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Lordi's "The Arockalypse" is the kind of album we all secretly love. Big dumb singalong choruses with insanely catchy tunes hooking them all together, sung by a man dressed up as a monster, backed by a band of people who really should know better than to wear their costumes as well. It might sound like Kiss, it might sound like several other bands out there, but it should definitely sound like a lot of fun. If you're not already making room for an album like this in your collection, you're a liar.
As I said above, Lordi's schtick is that they're all monsters - indeed, the band has apparently sued a newspaper in Finland that had the temerity to run a picture of Mr Lordi without his outfit, something that says "dedication to the cause" to me. Indeed, this album has something of a vague concept running through it. If the intro is to be believed, Lordi (and presumably their friends) have appeared on earth to take over and institute a vaguely-defined new order. At least, that's how I read it, although I'm normally too busy enjoying the music to care about what they're saying in the intro.
So what kind of new order is it? Well, if the opening track is anything to go by, Lordi are "Bringing Back the Balls to Rock", and having no end of fun doing so. They don't pretend to be anything too serious, and this certainly isn't an album to listen to expecting high-calibre musicianship or lyrics.
That said, one song here ("The Kids who Wanna Play With the Dead") does seem to try to convey a message. Admittedly, it's a rather standard one about everyone being made violent somehow and what a terrible world that's created, but I guess it shows the band has a conscience of some description. Of course, the fact that this message is delivered complete with pounding drumbeats and a gang-vocal chorus that will have people down the street joining in rather muffles what's being said. Still, this is the same band who - earlier on in their career - announced that "The devil is a loser and he's my bitch", so expecting deep philosophical musings is probably asking a bit much.
A particular highlight on the album is "Chainsaw Buffet", a song in which Mr Lordi invites a friend to dinner - with the friend becoming the main course in the process. Cannibalism and gore are of course staples in the metal world, and often in a much more deadpan way, but when coupled with yet more singalong moments, it doesn't seem half bad to be eaten this way. My only regret would be that I wouldn't be able to enjoy the rest of the album...but I digress.
Of course, it would be wrong not to mention "Hard Rock Hallelujah", the song which has become something of a calling card for these Finns since 2006. This was my first exposure to the band, courtesy of their victory at the Eurovision Song Contest. Before this win, Finland had been the running joke of the competition, having failed to come anywhere near winning in nearly half a century of trying, and to see the country win (and break all records in doing so) with such a superb track was a very enjoyable experience.
Present here in a slightly different version to the single, "Hard Rock Hallelujah" is the album in miniature. We open with Mr Lordi growling the chorus over Kita's drum beats, before Amen delivers a riff that will simply not leave my head no matter how hard I try to replace it. Lyrically, the song is a mishmash of vaguely Biblical comments ("Lost are the lambs, with no guiding light") with equally ephemeral descriptions about how hard the guys rock ("It's the Arockalypse, now bare your soul"). But of course, we're not here to think about the lyrics, we're here to headbang like lunatics and shout the chorus at the top of our collective lungs, and so we do. By the time Mr Lordi declares "Wings on my back, I got horns on my head, My fangs are sharp and my eyes are red" (which he famously did onstage at Eurovision while sprouting wings and having his axe/microphone stand spit fire), we're more than willing to believe him. After all, that's what this level of theatricality is all about.
Is it a perfect album? Of course not. If you're not in the right mood to suspend disbelief and rock out, all the songs sound the same and they're being sung by a guy in a dumb costume. But hey, when you're onto a winning formula - which Lordi patently are - there's no need to vary what you do. There are many more respectable bands out there who could do with heeding that advice.