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My chuckles were muffled by all the gags. - 68%

hells_unicorn, August 18th, 2010

There seems to be a massive conspiracy of sorts amongst some parties in trying to relive the spirit of “This Is Spinal Tap” in a more modern context, and all of them seem to involve the former thrash drummer icon turned mercenary for hire Gene Hoglan. Though Zimmers Hole is a band that goes back a bit further than Dethklok and parallels the path of the now defunct Strapping Young Lad model more so in terms of genre and personnel, their combination of lyrical antics and slavishness to cliché fit them into a similar mold to the former cartoon network sensation. At times it gets a tad too ridiculous, especially in the vocal presentation, but musically there is enough going on to keep things entertaining, provided one doesn’t mind a potpourri approach to an album’s genre leanings.

This latest album, which bears a title just a tad too long to mention (referencing two iconic albums from the opposite extremes of the early metal scene), attempts to bridge the divide between 1985 and 2007 musically, while the brand of toilet humor employed by vocalist/comedian Chris Valagao is noted for its post-Beavis And Butthead character. Woefully exaggerated imagery of steel wielding Manowar soldiers collide with a very modern take on speed/thrash, informed occasionally by a melodic death metal interchange here and there. This modern character is mostly manifest in the production values and, particularly, the overt heaviness of the drum production, in contrast to the archaic thunder with extra reverb heard out of Hoglan on “Leave Scars” and “Time Does Not Heal”. It maintains something of a retro feel in the riff clichés employed, giving it the illusion of an extreme power metal album by today’s standards, but the frequent use of grind-like screeches and morosely guttural barks skew this perception and bring back that latent melodic death tendency.

Song by song, this mixture of good humor and overdone buffoonery is dominated by a consistent presentation of comical simplicity and merciless catchiness. The blistering opener and title song takes a route of perpetual speed ala Hoglan’s double bass attack, and otherwise rides a very orthodox set of mostly single note oriented speed metal riffs that are close to the primitive nature of the early proto-thrash era of the early 80s, though expressed in a more present day mode of heaviness. Essentially Valagao is what makes this song work on an original level, going back and forth between his wide array of Gillian inspired wails, David Vincent brand demon barks and blackened ravings, invoking occasional images of Slayer’s “Hell Awaits”, yet somehow managing to be less ridiculous than what follows on the rest of the album. As the album unfolds, a sort of 3 way battle between pre-thrash heavy metal, thrash and modern melodeath ensues, with a fair number of winners and perhaps only a few losers, most of the latter hinging more on the vocals being overdone in a way that would make the likes of Jim Carrey and Gilbert Gottfried go “What the…?”

Where things really succeed here is when the band parodies the lyrical pursuits of metal and lay off the toilet humor and attempts at mocking the “behind the scenes” aspects of 80s metal culture. Examples such as “We Rule The Fucking Land”, “1312 – Zimmers Hole”, “Alright” and “Hair Doesn’t Grow On Steel” perfectly meld the musical and lyrical clichés of Manowar, Iron Maiden, Metallica and several others with an extreme presentation that is accessible to much of today’s audience. These riffs all have a striking familiarity to anyone acquainted with early thrash, yet have been exaggerated so much and steeped in so many flamboyant displays of vocal gymnastics that the songs sound like they exist in an entirely different wavelength. Unfortunately the band’s obsession with getting laughs no matter what it takes ruins what are otherwise inoffensive exercises in catchy metal, particularly in the cases of “Devil’s Mouth” and “Fista Corpse”, the latter of which seems to take some ideas from Maiden’s “Running Free”. The farting noises, goofy harmonica parts, and the dimwitted lyrics just drag things completely down, to speak nothing for the audaciously stupid and unfunny guest slot of Dethklok’s Nathan Explosion on “The Vowel Song”.

Zimmers Hole do a good number of things right on here, but this isn’t quite an adequate replacement for Strapping Young Lad, regardless to whether or not the latter was essentially played out and needed to be retired. There’s enough good music on here for this to have a shelf-life beyond the first couple of listens where some of these jesting moments might actually have some punch, but this doesn’t really rise to the level of those timeless parodies that can be revisited over and over and still inspire a smile and a giggle; say such films as “Airplane” and “Fatal Instinct”. This is more along the lines of a “Student Bodies”; it’s something that plays to those who are in love with hit or miss comedy with a few funny moments and also don’t mind the most iconic era of metal being mocked shamelessly.