Saturday, October 31, 2020

LADDER MATCH: Propagandhi vs. Type O Negative

It's time once again for one of my patented Semi-Whenever-I-Get-Time Ladder Match! Wherein I will take two completely unrelated bands and rank their discographies against one another to see who winds up being the better one, much to the disappointment of all onlookers.

The rules are simple: I rank the albums of the two bands against each other and assign points down the line.  So for example, if there are 15 albums for each band, the best record of the bunch will get 30 points, the next will get 29, after that will get 28, and so on down to 1.  The winner will obviously be determined by whoever has more points, so in this arbitrary system it's better to have a more consistent career on the whole.  Say Band A has the five best albums and also the bottom ten, they'll end with 195 points, while the band that sweeps spots six thru twenty will end with 270.  And also, since I like to make shit contradictory and complicated, if the bands do not have an equal number of records, the band with more albums will have their middlemost album excluded from ranking, because if I do a list with Morbid Angel, you bet your ass I'll want Illud Divinum Insanus to count for the same reason I'd want Altars of Madness to count.  You don't get to sweep your mistakes under the rug here on Ladder Match.  This is how I balance consistency with spikes in quality, deal with it, chumps.

Our matchup today (in patented "zero effort Microsoft Paint Abomination" fashion) is:

It's October, which means it's the perfect time to highlight the quintessential Spooky Metal Band, Type O Negative.  While they were the impetus for this particular feature, I didn't want to give them an easy win, so I'm stacking them up against one of my most listened-to artists over the last year or so, the Canadian Anarchist Punklords, Propagandhi.   I do my best to make the opponents totally different from one another, but as always, there are going to be some tenuous similarities.  Here we have two bands that started as some version of punk (hardcore for the former, skatershit for the latter) before evolving into something much more unique and defining their signature sound.  But other than that, we have two very different legends in the ring this time.  TON basically dominated the "gothic metal" subniche in a way that sounds almost nothing like what the term came to mean with the proliferation of Within Temptation and bands of that ilk, instead of having some gorgeous woman coo over lameass non-riffs, TON took an ugly eight foot tall dude and had him deeply croon over a very literal mixture of heavy metal and Fields of the Nephilim style goth rock.  Propagandhi on the other hand started off with Fat Wreck style melodic punk that was so iconic and influential that NOFX themselves basically changed their entire sound to rip them off, before molding into a much more angry and metal-infused band of aggressive activists.  They're both undisputed monarchs in their spheres and today I'm gonna reanimate Peter Steele's corpse so they can throw down in a Ladder Match. 
14: Type O Negative - The Origin of the Feces
I'm sorry, I love both of these bands but something had to come in last place, and this seemed like the easiest candidate.  I do think this is a necessary component of Type O's canon, but at the same time it's without a doubt the most easily skippable.  Type O has always had a black sense of humor, and this is without a doubt their funniest release, but it's still kind of a throwaway joke in the grand scope of things.  The story goes that their record contract at the time stipulated that they needed to record a live album, so for their second album here they decided to basically just perform the first album again (with different song titles) in addition to a few covers and then dubbed in a bunch of fake crowd noises to simulate an antagonistic crowd.  I think that's hysterical.  Truly a middle finger to the moneymen above them and it's great to hear no cheers at all and all of the between-song banter being Steele telling the crowd to fuck off (the crowd chanting "FUCK! YOU! FUCK! YOU!" during the quiet part of "I Know You're Fucking Someone Else" is pure poetry) is wonderful.  My problem is that, beyond the truly transformative covers of Jimi Hendrix and Black Sabbath, this consists entirely of tracks that you can hear better versions of on Slow, Deep, and Hard, and for that reason it's the only album out of either discography that I think you can totally pass up without missing much.
13: Propagandhi - How to Clean Everything
Like I mentioned up top, Propagandhi's 1993 debut, How to Clean Everything, was such an instantly influential blast of melodic punk aggression that even NOFX, one of the biggest bands in the genre and essentially the owner of Fat Wreck Chords itself, shifted their sound to more closely emulate it.  It's one of the most influential punk albums of the 90s, but... man I just don't like it all that much!  I think it's so underwhelming that I actually didn't bother listening to the rest of Propagandhi's superior catalog for years simply because I figured it'd be more of this.  The reason I don't cover punk all that often despite listening to so much of it is because I simply haven't spent literally my entire life ensconced in the scene like I have with metal, so I just lack the language to analyze it as well, and I find myself struggling here for that exact reason.  Like, it's fast and melodic and does the stuttery riff that every skate punk band in the universe does at minimum twice per song and says "fuck" a lot, but beyond that what can I really say about it?  I know it predates Punk in Drublic but it's really just that sound.  Chris Hannah's voice at this point was really nasally and bratty in a way that he would drop entirely in an album or two, and it works for the snotty attitude of the album itself, but it's really one of the weaker aspects of the album.  Some of the elements that would go on to define the band's later albums are here to an extent (the band's caustic and sharply left-wing lyrics are the obvious thing) but the actual sound of this album is just so far removed from what I'd later love that I struggle to enjoy it on its own merits.  Maybe that's unfair, but as it stands this is basically emblematic of all the things that made 90's punk so great, but the application of context makes it both better and worse.  In the context of where the scene was at the time, this was incredible example of it, but in the context of the band's entire career, this was a very un-Propagandhi record that just so happened to kick off an incredible uber-Propagandhi career.  If there's anything about it that's better than their later work, it's that I appreciate how much fun they obviously had with this one.  There's a lot more comedy and youthful brashness in tunes like "Ska Sucks" and "This Might Be Satire" than they'd ever do in the future, and even the more serious tunes like "Anti-Manifesto" have some classic fun bits like the quick interjection of "By the way, I stole this riff" before a quick one second long shred.  But regardless, this is without a doubt my least listened-to album of their career, with only "Anti-Manifesto" and "Stick the Fucking Flag Up Your Goddamn Ass, You Sonofabitch" remaining in my listening cycle whenever I go on a binge. 

