Friday 7 June 2019

The Rods - Brotherhood of Metal (2019)

Country: USA
Style: Heavy Metal
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 7 Jun 2019
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The Rods may seem like yet another older band to resurface in 2019, but I'm seeing that they've back for a while and this is their third studio album since they reformed in 2010. Their heyday, of course, was from 1980 to 1987. Like L7, they reformed with their classic line-up intact: guitarist David Feinstein, bassist Garry Bordonaro and drummer Carl Canedy on drums. Canedy and Feinstein are founding members, while Bordonaro only missed their debut album in 1980.

It's good to see that these guys are as good as they ever were, but both the best and worst things about this album are that they're very much like they used to be. The good side of that is that they were and are rather talented, a straight ahead heavy metal group with solid musicianship and notably good solos. The bad side is that what was fashionable in 1981 often seems acutely clichéd in 2019.

This album kicks off with a great example of both in its title track. Brotherhood of Metal is a solid slab of old school heavy metal. It has a long piano-driven intro, then kicks in hard and, well, runs through a whole slew of clichés. This is very much for the "armies of denim and leather" and, while it's nowhere near as embarrassing as what Manowar get up to nowadays, it slides a few slots down the same scale. I was OK with it on first listen, thinking that its biggest flaw was that it was a little too long, but a second time through elevates the cheese factor.

And that keeps on coming. The cheese is there in abundance on Everybody's Rockin', which could have been written in 1984. It's there on Louder Than Loud, because of course it is, but it is kind of the point on that track. It's there on Tyrant King too. And Party All Night. And Tonight We Ride. And... yeah, it's there on pretty much all the songs on this album. This is a great choice to play heavy metal cliché bingo to and you can pick any song with similar results.

The good news is that, however clichéd it gets, it's played very sincerely and very well. The riffs are strong, the solos are worthy and the vocals do exactly what they need to do. The influences are worn on the band's sleeves too, with Judas Priest being the most obvious. Everybody's Rockin' could be a Priest song, merely with different vocals. Smoke on the Horizon could be too, even though it adds the heavy organ sound we expect from Jon Lord (and it adds it in gloriously). Add in the Manowar/Virgin Steele mindset of the opening track and you're pretty much set for the rest of the album.

Brotherhood of Metal runs to eleven tracks (hey, this one goes to eleven) and they're all consistent in both quality and cheesiness. The other song that I'll highlight is Party All Night, because Feinstein stops playing on the verses to give Bordonaro's bass the lead. He does a fantastic job but that's not the point I want to make.

I'd been impressed from the very outset about how easily I could hear the bass on this album. In fact it felt almost offputting that there was a bass in the mix, because producers tend not to be capable of acknowledging that the bands they work for even include a bass player. The Rods, of course, feature Carl Canedy in their line-up and he's a producer of note when not performing, so I have no doubt that he's the reason behind the laudibly audible bass.

I found metal in 1984, just a little late to be a big fan of the Rods. I'm sure that, had I been born in the US instead of the UK, I'd have picked up their older albums quicker, but I heard them and liked them. I like this as well and recommend it, but it's going to seem outrageously cheesy to anyone who weren't metalheads in the early eighties. The real question is whether you care or not.

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