The lyrics deal with seeking recluse from a judgmental world in a quit cemetery with your girl. It sets the mood as the basic underlying message of the album. The lighthearted chorus gets stuck in your head very easily. At the end theirs dare I say ska? Yes, Blitzkid does it. Great opening track.
2. "Deadhouse" will rip your decaying flesh from charred bones resulting from the fire breathing serial killer undead. This is heavily inspired by 80s hardcore. Theirs some impressive and aggressive guitar work, complete with a solo that shreds with pantera like tone.
3. "They Come" is one of the more mediocre efforts on the album. The surf like drum beat sounds out of place building up to the more melodic chorus. The lyrics are pretty good, but nonetheless, nothing seems as cohesive on this track.
4. "Lupen Tooth" brings the intensity back. It starts with lone ominous guitar in a very cool drowning out effect. You can tell they broke out the chorus pedal. Out of nowhere the drums fade in, and the in your face speed is regained. The lyrics of this song are amazing, not just because of the intricate vocabulary but the fact their delivered with such speed and precision. With words like: Asunder, Bereft, Lycanthropy, and mass-carnality. Blitzkid shows their strong lyricists on this one, especially because theyre being poetically verbose on the subject of werewolves. They also frequently incorporate slow breakdowns at the end of their songs, with a signature pulsing tempo and repeated lyrics, with no exception on this title.
5. "A Hopeless Night" slows it down for the ladies in the house. Pretty much every horror punk group has a few ballads that use that slow rolling 50s sound (think Earth Angel, Blue Moon). Nowhere do the lyrics of this song discuss killing the girl, however, unheard of in the standard ho punk slow song. In fact, its pretty emotional and establishes a mood of despair. Definitely an impressive departure from the campy gothic subject matter in the rest of their music.
6. "She Dominates". Alright enough of the sensitive stuff. This songs about what every in love couple partakes in; S&M. I think this song has the greatest and simplest intro, with just a plain sick riff used throughout the majority of the song. The vocals are also at their peak. Im not sure what it is, but TBs voice is supreme on this one, as he wails about pleasure with his pain. And of course to top it off, theirs a small solo right smack in the middle of all the sexual perversity.
7. "Dead Again/Cold Skin" are two songs in one. The first has a mellow, bouncy, yet dark rhythm accompanied by some truly eerie piano. The chorus sounds extremely awesome, with equally awesome backgrounds vocals. Not to mention a lengthy solo while the already excellent singing is occurring. That simultaneous fest of cool fades into the beginning of Cold Skin, which has more a pop punk feel. Of course the guitars are tuned down and its about being in love with a corpse, but it is very nice on the ears. How about another solo right before that last powerful chorus? TB brings it home baby.
8. "Long Dark Hallway" begins with the sound of a creaky door opening and some distant footsteps. After that tiny audio sample, everything in the song starts at once, and Jesus H Christ is it fast. The recording quality seems somewhat lackluster, however. Overall its not a stand out song. Played live, it would be a perfect mosh inducer, but its lost in recording.
9. "Making a Monster" sounds a lot like their other songs, without making it?s mark. Its pretty simple, standard tune. Generally, horror rock bands are known to stray from discussing politics in their lyrics. The same goes for Blitzkid, however in interviews they have stated that this song contains political metaphors.
10. "She Wolf", along with Lupen Tooth, Deadhouse, and Long Dark Hallway is one of faster songs. However this song doesnt have the nice clear sound like the others. It has the rustic audio quality of Long Dark Hallway, except this song works. The whoas at the end, the mini solo and the random yelling at the end sets it apart.
11. "As The Rope Bridge Sways" is possibly the most unique track on here. Its also the most genuinely scary, because of its haunting pace and chilling melody. It starts with this odd combination of guitar sweeps and what almost sounds like marching drums and tambourines. The steady sound of bagpipes follow and end at the verse. TB sings in a thin almost unrecognizable voice. The lyrics are very poetic, as they tell the story of a man revisiting and resurrecting his dead lover in a mysterious place. The first verse paints a vivid picture with:
[A churring tribe of insects on the mountainside
Orchestrate a hopeful symphony
The buzzing flows from my fingers to my toes
And strikes a pulse with the rope bridge's sway]
More 1950s influence can be heard hear from the vintage sounding guitar and the background singing. It has this subdued yet powerful sound, thats hard to define.
12. "Love Like Blood" is another emotional ballad. The first minute and a half of it is a single palm muted whisper of a guitar. The singing also sounds melancholy accompanied by the whispered background vocals make for a creepy vibe. But Trace of a Stranger refuses to end like that. The song quickly explodes with speed and heartfelt singing. At the very end theirs one more driving breakdown, while the words [goodbye] are being sung...concluding Trace of a Stranger.
[Trace of a Stranger] is not your average horror rock. It varies itself widely, from sounding like 50s doo-wop to street punk. The bass sustains a thick growl, and the drums never become redundant. A ska riff is layed down once or twice, plus theirs piano and bagpipes present?all providing for a unique sound in an otherwise dead (no pun intended) genre of rock.