12: Type O Negative - October Rust
If there's any controversial entry in this feature, it's gonna be ranking October Rust so near the bottom.  I get it, this is one of their most beloved albums, released at the peak of their popularity in the 90s, complete with like six of their most iconic tunes, but I dunno man I've never jived with this one all that much.  That's not to say it's bad, neither band in this feature has a true stinker, but the mood they were evoking on this one just doesn't connect with me like some of their other albums do.  I get why it's so beloved, there's no denying that this album is fucking lush.  It has a gorgeous sound that's very floaty and romantic and it complements their lighter compositions this time around incredibly well.  In terms of actually achieving what they were going for, October Rust knocks it out of the fucking park.  Hell I'd even say they're very good at it and there's no denying the amount of classic tracks here.  But frankly, objective critique is impossible when it comes to art and even though I think all of these components work wonderfully in tandem with one another, it just doesn't resonate with me.  I think "Be My Druidess", "My Girlfriend's Girlfriend", "Wolf Moon", and "Red Water" are all fantastic songs, but even though the other classics like "Green Man", "In Praise of Bacchus", "Haunted", and especially "Love You to Death" are fundamentally similar, I skip them nearly every time I put the album on.  I think that's actually my problem with the album as a whole, the mood is very static and it more or less hits the same note over and over again as it goes.  It's a good note, but I know they're capable of so much more, and the fact that TON was notoriously bad at trimming the fat means that we're treated to basically 75 minutes of the same mood and it isn't overwhelming enough to really work.  I don't care that this is one of their least heavy albums, the songs I like a lot aren't necessarily the heaviest ones on display, and you'll see later on that some of their best songs were their least metallic, but over an hour of lethargic romantic textures exhausts me in a bad way.  If nothing else, this sports one of Steele's absolute best vocal performances.  He was on top of his game in 96 and his deep baritone croon is at it's peak here. 

11: Propagandhi - Potemkin City Limits
Propagandhi's style shift was complete by this point in history, to the point that if you weren't familiar with them you'd never guess this was the same band that wrote How to Clean Everything, and that's not a bad thing.  Their unique style of heady punk rock blended with the perfect amount of thrash metal to create an instantly identifiable sound was perfected already, and this is simply the least great of their great albums.  Fundamentally this is pretty similar to the preceding album, but its main fault is that it's simply not as memorable as their other albums.  I tend to refer to this album as "The one with 'A Speculative Fiction' and a bunch of other songs" and I've never been able to break away from that mindset.  "A Speculative Fiction" is one of the best songs they ever wrote, perfectly exemplifying their aggressive punk that gets sidetracked with acoustic diversions and occasional thrash riffs, loaded with memorable moments (YOUR STUPID FUCKING LASER PUCKS WERE JUST THE START) with the dead-eyed seriousness that they'd carry throughout their career.  The problem is that nothing else even comes close to the brilliance of "A Speculative Fiction".  "Fixed Frequencies", "Fedallah's Hearse", and "Die Jugend Marschiert" keep the momentum going as best as they can, but ultimately this one just doesn't live up to the standard they set for themselves.  Oddly enough this actually has a lot of similarities to October Rust when looked at in the context of both bands' careers.  They're both the least good of their classic eras and second least good overall, they're both the fourth album out of seven and the second after their signature sound was solidified, they're both the lightest and most melodic of the bunch, and they both feature the best vocals.  I adore Hannah's deeper register that he took on at the turn of the century and I love Todd Kowalski's super gruff secondary vocals that started once he joined after the first two albums, and neither of them have ever truly deteriorated but I'd say they're most impressive on Potemkin City Limits.  Overall though, I think I can sum this up best by pointing out that the title track is on a different album and that kinda speaks to how much more important their other albums are when compared to this one.
10: Propagandhi - Less Talk, More Rock
I want to make clear that from this point forward, every album from both bands fucking rule.  So I feel kinda bad putting Less Talk, More Rock on the low end of the list considering how much I love it, but that's the way the chips fall.  The snotty vocals and abrasive lyrics are back from the debut, and while all of their music is explicitly anarchist and unavoidably political, I think this is their most directly political album, likely a reaction to how much people didn't get it when they first hit the scene.  It's called Less Talk, More Rock because people would complain about them proselytizing and going into detail about what their songs were about onstage.  The lyrics are more blunt than before since they were frustrated with people ignoring the message and just jamming to the tunes (the title track explicitly details how Hannah received anal sex and loved it and says everybody dancing to the song without listening to what he's saying is a pathetic nimrod who is now gay by the transitive property).  Hell look at the border of the album art.  They put "ANIMAL-FRIENDLY - ANTI-FASCIST - GAY-POSITIVE - PRO-FEMINIST" on the cover four fucking times so absolutely nobody could miss the point anymore.  I get it that some people don't like bands being preachy even when they agree with them completely, but Propagandhi's unabashed hard-left message is one of my favorite things about them and they'd be exponentially worse if they didn't feel these things as hard and shout them as furiously as they do.   "The Only Good Fascist is a Very Dead Fascist" would be a dumb throwaway joke song if it wasn't a vehicle for lyrics as vitriolic as they are (KILL THEM ALL AND LET A NORSE GOD SORT 'EM OUT).  These songs get more and more relevant with each passing year and this one stands as probably the most timeless of everything they've done.  This is still pure early/mid 90s punk (apart from "Rido De San Atlanta, Manitoba", which is a blast of pure old school hardcore) so they hadn't landed on their signature sound yet, but out of their more "normal punk" duology, this is the clearly superior album to me.  It's more unique and direct than How to Clean Everything and really set the wheels in motion for what was to come down the line.  I don't use the term "skatershit" as a pejorative, because I'm a huge sucker for the Fat Wreck sound, but I think that Propagandhi's skatershit era is great in the realm of skatershit but pales in comparison to almost everything else they'd do in the future, and the fact that Less Talk, More Rock is a bit more aggressive and experimental than the debut is precisely what makes it the superior album.

9: Type O Negative - Life is Killing Me
I'm sorry, but I think there's no way to talk about Life is Killing Me without spoiling a bit of what makes a later entry so great.  World Coming Down is one of the most bleak and depressing albums ever written, with every single second sounding like your last moments as you die shitting yourself in a crack house.  I suspect that Life is Killing Me was a deliberate attempt to do the exact opposite, because while WCD fully embraced the gothic/doom metal side of their sound, LIKM is all about their more fun and lighthearted poppy side.  For that reason it's often seen as the worst TON album, but I don't agree.  All of their best songs are the slow and gloomy ones throughout their career (for the most part) but they're equally good at just rocking out and having a good time.  "I Like Goils", as problematic as it is from a lyrical standpoint, is without a doubt one of my favorite tunes in their entire oeuvre.  Tracks like that and "I Don't Wanna Be Me" are just a barrel of fucking fun and I don't think there's a universe that exists where they don't appeal to the fun drunk in me.  And even then, calling this "their pop album" kinda misses a huge amount of the tracks on display, because "Anasthesia" and "The Dream is Dead", potentially the two best songs on the album, are basically just truncated versions of their classic gloomy goth sound anyway.  "Less Than Zero" absolutely would not have been out of place on Bloody Kisses.  My chief complaint that applies to every Type O album, even the ones I adore wholeheartedly, is that they're all way too fucking long, and even though this is the second longest album of their career, the songs themselves err on the shorter side and even the long ones feel shorter than they are.  They captured a very specific lightning in a bottle that they'd always hinted at being able to capture but never really went for before.   Like, obviously the shortened radio edit of "Black no.1" isn't as good as the 11 minute version, but if that song was specifically written to be around 5 or 6 minutes, it would've worked fantastically and that's really what Life is Killing Me showcases.  They have the ability to condense these songs into tighter packages and it turns out they're really fucking good at it.  The entire B side is quality and everything on display is fantastic.  Hell even their short punk cover of "Angry Inch" kicks ass and usually the best part of their covers is how they'd totally transform songs into lengthy dirges.  I would never call this their best album, but it's definitely the most underrated.

