Thursday, May 3, 2012

Brendon Small's Galaktikon - Brendon Small's Galaktikon (2012)

Mastermind of the two fastest selling death metal albums of all time, Brendon Small has spent years as the man behind the music. As the writer and creator of cartoon band come to life, Dethklok, he has sought to please rabid fans the world over. Finally, he steps out from their immense shadows to release an album that not only bears his name, but also reminds us that he was a wizard of heavy music long before Skwisgaar Skwigelf came into existence. This "high stakes intergalactic extreme rock" album takes you away from the guttural growls and into a world of swirling melody that is as infectious as it is daring.

Leading with strength, "Triton" starts the album off with a bang. This is one of the few songs that carries a Dethklok vibe, musically. But Small's melodic vocals are excellent, transforming the track into something entirely different. The vocal hooks get you singing along, while the surgical precision of Gene Hoglan's drums will have your feet tapping in no time. As a pace setter, the song works wonders, flowing neatly into "Prophecy Of The Lazer Witch." Rolling double kicks are only the beginning here, with an intense groove coming out of left field. The bass lines that echo through the background, provided by Dethklok live member Bryan Beller, tighten the whole production. And while the music is as perfect as one would expect, the lyrics are a highlight. Things slow down a touch for "Beastblade," seeing Small take a lighter approach in his singing. To call it crooning would be misplaced, but the depth in his voice is encouraging. From the pure clean vocals to the raspy side, he hits the right notes, even eliciting a sing along "woooo ooooo ooooo" in the hook. The bass line that guides the track to a close is a killer, running up and down the scales.

if you have waited this long for a stomp, you are in luck. "Deathwaltz" touches on that southern metal style that made Pantera so famous, without dumbing down the track as a whole. The verse sees a heavy, crushing set of riffs, while the chorus cuts back to melody and magic. The appearance of a violin rounds things out, just in time for Small to unleash a ripping, but perfectly sensible, solo. It is more about precision, rather than pure speed, though he exhibits both. Bizarrely titled, "Truth Orb And The Kill Pool" rumbles forward with a big assist from the dynamic rhythm section. The lyrics here are surprisingly poignant at times, without being pretentious. It is easy to focus on one piece or another, but the way all the elements come together in this particular track speak to Small's ability as a songwriting. On that same note, "You Can't Run Away" may be the catchiest song he has done to date.A fluttering guitar riff inhabits the verse, partnered with a heavy dose of kicks and cymbals. That dichotomy of vocal styles is never more apparent and celebrated than here, with the smooth clean vocals meshing perfectly with aggressive ones. Even as the hammer drops in the breakdown/solo section, the harmony of all the pieces is stunning.

Once again achieving that space age feel, "Arena War Of The Immortal Masters" opens with a futuristic guitar riff. A robotic voice effect sees time in the chorus section, hammering home the galactic thrill ride. This, more than the others, is the "fist in the air" entry, complete with a bass line that might be bedroom worthy. There is something inherently empowering in the lyrics here, with Small chanting "we will defy the laws of gravity, they will behold our majesty." All of this comes just in time for the lone instrumental piece, the aptly titled "Dangertits." As one of the tracks that had been released prior to the album, it seemed odd on its own. But sandwiched in the eighth slot, it all comes together. And with a closer like "On My Way," you have a completed saga. The tempo picks up again, seeing Small fly through riffs at a nauseating pace. The beauty in the vocals is in the sheer simplicity of it all, cutting from clean to gritty and back again, but not attempting to do anything outside of realm of reason. Instead, they leave that to the budding breakdown that follows, with Hoglan pounding away at every piece of his kit, with Beller rolls ahead at full steam ahead. The chemistry on display is unreal.

Small has outdone himself here, and given his fans, and metal fans in general, nine songs of high energy, high speed, rocket fuel. Between the blazing guitar work, the machine-like drumming of Gene Hoglan, and Bryan Beller's top notch bass lines, this space age piece of metal madness has everything you could want. Sure, the screams and growls are absent. But that is a good thing. The next Dethalbum can wait. Every second of Brendon Small's Galaktikon is like a zero gravity punch in the mouth, keeping you on the edge of your seat, and the edge of your sanity.


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