Tuesday 18 April 2023

Lordi - Screem Writers Guild (2023)

Country: Finland
Style: Hard & Heavy
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 31 Mar 2023
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Damn, I must have blinked in 2021 because I didn't just miss one new Lordi album, I missed seven of them. I reviewed Killection in 2020, which was a fictional compilation album, collating music from a bunch of different phases of a fictional band's career. It was a lot of fun for listeners and it appears that it was just as much fun for the band, because they promptly knocked out the Lordiversity box set in 2021, which included entire albums in some of the styles on offer in Killection: one prog rock, one AOR, one theatrical rock, and so on, even one disco. So I'm suddenly way behind, but they have an unrelated new eighteenth album only three years after their tenth.

This one opens up heavy with Dead Again Jayne, clearly a heavy metal song, even if it's the sort of heavy metal we might expect Alice Cooper to knock out at his heaviest. The bass on this one sounds like a machine gun at points and Mr. Lordi himself lets out a nice scream at one point. I like it a lot, but it's just a teaser here because the rest of the album softens up to a bombastic hard rock level. Or, as the framing story to this kinda sorta concept album would have it, it's the gorefest that kicks off a horror movie marathon before we leap back to the cheesiness of the eighties for the rest. It's introduced by a guest horror host, Nosferiuz, but he doesn't show up again until The SCG Awards a solid nine tracks later for another skit before the final two movies.

Instead, we just get movies, erm songs, most of which have theatrical intros. Inhumanoid's sounds like a robot fellating itself. Thing in the Cage has a strange a capella opening that hints at throat singing but never gets there, even after the minute it runs. Vampyro Fang Club starts with carnival organ and coins jingling in pockets. And so on. Each of these songs is hard rock, hooks very much on display and driving the songs more than the riffs. Alice Cooper is the most frequent comparison I'd conjure up, which shouldn't surprise as Lordi have modelled a lot of what they do on him, both with regards to image and sound.

Inhumanoid may be the strongest of these songs. The album's pretty easy to listen to overall, even if some of the intros get old pretty quickly, but few of the songs want to stand out. The best are at the beginning of the album, Inhumanoid especially but also the bounce of Thing in the Cage. It's a slow but emphatic one that flows along effortlessly. I'm sure Lordi have probably got fed up of the Eurovision Song Contest by now, but this is the song that would do best there, I think. It's firmly a rock song but it's built on melodic pop underpinnings and the hook is everything. It's also a strong commitment to togetherness, even if it's phrased as "This freakshow needs a geek like me."

The album started to lose me when The Bride showed up. Sure, it ditches the need for an intro and launches straight into the song but it's a ballad, so equates to the tame horror movie that eschews blood and guts and tries instead for a subtle psychological approach. That's fine and I'm sure it has its time, but that time isn't six movies into an all night marathon. It's the movie where everyone is happy to take a quick nap before starting into the home stretch with a firm favourite. Here, that's the first single, Lucyfer Prime Evil, and it's a good one even though I missed it first time.

On that first listen, The Bride took me out of the album and I didn't reconnect until Lycantropical Island, missing this first single and Scarecrow. Lucyfer Prime Evil remains hard rock but it's heavier than anything else on offer except the opener. The guitars are a little more vicious than the norm and the keyboards provide good emphasis. I should mention here that the line-up has changed in the three years since Killection and indeed since Lordiversity in 2021, but only to replace Amen for the first time. Every other position in the band except Mr. Lordi as lead vocalist has changed over the years at least twice, but Amen has stayed the course since 1996 until now.

His replacement is Kone and he's the best thing about Scarecrow, which isn't a ballad but feels like one. It's not bad but no wonder it didn't register on a first listen. Lycantropical Island restores the norm, bringing us more hard rock with eighties keyboards and plenty of hooks and the album stays there throughout. The other two notable tracks are The SCG Awards, which is a skit featuring our host, Nosferiuz, and End Credits, which is a good way to end. This album could have run any length but Dead Again Jayne was always going to be the opener and End Credits the closer. It's less ballad and more softer rock song almost in a Pink Floyd vein but it's also a goodbye, with another strong guitar solo from Kone to cement his place in the band. He gets a few.

This is what it is, I guess. It's Lordi playing theatrical hard rock with a horror theme, which ought to be exactly what you expect. It's decent stuff, but there are few songs that stand out as highlights, Inhumanoid chief among them and Thing in the Cage and Lycantropical Island in its wake. It isn't a concept album, just a loose theme shoehorned into a couple of skits, and that gets old quickly. The album has to live or die on its songs and it ends up in between. Undead, I guess, like Nosferiuz. It's a 7/10 of an album that's a bit too long and a bit too routine to maintain that rating, probably just like this review.

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