8: Type O Negative - Slow, Deep, and Hard
Let it never be said that I'm some fun-policing wokescold who doesn't think "problematic faves" are acceptable.  Slow, Deep, and Hard is a deeply misogynistic record on the whole (to say nothing of the frankly abhorrent racism in "Der Untermensch") but fuckin' hell man it's really god damned good.  They hid behind the veneer of "it might be parody, it might not be, wink wink nudge nudge" thanks to Steele's time in Carnivore, and before people on the internet started caring about gross shit in pop culture (like me, for example) the excuse for this stuff was that they were holdovers from that band's edgy shtick.  And man, that was believable because there's a lot of leftover hardcore and crossover thrash metal in this record.  TON became known for their exemplary goth/doom metal but even when they were kicking the speed up and belting out some absurd aggression they still fuckin' smoked.  "Unsuccessfully Coping with the Natural Beauty of Infedility" (sometimes "shortened" to the alternate title from The Origin of the Feces, "I Know You're Fucking Someone Else") kind of wraps everything TON would ever do into one package.  It's quite lengthy at nearly 13 minutes, but it more than justifies its runtime by running through several different themes and moods, from frustrated hardcore punk to to their more signature gloomy doom, and the climactic chorus is so fucking catchy that it should be illegal.  I haven't really talked about Josh Silver's keyboard work up to this point, but it's arguably the integral component to their sound, on par with the super fuzzy, bassy guitar tone and Steele's sensual baritone.  It works so well here, on their most harsh and unrefined album, that it almost beggars belief.  Like yeah, obviously it's an irreplaceable element that absolutely makes October Rust but I think it's even more impressive that he managed to be so prominent and so good on an album where he is by no means the focus.  This is kind of similar to Life is Killing Me in the sense that I tend to think of it in terms of its best song and sort of forget about the rest, but every time I revisit it I'm reminded how much I love "Xero Tolerance", "Prelude to Agony", and "Gravitational Constant" as well.  Every TON album is long, but I think this one does the best job of justifying its length due to how rough and experimental it was compared to the rest of their career.  There really wasn't anything like this in 1991, and there isn't anything else like this throughout the band's career.  It was a glorious one-off that saw the band spilling their guts on the studio floor and it amounted to off-kilter genius.

7: Propagandhi - Failed States
Whenever a metal fan says they're interested in checking out some punk music, I actually point to Propagandhi as the best entry point for a metalhead as opposed to way more obvious bands that more clearly blur the line between the two styles like DRI or Suicidal Tendencies or whatever.  In my eyes, if you want to get into a new style of music, it's kind of pointless to cater to the tastes you already have instead of taking the genre on its own merits.  Propagandhi is my go-to because they're a punk band with a punk ethos that play punk music by punk rules, but constantly throw little metal-isms all over the place.  Failed States is a great example of that tendency, because I'd argue this is their heaviest, darkest, and most difficult album almost entirely because of Chris's lifelong love of thrash seeping through the hardest (seriously, he has a few official playlists on Spotify ostensibly highlighting his favorite songs and like 95% of them are classic 80s thrash metal).  Songs like "Status Update" and the title track here are fucking barnbuners, and something like "Rattan Cane" is actually full on dissonant in its spastic chaos, with Kowalski's gruff, amelodic voice absolutely battering the shit out of you.  I haven't really talked about Jord's drumming up to this point but he's a monster behind the kit here more than arguably anywhere.  There aren't a whole lot of legitimate "storytellers" in punk rock, but Propagandhi excels at this and the more experimental nature of Failed States really helps this element of their sound shine.  All of their lyrics read more like longform poetry than cut up stanzas, and this is true of every album but it works fucking beautifully with tracks as sprawling as "Lotus Gait" and "Note to Self".  That latter one is so fucking out there that it's actually reminiscent of Tool of all bands in certain parts.  While this isn't their best album, I do think it's the most "Propagandhi" album out of all Propagandhi albums.  They leaned pretty wholeheartedly into their metal influences to create a melodic hardcore album unlike any other, and even within their own heavy as hell discography they amped the heaviness up to extreme levels with this one.  Without a doubt, Failed States is their most experimental and daring album.  They took a ton of risks with the extreme variance in song lengths ("Status Update" barely cracks sixty seconds while "Note to Self" is a full six minutes) and the off-kilter angle they approached everything.  They had their style pretty solidly pegged down with the previous three albums and then took a huge dose of Protest the Hero with this one and shoved it all through an aggressive punk filter and landed on total brilliance.  And it's only their fourth best album somehow.  (Initially I had this ranked a spot lower, but upon relisten I was reminded how fucking incredible the closing duo of "Lotus Gait" and "Duplicate Keys Icaro" was and had no choice but to leapfrog Slow, Deep, and Hard.  If TON ends up losing by a point, blame those two songs.)
6: Propagandhi - Victory Lap
Their most recent record as of this writing, Victory Lap copped some shit when it was released in 2017 for basically being just Failed States a second time, but honestly that criticism seems wildly off base to me.  It has some superficial similarities for sure (tracks like "Comply/Resist" and "In Flagrante Delicto" get crazy heavy), but the overall color of the album is totally different.  It almost feels optimistic in a way, which is actually a pretty new direction for a band of anarchists hell bent on exposing the shady underbelly of the world.  I think this is mostly due to the abundance of quiet parts this time around.  I haven't really mentioned it yet, but one of the reasons Propagandhi is so unique in the realm of melodic hardcore is their fearlessness in how frequently they'll shift the tempo down, and Victory Lap is probably the most reckless in how suddenly it'll shift from soft introspection to chaotic intensity.  "Lower Order", for example, starts off with what it basically thrash mosh riff before abruptly shifting to clean guitar and bouncy pop melodies as Hannah details his road to veganism thanks to a forced hunting trip as a kid and his growing hatred with people who treat sentient animals like a stupid joke.  "Tartuffle" sounds like a fun, almost Motorhead-esque tune until you realize the acerbic lyrics are pointed squarely at the punk scene itself (something they've railed against in the past) for treating their music like some performative self flagellation before fucking off to live their lives without internalizing the message at all, which like, damn dude just call me out by name next time.  There's a feeling of hopeless resignation to more current events this time around, with some direct allusions to Trump and the NDP, and I think that less general and more timely approach is something that might make this album less poignant in the future, but in this current moment, it strikes me as one of their absolute best.  Maybe it's not the intent, but the feeling I get from this is that the world is definitely, irreversibly fucked and the best we can do it just keep trying to live our lives and change it for the better as best we can.  So while this is by no means their most venomous album, it's the one that I feel most strongly about on a visceral level most of the time.

