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The origin of feces? Hardly... - 80%

Napero, September 4th, 2012

Mordered, along with the much worse an much better offender, Faith No More, is a member of the scarce handful of bands commonly held responsible for the very existence of alternative brands of metal, nu metal, and the abominable metalcore (just to add insult to insult... not much in the way of evidence there...). They dared to mix the sacred metal with funk, thus disgracing the holy ground with alien seed, and profaned the purest of all metal genre itself, thrash with their niggardly dosaged acts of blasphemy. And that's... that's... unforgivable, and frankly, EVIL!

On the other hand, they might have shown the withering thrash scene a new direction, they might have indeed saved the wonderful phenomenon from a premature -albeit temporary- death, and a similar diversification into a multitude of directions by other bands could have breathed new life into the lingering carcass, and maybe, just maybe, new ideas and vitalily might have rejuvenated the dying kingdom.

But no, Mordred was eventually destined to remain an oddity, a sideshow freak along the walk of metal, and despite the idea of mixing thrash with funk, one that should have appealed heavily to the more proto-hipsterish part of the thrashy audience, they just kind of got buried in the sands of time. Yes, their ideas have been recycled, or, rather, rediscovered or even reinvented, by many bands considered parts of the ambiguous "nu metal" scene, but it's not unconceivable to think that the ideas were buried for half a decade before being unearthed by others with less honorable intentions.

Fool's Game is one of the albums that was supposed to become something special. Thrash had turned five, the scene was not very willing to evolve, and death metal was looming in the horizon, all willing to take its place. There was a need for new blood, but for reasons to be later explained, Fool's Game did not manage to turn the ship enough to avoid the beach. And here, the "beach" is an analogy more accurate than you'd first believe.

Fool's Game is supposed to be a blend of thrash metal and funk in its most metallic form. And it occasionally manages to be exactly that. But the appearances of the musical chimera are too rare to have an impact. Most of the music on the album is just lame, light-weight thrash, the kind that somehow managed to take over the scene and water it down into a weak punch bowl for beach vacationers, served in a split coconut shell with fruit and a bloody stupid paper umbrella to choke on. Certain songs resemble the too-well-restrained and questionable aggression that can be found on certain Testament albums, the kind of pseudo-angry metal that essentially kept Testament itself from seriously competing with the more furious Big Four or the German brand of thrash. It might have ideas, it might have riffs, but it lacks all of the essential aggression and punishment good thrash is supposed to embody. And the songs are uneven to the point of embarrassement; a few tracks actually manage to make the funk-meets-metal sound work, a they even sound rather good. But with just two songs out of the ten on the album, the funky idea gets diluted to virtually homeopathic concentrations, and the idea gets lost in the white noise.

Sure, this had its followers. Scatterbrain was, at its best, of the same quasi-thrash brand as this, and even the Finnish scene had its unfortunate dosage of neutered thrash when Airdash turned to whatever they thought they were making on Both Ends of the Path, three years after the rather good Thank God It's Monday debut. Thrash lost its soul way before it died. And as far thrash goes, Fool's Game was essentially dead before it was born, with two funky cockroaches crawling on it and showing some token signs of life.

Thrash always had a "fun" part in it, especially the Bay Area and Nordic varieties. It's even easy to claim that only the German brand of thrash had any bands that took themselves seriously, and that such superficially serious bands as the young and vitriolic Slayer and the very early Metallica were closer to merry beer-and-moshing attitude than they'd admit in a retrospective document today. But once it turned into this kind of surf music brand that seems like a gelded and obedient shadow of its beastly past, they whole genre went for several years of relaxation on the beach for a bit of tan and a few PiƱa coladas. And it never regained the anger in its original form.

The essential problem with Fool's Game is that it's simply too timid and gentle as a thrash album, and way too restrained on the funk front. More of the funk, more anger, in an "Infectious Grooves Goes Speed METAL!" way would have transmogrified this into an interesting and striking piece of art. But now it's just one of the daffodils on a field with plenty of nice but harmless late-era thrash albums of the early 90s, and it sports a lamentably scarce pair of tracks with the funk that was what still keeps them in the collective post-80s memory.

There are two interesting things here, though. The first one is related to the album itself, and the lack of funk on it: at least five of the tracks were originally included on the demo tapes of the band - assuming, of course, that the Noise Demo predates the full-length album, unlike what the Metal Archives band page claims due to the lack of precise dates on the releases. And none of those were the funkier songs. That could essentially mean that the main body of the album consists of earlier songwriting, from the times before the funk found its way to the fretboard of the bass. And that would unfortunately mean that the band was perhaps signed just a bit too early for the new idea to gain enough momentum to replace the premature nice-boy-thrash works. Maybe the second album is better... but then, it must have been too late at that point, and the corpse of thrash had had two years to cool and stiffen.

Another observation might be a bit more general and perhaps only possible with the unquestionable benefit of hindsight: Faith No More was better, bolder, and definitely much more influental, both in the good and the bad. They took the process of mangling the holy cow of metal further, and ultimately largely forgot they were supposed to be a part of its weirdest pack of mutant offspring. On The Real Thing, they did what Mordred was afraid to do on Fool's Game, and went completely overboard with their own kind of genre-hopping crossover of everything. And even if the album is debatably both a good one and one of the definitely "so 80s" pieces of music history, it's both an innovative and reckless work of art AND the true origin of the feces known as "mallcore" and "alternative metal" from the point of the real metal genres. Mordred didn't go far enough to lay claim on the toilet seat shaped throne in that respect, and even on Vision three years later, they still lack the will to break free from the amenable essence of this album.

Sure, Fool's Game is an enjoyable snapshot of the late 80s, and quite a nice occasional listening experience, but Faith No More it's not - not in the good, nor in the bad.