Style: Hard Rock/Heavy Metal
Release Date: 31 Jan 2020
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Lordi will never lose their association with the Eurovision Song Contest, a synonym in Europe for embarrassing pop music until, well, Lordi won it with a tasty slab of hard rock bombast that blew everyone away. If they're known outside that, it's probably for their outrageous monster costumes, which are reminiscent of GWAR but should remind of Kiss instead and this concept album serves to underline that.
Yes, concept album. The concept here is to pretend that Lordi, who formed in Finland back in 1992, have were really as established then as they are now, and this is a greatest hits collection covering that earlier fictional era. If we were around at the time, the choice of songs is going to sound eerily familiar, highlighting how trends changed and how bands navigated them, with varying degrees of success and failure.
If we imagine Lordi (referred to here as the Monster Squad) as being founded in, say, 1974, we ought to place the start of their chronology with Blow My Fuse, an early Kiss song with prominent bass and strong riffs. There's more Kiss on the way too, Zombimbo being the token embarrassing disco number and another actually composed by Paul Stanley and Jean Beauvoir, Like a Bee to the Honey, a set of double entendres wild enough to be worthy of Spinal Tap, complete with Michael Monroe on sax. Let me dip into your fruit jar, honey!
The later seventies are covered by Apollyon, an AOR ballad, before we shift into the eighties, apparently the heyday of the Monster Squad. Beyond Like a Bee to the Honey, there's a generic schoolboy rebellion song, Up to No Good, that's a composite of half a dozen bands; an unwise bid for commerciality in Cutterfly, which is driven by keyboard chords more than riffs; and the token Desmond Child-produced horror movie soundtrack song, Scream Demon. It's the film's main theme and the video, on heavy MTV rotation, would place the band into the movie that they otherwise aren't in at all.
As the eighties roll into the nineties, with the last big hit, I Dug a Hole in the Yard for You in their rear view mirror, the Monster Squad apparently realised that following the many trends of the last couple of decades wasn't the right way to go and maybe they should just play what they want instead. Shake the Baby Silent is a pitch to a new generation, a Rob Zombie song done very well indeed. Evil is the real comeback, a faster and heavier European power metal song that brings in Pantera and verges on thrash. Remember how Painkiller shook things up for Judas Priest in 1990 after Turbo and Ram It Down? That's Evil for the Monster Squad.
Every one of the songs I've mentioned does its job well. Some are fantastic songs, some not so much but they all do what they're supposed to do as part of the overall concept. The only one that didn't seem to fit in the puzzle was Horror for Hire; maybe it's just the routine song that shouldn't be on the greatest hits album.
And if all that isn't enough, the album is broken up into four song blocks by an equally imaginary American DJ, the Mad Rager, Rockin' Ruiz, and these remain fun after a few listens through, which is surprising. The first is a preview, with takes on AC/DC, Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, Mercyful Fate, a band I don't remotely recognise and Guns n' Roses. The others play with the phone, a set of dubious callers leading us through a live horror story with backward masking and Satanic panic and all that jazz.
Lordi may never shake the Eurovision tag, but they've always been a quality band and their albums are stronger than we might expect. This one isn't the best they've ever made but it highlights how good they are at a wider set of styles than they've generally had the opportunity to play. There has always been Alice Cooper and Kiss in their sound, but Evil is the heaviest thing I have ever heard them do and Shake the Baby Silent is up there with anything Rob Zombie has recorded in this millennium. Long live the Monster Squad and long live Lordi!