5: Type O Negative - World Coming Down
As I hinted in the Life is Killing Me entry, World Coming Down is without a doubt the bleakest album in TON's discography.  Their signature brand of black humor is basically entirely washed away in a haze of drug-addled misery.  It's a collection of agonizingly slow, nearly unlistenable drudging dirges that only give you enough breathing room to let out a sob and imagine your own death in horrific detail.  The actual compositions on display are less important to me than the thematic cloak surrounding them.  I've talked about this album in other features before, and I want to draw attention once again to Noktorn's review from 2007, which is, as far as I'm concerned, the definitive analysis of this album and TON's career as a whole.  Forgive me for the cop-out of quoting an entire paragraph and basically letting Temporally Displaced Noktorn write this entry for me, but I'll never describe the feeling this album gives me better than he did thirteen years ago.  "One of my central complaints about metal's illustrations of depression and sadness is that they're much too idealistic and teenaged in tone. Most metal bands have clearly never experienced genuine depression, as it's not the gothic romance they portray it to be. The atonal moments of Type O Negative capture the truth of it: depression is much more an abstract, featureless misery than it is something beautiful. The riffs flawlessly express this: amorphous, languishing collections of lethargic, dissonant notes, with just a fragment of minor key melody to give a trace of emotion to it And that's all there really should be, as that's all there is during periods of depression: a trace of emotion, more a memory of what it's like to feel than any feeling itself. But the more incredible thing they're able to do is in the openly melodic segments, with their bittersweet beauty that fits the New York goth style and allows us all to look into it. This beauty isn't a celebration of a depression, but a celebration of beauty in ugly places. It's the beauty in natural disasters, in inevitability, and most importantly, in the fact that you, yes, you, will not be remembered after you're gone. Type O Negative celebrates our insignificance, how non-existent the footprint each one of us leaves on our world will be. This is the musical equivalent of standing on the edge of the river at night and looking longingly at the city before you, surrounded by people, and yet the loneliest person in the world. That is beauty."  If that doesn't help World Coming Down make sense to you, then frankly, I wish my history of mental health more closely mirrored yours.
4: Propagandhi - Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes
I wasn't a fan of Propagandhi in 2001 when this was released, mostly because at that time I refused to listen to anything that could be described as "punk", but god damn I can only imagine how much of a complete game changer this was for fans at the time.  Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes is one of those rare albums that seems to be unambiguously recognized as a major band's magnum opus while simultaneously not going on to be super influential.  Still to this day, Propagandhi is in a league of their own and TETA stands as one of the only albums that sounds like it does.  I said Failed States is their heaviest album, but without a fucking doubt TETA is the most venomous.  Absolutely zero punches are pulled with this one, from the scathing takedown of the punk scene in album highlight "Back to the Motor League" to the straight up animal-activist-terrorism-fantasy of "Purina Hall of Fame", to the feminist tirade in "Ladies Nite in Loserville", to the vicious condemnation of everybody who ignored the genocide in East Timor in "Mate Ka Moris Ukun Rasik An", it just never stops.  The entire experience is like standing under a waterfall of flaming bile for a half hour, delivered with some of the most simultaneously smart and chaotic hardcore this side of Converge.  It's like Less Talk, More Rock somehow still didn't manage to properly convey what the band was all about and so they threw every little bit of humor and fun out the window and instead just pummeled listeners over the head over and over and over again until everybody who stubbornly resisted the message finally fucked off forever.  The CD contains an entire multimedia section detailing CIA war crimes, there's no subtlety here at all.  I've mentioned bassist Todd Kowalski a few times throughout this feature, but this album heralded his entrance after John Sampson left to form The Weakerthans and god damn is it immediately obvious.  Any poppy element of the band is now completely gone and Todd's razor sharp bark punctuates the fastest and meanest songs on the record like "Fuck the Border", "Bullshit Politicians", and "Ordinary People do Fucked-Up Things When Fucked-Up Things Become Ordinary".  TETA feels like it's constantly flying off the rails while coming apart at the seams.  Nothing is restrained, nothing is held back, it's just one of the most insane god damned records in the genre.  Even "Purina Hall of Fame", the longest and most complex track on display, can't help itself with that climactic guitar solo sounding like Chris is completely losing control and taking the Kerry King approach, completely throwing out the entire concept of musicality and just raking his fingers to the bone, blood spraying everywhere while ten billion notes in no particular order just fly through the speakers and directly into your heart.  There's really no place to put this, but that first heavy riff on "Purina Hall of Fame" is so fucking good that even Protest the Hero couldn't help but jack it for "Skies".  "Better lives have been lived in the margins, locked in prisons, and lost to the gallows than have ever been enshrined in palaces".

3: Type O Negative - Bloody Kisses
If anybody reading this hasn't heard Type O Negative before for some reason, Bloody Kisses is without a doubt the first album you should check out.  Not only is it their mainstream breakthrough and one of their best in general, it's also arguably their most diverse album.  BK is a 73 minute smorgasbord of basically every single style they'd touched before and will touch in the future, and because of that it acts as the perfect primer for everything the band is about.  You've got the old school punk blasts in "Kill All the White People" and "We Hate Everyone", you've got their goth rock groove in "Blood and Fire" and "Set Me on Fire", and most importantly you've got their signature goth/doom gloomfests in the title track, "Too Late: Frozen", "Christian Woman", and of course their most well known song, "Black no.1".  That last track is in serious danger of being one of my favorite songs ever, across any genre.  It's one of the most perfectly written tunes ever and I'll never not love it.  The lyrics being a pointed skewering of goth girls wound up being deliciously ironic considering it's eventual goth anthem status.  It's named after a hair dye, Josh plays the Addam's Family theme at one point, the line "Loving you was like loving the dead" is not a darkly romantic couplet but rather a joke about how you're terrible at sex, it's a brilliantly sardonic sendup of what would prove to be a key demographic, and I love that sort of deliberate self sabotage failceeding into massive success.  I've mentioned several times that most TON albums are too long, despite their consistently high quality, and while that's true here as much as anywhere, this is still the most digestible of the lot.  I think this is because the three albums after this all more or less stick to one mood whereas Bloody Kisses tries a whole bunch of different shit.  They took a lot of risks on this one, and it paid off by launching the band into genuine superstardom in the 90s.  There really was nobody else like them at the time and to this day there still kinda isn't.  I've gotta cut this entry relatively short for reasons you'll see in a few words.

