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Pro-Pain's debut is a weird little album that goes for sounding big and tough. Instead, a lot of what I get is pure silliness interspersed with ranting and postures. The album takes its musical cues from fellow groovers Pantera and from frontman Gary Meskil's old punk band, the Crumbsuckers. This gives us an album of tough-guy hardcore with an emphasis on heaviness and hard grooves to appeal to your inner meathead. There are good pieces, but they are outweighed by the flaws.
The good bits come first. The first songs, namely the title track up to Pound For Pound contain some decent riffs and energetic songwriting that is given a lot of weight with Meskil's fast-paces shouts and the solid riffs. There are a lot of mosh worthy grooves and punchy bits to give some of these pieces some weight, they really are good songs here.
Now for the bad parts. The lyrics are positively stupid. There are lines along the lines of "hunting you down like the cheese in a rat race" and other idiocy since there are songs like The Stench of Piss which Pro-Pain dedicates to a bum who stinks the subways up while Meskil shouts about "THE STENCH OF PISS" at the top of his lungs, it's pretty funny. There's also the song Every Good Boy Does Fine which reads out like a tirade against Mexicans written by a blue-collar racist using every piss-weak stereotype in the book. There is also the problem of weak riffage in the middle and later portions of the album with many of them just being reused and boring thrash riffs that don't stick out at all. The later two thirds of this album sound like boring filler. There are also the more irksome things that show up in otherwise decent songs, such as the unnecessary hip-hop drum loop in Pound For Pound and the moaning singing on Johnny Black which is actually an otherwise good song thanks to its use of the wah-wah pedal and intense funky grooves. There are a few other examples of needless bufoonery, but I can't list them all here. There are a lot of clashing sounds and stupid bits here that really ruin this album.
I don't know what to say here, Foul Taste Of Freedom is not an album I would ever tell anyone to make the mistake of paying full price for. There are some decent songs, almost all near the beginning. Filler riffs and boneheaded lyrics abound on this album. This is meathead rock pure and simple. I can't be asked to care about Foul Taste Of Freedom since there was only so much right and so much more wrong with it. If you want Pro-Pain and you want it badly, skip this and go for The Truth Hurts instead.
Pro-Pain´s debut was published in 1992 and as you surely know, this was no good time for heavy metal. The thrash heroes of the eighties were dead or, even worse, experimenting with foreign influences. Due to this bad development, my metal fellow and I were looking for new angry sounds. Inter alia due to the fact that the second wave of black metal was still in its infancy, we were glad to discover bands like Pro-Pain. And it was no disadvantage, that its members were well known from the Crumbsuckers.
The musicians did not look friendly and their tough guy attitude was rather moronic. But their music appeared as a fresh breeze. Armed with a reliable sense for catchiness, Pro-Pain offered a medium hard musical approach. The well executed title track kicked off the fittingly produced album in a representative manner. The highly memorable chorus left its mark as well as the droning main riff, while the smoothly flowing guitars contrasted with the extremely raw voice. Last but not least, the lyrical content with the key message “Democracy leaves a foul taste of freedom in me” made me curious. Also during the further pieces, Pro-Pain did not beat around the bush. “He don't wanna work / Cause he looks like a bum and he stinks like a turk” gave a precise description of a man called “hard luck Willie” and “Mohammed's no match for the great Uncle Sam” was an unambiguous challenge to the Muslim world. No, Pro-Pain was definitely not afraid of explicit lyrics.
The title track was followed by a dozen of vulgarities. Pro-Pain commuted between stomping mid-tempo numbers and fast-paced pieces. Generally speaking, the snazzier tunes like “Death Goes On” were slightly better than those that followed a less speedy formula. But Pro-Pain also combined the different tempos in a convincing manner. Therefore, a couple of fantastic neckbreakers, for example “Rawhead” or “The Stench of Piss”, shined with their dynamic. Apart from that, the most surprising detail occurred in “Every Good Boy Does Fine”. The selective use of trumpets lent this song a Mexican aura. In addition, the distorted music box at the beginning of "Lesson Learned" was fairly original. Contrariwise, the vocals were less extraordinary. Lead vocalist Gary Meskil did not change the pitch. His only aim was to demonstrate his very bad mood and to evoke emotions like hatred and hostility. Following this line, he did a good job. His vocal performance did not lack of aggression or vigor.
The constantly high level of the 13 tunes was remarkable. Only the uninspired “Picture This” fell below expectations. But this minor flaw was compensated by the furious last third of the album. From the crisp and patriotic “Iraqnophobia” with its restless bass lines to the menacing “God only Knows”, Pro-Pain delivered four high quality tracks. Not only because of this turbulent end, “Foul Taste of Freedom” became a full-length that did not gather dust on the shelf. A different question is whether the band was well advised to present the configuration of this full-length on their further albums again and again. But that is another story.
This is a hardcore CD, which wouldn't be a problem if it weren't a TERRIBLE hardcore CD. This is one of those albums that came out in the gutter between oldschool hardcore and the modern toughguy style, so it manages to lack the charms of either side. It's totally awkward, stilted, mid-paced music which has no sense of direction or momentum at all. Incoherent song structures, overly flat production, dumb lyrics, the whole nine yards. It just sucks.
First off, I have to wonder what the hell is going on with the guitar tone. It has only a third of the distortion it should have and it sounds like it's played in standard, both of which are rather odd decisions if you're trying to sound 'brutal'. This isn't helped at all by the bland, lifeless riffs that litter this album. I guess I respect the band for not taking the low road of crafting nothing but boring breakdowns and strummed open chords, but honestly that probably would have been a better decision than the convoluted, somewhat thrashy riffs they use instead that make no sense and go nowhere, just like the songs in general, which are afflicted with Opeth syndrome: lots of parts with no coherency together.
The drumwork is solid enough, but the vocals are mediocre at best, and, like the guitars, both are produced very badly. There's nothing really wrong with the production, but there's nothing in the way of any personality in it. It's extremely flat and sterile, which is about the last thing you want on a hardcore album. I guess it fits the music though in that it makes no sense and was easily avoidable but the band decided for some godawful reason that they were going to try something new and failed miserably in the process.
Actual lyrics from 'Death On The Dance Floor': 'There was dance on the death floor/From the heavy connection of the Pro-Pain sound'.
I think we're done here.