2: Type O Negative - Dead Again
I was dreading this part of the list purely because I knew there was a very good chance I'd place Bloody Kisses and Dead Again right next to each other, and that makes them a bitch to write about because I love them both for basically the exact same reasons.  Dead Again became the band's swansong, released a few years before Steele's death, and honestly I don't think I could've ever asked for a more fitting capstone on their career.  If Bloody Kisses showcased all of the styles they were capable of, and the following three albums explored three of those different sounds to their fullest extent, Dead Again was the coda that reached back and acted as a "greatest hits" of all of them.  This is probably their strangest album because it's so many contradictions simultaneously.  It's their most diverse album while also being a throwback, it's the longest album despite having the fewest tracks and containing a multitude of uncharacteristically fast songs, it has the most uplifting and optimistic sound of them all while the subjects remain as dark and miserable as usual, it's a whole lot of everything and I love all of it.  It's lyrically pretty confusing to me, because I've never really delved all that deeply into the band members' personal lives, but it seems like Peter had found religion at some point before writing this album, which might have something to do with why this album sounds oddly hopeful in many parts, but it does result in some weird anti-abortion shit punctuating the first verses in "These Three Things".  That track ends up being the lone less-than-phenomenal moment on the album, though it's no fault of the lyrics, it's simply way too long and manages to be one of the few tracks in the band's oeuvre to fail to justify its length (I complain about their albums being too long but it's usually because they have too many tracks, not because the tracks themselves are too long).  The other nine tracks though?  Absolute knockout after knockout.  Even their best albums fell prey to their tendency to throw in pointless interludes or joke tracks, but not this one.  As great as TON's discography is, Dead Again is the only one I can confidently say is all killer and no filler.  Apart from "These Three Things", there isn't one single thing I dislike about any tracks.  Each one has a different angle of attack and all of them are phenomenal.  I love how gorgeous "September Sun" is, I love the hardcore/crossover throwback moments in "Tripping a Blind Man" and "Some Stupid Tomorrow", I love the incredibly deep vocals and march cadence in "She Burned Me Down", I love the pure Sabbath riffing in "An Ode to Locksmiths", I love how the title track manages to be one of their fastest songs without actually sounding particularly angry, I love how oppressive and suffocating "The Profit of Doom" is, and god damn whatever "Halloween in Heaven" is is just fucking magical.  The whole thing is Sabbath-cum-Bauhaus-cum-cumshot and there isn't a single thing I'd change about it.  Dead Again may be an unorthodox choice, but it is without a doubt my favorite Type O Negative album and one of the greatest tragedies in music history is that Steele passed away before he was able to further expand upon it.  "We ain't going home, we've got nowhere to go..."

1: Propagandhi - Supporting Caste
Placing Supporting Caste at the top of the heap when discussing Propagandhi isn't really a hot take, but I do want to rewind a bit back to me placing Potemkin City Limits near the bottom.  That's the album that usually fights with the surrounding albums for the top spot with most fans it seems.  I mentioned the title track was on a different album and I felt that was fitting, and that's where this brick joke pays off, because "Potemkin City Limits", the track, not the album, is featured on Supporting Caste, and if Potemkin City Limits, the album, not the track, was fully realized and every song was as good as "A Speculative Fiction", it would've been Supporting Caste.  This is their apex, and while the subsequent albums have been great, I don't think anything they do in the future has a reasonable chance of surpassing this monument.  Everything they had been doing up to this point has just been so finely tuned and honed to perfection that there really isn't anything worth tweaking at this point.  This was it, the absolute best version of Propagandhi to ever exist.  I see the term "progressive thrash" thrown around a lot when people talk about the heavy sound they've championed since the turn of the millennium, but I think that's usually kind of off base and simply the result of punks not really having the language or intimate knowledge of metal to fully explain what it is they're doing, but not this time.  Supporting Caste is the closest they ever came to truly being some form of whacked out left-field progressive thrash metal band without ever abandoning that melodic hardcore base.  You can hear it plainly in tracks like "Night Letters", "Tertium Non Datur", and especially "Incalculable Effects".  The A side in general tends to be the heavier side by a long shot, because even the though the two best songs on the album ("Dear Coach's Corner" and "Humane Meat") spend most of their time playing to their lighter and cleaner side, they feature the two heaviest moments on the album in the intro and bridge respectively.  I mentioned before that Propagandhi's fearlessness in leaning into their acoustic sections and twinkly melodies is something that really helps them stand out, and the contrast between their heavy and light parts are their most stark here, and it works wonderfully.  They were never the type of band to write in a straight line anyway, but this is the twistiest and most chaotic of them all.  The poetic style of the lyrics works incredibly well with the way they write songs, seemingly jamming on riffs in odd orders and fitting the pieces in after the fact, but they do it all in such a way that you never doubt for one second that it wasn't intentional.  I want to highlight "Dear Coach's Corner" as well for admittedly personal reasons y'all likely don't care about.  I reference sports just as often as I reference videogames and Achewood in my writing, but in truth I haven't watched a sporting event in years at this point, and "Dear Coach's Corner" reaches directly into my heart to pull out the exact reasons why.  It's such a heartfelt plea for sanity as we've watched this silly kid's game we all love turn into an expensive military recruitment commercial, and we've been robbed of the ability to even watch some dudes slap wads of rubber around a sheet of ice without being complicit in empire, and that's so fucking heartbreaking.  Propagandhi sees the world for what it is, but they desperately, hopelessly wish that it wasn't this way, and they express this pain via some of the smartest punk ever written.  I've mentioned before that my favorite band of all time is Bad Religion, but Bad Religion is what plays during the Democratic Party Convention while Propagandhi is what plays during the insurrection outside.  The Hard Times put it best with their review: "We Listened to Half a Propagandhi Album and Came to While Setting a Wells Fargo on Fire"
AND SO!  With the tight score of 53-52 we have a winner for the third Ladder Match, and they are...

Propagandhi!  I know I said that it being October was the whole reason I wanted to do one of these featuring Type O Negative, but my insistence on keeping the two bands as different as possible meant that the decidedly unspooky band I chose wound up just edging them out.  I'm being honest when I say that I don't tally up the point totals before I start writing (I scrapped a Metallica vs Suffocation matchup halfway through writing when I realized Suffo was gonna win by like forty points), and I also only make a rough outline of the final ordering and tweak it as I write and listen, it's not uncommon for albums to jump or fall from their initial position during the course of writing.  Both of those things bit me this time, because I knew the top two were going to be Dead Again and Supporting Caste but I wasn't sure which order I'd put them in, and once I got to Bloody Kisses and realized the score was going to be tied at that point with one album each to remain, I audibly groaned because now that final ordering of the last two albums was going to be the most important placement.  I joked that if Propagandhi won by a point you'd have to blame the last two tracks on Failed States, but in actuality you'll have to blame "These Three Things" for being too long because that was literally the deciding factor for me when it came to giving it #2 instead of #1.  Really tough break for the Drab Four but they lost to some stiff competition.

Anyway, thank you all for reading!  The spooktacular special wound up shafting the gothlords but life isn't fair and you'd think goths would've caught on to that by now.

(AUTHOR'S NOTE: While searching for pics to use for the awful matchup pics, I came to the conclusion that holy shit please buy Propagandhi's albums so Chris can afford a new Final Conflict shirt)

Monday, October 5, 2020


I knew which album I was going to end this series with way back when I got the idea to do it.  Job for a Cowboy isn't strictly metalcore, per se, but they provide a nice narrative conclusion to the whole thing in my eyes.  When nu metal died out, metalcore became the predominant heavy genre in the mainstream, and after few fruitful years at the top, it was eventually supplanted by deathcore.  I don't consider JFAC to have invented the style or anything, I'm sure there were plenty of lesser known bands to blend those heavy breakdowns with more traditional death metal and add pig squeals on top before them (I tend to think of them more as one prong in the trident along with Whitechapel and As Blood Runs Black when it comes to bringing the genre to the forefront, but even then I'm sure somebody can make a convincing argument otherwise), but this was the first I had heard.  It was the first that tons of people had heard, frankly.  JFAC is the first band I can remember that truly hit it big off the back of Myspace popularity, the first band to utterly blow the minds of kids who were into heavy music but weren't interested in old shit from the 90s, the first to speed past mere "aggression" and land headfirst into utter "brutality".  Us jaded internet folks understood that death metal had been a thing for like fifteen years at this point, but after spending the last few weeks completely immersed in early 2000s New England metalcore, I get it now.  Killswitch Engage and All That Remains sound like shuddering pissbabies in the shadow of "Entombment of a Machine".  If I hadn't had a cool mom and access to the internet and had instead followed the natural trajectory of Pantera > nu metal > metalcore, Doom would have wrecked my fucking brain too.
Looking back from the perspective of the wizened old know-it-all that I am today, I can pretty safely say that Doom is actually a fairly normal death metal EP for the most part.  Take away the bree bree vocals and the breakdowns and this is fairly standard technical death metal, with ripping tremolo riffs and punishing blastbeats aplenty.  It jumps around very often, never riding on a static section for more than a few seconds.  The drums are constantly spazzing out in a dozen different directions, the riffs twist and slither all over the place, quickly snapping into place on a dime and constantly throwing power punches at you with little regard for a logical flow.  It's chaotic and nasty, and the band's eventual progression into standard DM is much less surprising now that I'm revisiting this fifteen years later.

However, if this were regular death metal, it would have neither set the metalcore world on fire nor would it have drawn the ire of so many traditionalists.  No, it earned the reputation it has because of those different elements, and their inclusion did indeed meaningfully change it into something beyond simple death metal.  I'm not gonna pretend Autopsy didn't exist but let's be real, JFAC didn't include massive slamming breakdowns because of any traditional influence.  In essence, what made Doom what it was was that it was musicked in a way that bent much closer to hardcore/metalcore than death metal.  You don't listen to Cannibal Corpse the same way you listen to deathcore.  Instead of taking in entire songs as a whole, with different riffs and motifs working in tandem with one another, you listened to relatively disconnected blasts of intensity as the song built and built and built until it finally burst with a massive, devastating breakdown.  This is what Doom did spectacularly well, and if this had never gotten the grassroots success that it did then heavy music as a whole probably would've looked a hell of a lot different for a solid ten years.

Unfortunately, this is far from a perfect release.  Hell it'd be a stretch to even call it "great".  What Doom has going for it are two fantastic songs packaged along with three totally inconsequential snoozers.  "Entombment of a Machine" is the iconic deathcore song, and it's earned that reputation.  It's a four minute long cavalcade of chaotic blasting sprinkled in between gargantuan heaps of big stupid mosh riffs and big stupid breakdowns.  It's a big stupid song and it turns out that JFAC's strength at this point in their career is just being big and stupid.  This kind of knuckle dragging simplicity is beautiful in its primitiveness and the EP's greatest crime is that every song isn't like this.  "Knee Deep" stands out as the other great one, and frankly it could've logically been written by a different band considering how much more normal it is.  That one sports an opening riff that could've been written by fucking Deicide, and it absolutely rules.  Like I said before, if the vocals were different nobody would've bat an eye at this song, because that's really the only thing nontraditional about it.

The other three songs?  Eh, they're all fine but that's about it.  Opening with "Entombment of a Machine" was a brilliant choice because it instantly smacked you in the face with a sound that was genuinely new to most people and was the strongest song anyway, but it also carries the unfortunate burden of setting expectations way too high for the rest of the album.  "The Rising Tide" has like three separate moments where the band drops out and you know when they come back they're gonna fuckin' slam their hearts out but they just... don't.  They come crashing back in with more or less run-of-the-mill death metal with some heavier chugs interspersed in from time to time.  This happens time and time again, and it wouldn't really be a problem if these other tracks were as good as "Knee Deep" but they just aren't despite being fundamentally similar.  I remember their first full length, Genesis being a shock to me at the time because there was nothing deathcore about it and it was just straight ahead death metal with no twists, but going back to check out this debut EP 15 years later reveals that they had pretty much telegraphed that they'd be totally pedestrian without those breakdowns and pig squeals and that already took up the lion's share of what they were doing.  "Entombment" was so ubiquitous and so iconic that I think we all collectively tricked ourselves into thinking the entirety of Doom sounded like that, because it categorically does not.  And that's not to say that it's only good because of the deathcore cliches necessarily, because they'd go on to prove with Ruination that they fucking smoked when they shifted to a more tech death style, but it's probably not a coincidence that The Big Stupid is where all of the most memorable parts of this album can be found.  I bet you don't remember a single note of "Relinquished" but you all know that ridiculous screech in the intro to "Entombment" whether you want to or not.

Doom didn't kill the more melodic side of metalcore by any stretch, tons of iconic albums in that style came out after this (All That Remains had their biggest hit a full year after this came out and the hands down best As I Lay Dying album was released two years later), but I do see it as the signal flare.  It wasn't the nail in the coffin, but it was the writing on the wall, the changing of the tides, anybody paying attention to this scene knew that things were going to change for the heavier, and Doom is what opened their eyes to the possibilities.  Job themselves more or less stepped aside and let Suicide Silence or whoever lead the charge but I'd say it's pretty uncontroversial to say they got the ball rolling here.  At the time, I hated this for what it represented: a total bastardization of a style of music that I loved, taking my beloved death metal and ruining it with dumbass 60bpm breakdowns and bree bree vocals, but nowadays I appreciate it more for what it is than for what it isn't, and even then it's mostly pretty average on the whole.  And after listening to that New England style for a few weeks solid, I totally understand what made this such a smash hit at the time.  This must've been what it felt like to hear loads of late 80s Anthrax and Exodus for years before stumbling into Altars of Madness.  


Saturday, October 3, 2020

RELITIGATING HIGH SCHOOL Vol VI: Avenged Sevenfold - Waking the Fallen

They still ripped off Chaly though
Well we're nearing the end of this series.  My initial plan was to do ten reviews because that seemed like a nice round number and there are more than enough albums to relisten to from this era of my life, but over time I wound up shaving it down to seven for a couple reasons.  I was gonna touch on The Fall of Ideals by All That Remains because it would pull double duty and allow me to rewrite an old review, but really I'd just be repeating the Killswitch review so it wouldn't be interesting.  I was gonna tackle a Chimaira album but honestly all three of the ones I listened to just bored me to tears and I only managed to get through a full listen once and that was purely because I had it on in the background while I zoned out and played Dynasty Warriors.  And lastly I cut out Bullet For My Valentine because other than pointing out how much the clean vocals sounded like Green Day I just didn't have anything interesting to say about it.  This isn't exactly relevant to the review, but this is gonna be a LOTB exclusive since Avenged Sevenfold isn't listed on MA so I wanted to take this opportunity to meander a bit and give a look behind the curtain in case any readers thought I left out some obvious candidates.  For the curious, my opinions on the three albums I cut are "lame", "bad", and "meh", in order.

On topic, I have a bit of a confession to make, I'm not entirely unfamiliar with A7X here, because I've long been a defender of their third record, City of Evil.  Even when I first heard it, back when the band was persona non grata for metal fans, I thought it was a weird flukey home run where every dumb element of their sound just worked.  It was fun, it was fast, it was catchy, it was and is a brilliantly well written slice of modern hard rock/metal that stood head and shoulders above the shitty metalcore they started with and the overblown Guns n' Roses imitation they'd go on to milk to death.  But the dirty little secret here is that I had never actually known any of their other albums beyond like two songs across seven albums or whatever.  They just weren't worth listening to, who the fuck cares about a group of dorks who dress like Good Charlotte, give themselves dumb names like "Zacky", and rip off Overkill's mascot?

The extremely obvious revelation I'm leading to is that holy shit Avenged Sevenfold is genuinely good and I think I'm just an unironic fan now.  Despite always kinda-secretly liking City of Evil this was genuinely the band I had the lowest expectations for based on my memory.  But man I'd be lying if I said I hadn't gone back to listen to Waking the Fallen more than a few times since the original relisten, not because I needed to take notes or anything, but just because I wanted to hear it again.

The thing that stands out the most is something that I remember hating the most as a kid, funnily enough.  M. "Night" Shyadowlan easily, and I mean fucking easily stands out as the best vocalist of all the bands I've covered in this series.  Back when I was 14 I remember hearing a song or two and thinking he was super whiny and then switching the music to Angel Witch without a shred of irony.  Hearing so many lame, weak, dry, or tuneless vocalists in a row really makes his skill incredibly fucking obvious and I have no idea why I hated him at the time.  His cleans have a lot of grit to them and he carries a tune extremely well, even showcasing a surprising range on "I Won't See You Tonight part 1".  His harsh vocals, while dropped entirely after this album, are very good as well.  They're extremely venomous and sound like they're coming straight from the gut despite being on the higher end of the register.  I focused on vocals so much throughout this series because it seemed like nobody could get the harsh/clean combo right and they so frequently took center stage, but Avenged Fucking Sevenfold of all god damned bands winds up being literally the only one to nail it and my jaw is still on the floor.

Even the instrumental side excels in a way that most of the other bands couldn't.  They are by no means the most aggressive or heaviest band in the genre (their drift away from metalcore to a more hard rock and (apparently) progressive metal direction over the years isn't really surprising) but these guys are incredibly fucking tight songwriters.  Despite the length of these songs, they have the girth to make it worthwhile.  The typical metalcore breakdown of open string chugs in perfect time with a rapid fire bass drum shows up plenty of times here, with "Unholy Confessions" sporting probably the most basic one to ever exist, but they hit surprisingly hard whenever they show up and more often than not the band will just subvert them by slamming down a meaty groove that smacks more of Pantera than anybody else instead.  Waking the Fallen runs through a lot of different moods, from caustic bursts like "Unholy Confessions" and "Eternal Rest" to melodic anthems like "Chapter Four" to mournful ballads like "I Won't See You Tonight".  That last one actually hammers the Pantera comparison home even further, since it's technically a two-parter, with the first part being a slow ballad and the second part being a shotgun blast of aggression.  There's absolutely no way that wasn't intentionally modeled off "Suicide Note", right?  Am I crazy?  Regardless, the album ebbs and flows between all of these different approaches and for the first time in a half dozen reviews a band actually manages to be good at all of them.  I seriously can't get over how much I like "Chapter Four".  Seriously, I'd be willing to consider that as my favorite song in the entire genre.  There is barely a wasted second on that one and every stupid element of it hits bullseye, and I'm saying that with full acknowledgment of the completely pointless section that repeats a ten note chug pattern eight times in a row.  It (and the rest of the album, frankly) is so basic that it should just be corny schlock, but there is so much sincerity here that I can't help but adore it.  That chorus is just fucking sublime with that incredible vocal hook coupled with the sliding octaves on the guitar in the background.  In comparison to their peers, Avenged Sevenfold doesn't have a single new or novel idea in their collective head but they played their fucking hearts out and torqued the lugnuts so damned tight that they wound up writing a dozen songs that effortlessly steamrolled everybody else trying to make metalcore accessible.  

I do have one complaint though, and it should be obvious to anybody familiar with both this album and my reviews in general: it's way too fucking long.  No metal album should get this close to the 70 minute mark unless every single song is a standout on its own, and Waking the Fallen is not immune to this criticism.  There are a lot of different ideas here but they're all pretty well worn and the album works best as a unit despite a few standout tracks.  So as a result it really does start to blur together after the first handful of tracks, which isn't the biggest problem since I think this works pretty well as a unit but it's a problem nonetheless.  The good news is that none of the tracks themselves feel too long, which is shocking considering the shortest one (barring the intro) is still only a few seconds shy of five minutes, and three of them breach the seven minute mark (with the first part of "I Won't See You Tonight" stretching out to nine), so the arduous runtime isn't really the end of the world since I was entertained the whole time at the very least.

Really, I didn't see this coming, but Waking the Fallen is genuinely the best of the bunch here.  My lifelong love of Pantera helps me appreciate the stomping groove metal parts, my lifelong love of Guns n' Roses helps me appreciate the overblown epic parts where Synyster "Bill" Gates goes fucking feral on his fretboard (though they wouldn't fully lean into this until later), and my lifelong... well indifference to melodeath helps me appreciate the heavy parts simply because they're so much better than the legions of mediocre trend chasers that defined this era of music.  The word I keep coming back to in my head that I've been trying not to overuse is "tight".  Waking the Fallen is simply a remarkably well written album in a style that was absolutely saturated with mediocre chumps pumping out first draft songs and cashing in, delivered with enough sincerity to turn the corny simplicity into something truly endearing.  All this really needed was a bit of a fat trim and maybe dropping one or two songs entirely and this would genuinely be a classic, and I'm not kidding.

I wouldn't have bothered with this series if I wound up thinking everything still sucked just as much as I thought it did when I was a teenager, but really, the fact that Trivium and Avenged Sevenfold, the two bands I vocally hated the most, wound up being the ones that surprised me the most and churned out some genuinely great albums (Heafy's awful vocals are literally the only thing dragging Ascendancy's score down, remember) is seriously not at all what I expected.  I figured it'd be Killswitch, honestly, since I've been a fan of As I Lay Dying ever since 2007, but the world is really fucking weird and here we are.  Avenged Sevenfold is Good Actually.  Feel free to hold that against me forever if you wish, I'm not backing down, I genuinely adore this album.

(Pre-Publication Edit: Since writing this I've started listening to their other albums.  The self titled is actually worse than bad, it's exactly as awful as I remembered their metalcore era being when I was a kid, oddly enough.  Nightmare was much better, it was super corny but very City of Evil if it had a huge shot of the Black Album in it, though there were way too many shitty ballads that dragged it down a ton.  Still gotta check the rest but that's three albums I'll stand up for now so yeah I guess I'm just a fan after all, whoda thunk)

Thursday, October 1, 2020

RELITIGATING HIGH SCHOOL Vol V: God Forbid - Gone Forever

Yo this fucks
I've been trying to touch on every corner of this era when choosing albums for this series.  Shadows Fall was the collective macrogenre in a nutshell, Killswitch was the most standard metalcore band, Atreyu occupied the more radio-friendly and alternative side, et cetera.  So when it came time for "the heavy one", the obvious answer was Lamb of God but I've already covered their entire discography, so my brief research led me to two possibilities: God Forbid or Unearth.  I decided to go with God Forbid almost entirely because of the hilarious way Suffocation's Frank "The Tank" Mullen pronounces those two words on "Funeral Inception".

God Foopee is similar to Shadows Fall in the sense that they were actually fairly early to the party, forming in the mid/late 90s and not seeing success until nearly a decade later, and even then their success was pretty modest compared to most of their contemporaries.  Based on everything I've seen and read, they were always extremely respected by scene veterans and inadvertently acted as a great promotional tool since basically the entire northeastern American metal scene of the era opened for them at some point, but merely through bad luck they just never broke out above the second tier.

And that's kind of shocking because they honestly have one hell of a leg up on most of their contemporaries.  They were without a doubt the band with the most "metal cred" in the scene if you ask me.  While most bands I've covered so far seemed to play metalcore because they were simply influenced by other metalcore bands or did a very cut-and-dry blending of In Flames styled melodeath and emotional hardcore (in a way that kept the elements mostly separated, like a salad instead of a soup), God Foopee played metalcore seemingly by accident by playing hella fast paced melodeath closer to At the Gates or The Haunted with a massive dose of intense thrash metal and simply included breakdowns into the formula that came off sounding more like Pantera than Madball.  Every metalcore band was aggressive, but few of them were violent.  This unhinged sense of danger is something that Gone Forever absolutely fucking nails in a way that the All That Remainses of the world couldn't even imagine.  The clean parts are more effective here than anywhere else because they're so much more rare than usual and the heavy parts are so overwhelming and destructive.  

I've found myself focusing on vocals a lot in this series and I think that's because this scene had a weird problem with most bands featuring both harsh and clean vocals but basically no band being good at both of them (if either).  God Foopee is no different, with the cleans being clearly inferior to the screams, but I actually think the fact that the cleans are so rough adds to the authenticity.  Killswitch may have hit a home run with Jones's stunning cleans, and while brothers Doc "tor Death" and "Diamond" Dallas Coyle are several rungs below his smooth majesty, their more scratchy and less tonally punched-in cleans lend a level of sincerity to the music that no amount of theatrical histrionics could dream to match.  That "What are we waiting for?" part on "Force-Fed" sounds downright desperate, and the more intense than average music surrounding it helps them blend in so much more than the saccharine cleans of other bands.  Byron "The Butcher" Davis's screams, on the other hand, are some of the most caustic and vitriolic I've heard since undertaking this project.  He does the Shadows Fall thing of layering over himself quite frequently, but his scream is much more full and menacing than Fair's, so when the layering happens it sounds less like a studio trick to fill out the sound and more like a horde of pissed off minions preparing to eat your insides.  He doesn't dig deep into the death metal register or anything, but his mid range screams absolutely stand out from the pack due to the intense amount of rusted nails he chewed before tracking.  I can't stress enough how night-and-day the intensity of the vocals are here when compared to basically every other band in the scene.

That applies to the instrumental attack as well.  I may be overselling the speed of Gone Forever, but I'm not overselling the aggression.  "Washed Out World" has more clean vocals than it probably needs but check out that rollicking thrash riff 25 seconds in.  "Living Nightmare" kicks off with an incredibly mosh friendly riff before careening headfirst into a short double bass section that leads into a bloody-knuckled Pantera section.  Gone Forever just starts knocking teeth out from the word go and basically never stops.  Even the melodic choruses that every album needed by law in 2004 sound dirtier and more chaotic than I'd been getting used to.  There's a surprising amount of Nevermore in the sound as well, from the solos to the more skippy riffs to the way the clean vocals are delivered (even if they're wildly different from Warrel Dane's off-broadway overprojection), tons of signs point to that Seattle institution on here.  And just like with Trivium, the amount of epic 80s metal in here is surprising as well.  "Antihero" and "Soul Engraved" open with speedy riffs that were probably more inspired by Whoracle than anything else but they come off sounding like if In Flames was ripping off Judas Priest instead of Iron Maiden, if that makes sense.  The lithe riffs that zip along at high speed and the mid paced open string breakdowns are equally devastating, and I can't help but envision the band tearing the walls off of every venue with their bare hands when these songs are played live.  

If there's any flaw here, it's that the tracklist could've used a reshuffling, since the only two songs I don't really care for all that much are "Better Days" and "Perfect Lie" (the latter of which is super clunky and probably should've just been cut entirely), and they're unfortunately placed directly next to each other pretty early in the album.  Otherwise the disparate influences are all combined into a super taut package and delivered with an overwhelming amount of venom.  God Foopee gets bundled with Unearth mentally for me fairly often because they were both the two bands most frequently recommended to me back in the days I'm looking back on, and now that I've finally gotten around to giving them both good faith listens, I can say they both kicked ass at this niche and I regret passing on them the most.  I'm not gonna review Unearth but just imagine they got an identical review and score.