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The March Goes on with Night-Vision Goggles - 62%

bayern, August 6th, 2021

Well, it did sound like a deal… dark… parade… those two put together, also in a fairly attractive cover art; throw in a few valiant knights of the round table to swing their swords around the paraders and boom, you already have something to live for… if you are a diehard Mordred fan that is; and you’ve been left depressed by the flippant anything-goes nature of the preceding EP…

but the thing is that Scott Holderby and Co. feel quite comfortable in this volatile, not easy to define zone, where all kinds of compendiums are welcome, as long as they don't suck deplorably… as this one doesn’t, like the two singles (“Malignancy”, “Demonic #7”) released earlier showed, both brisk semi-technical thrashers with enough verve to satisfy the capricious retro thrash lovers, boldly winking at the band’s first instalment, the only downside being Holderby’s indifferent mid-ranged antics, the man sticking to his not very expressive unemotional style from “Volition”, not doing much to uplift the first half of the album which also features the really cool “I Am Charlie”, a nice moderately complex Bay-Areasque shredder, a few choppy funky stopovers easily recalling the band’s staple digressions from the distant past.

Welcome Charlie, Chainsaw or otherwise, but one intrepid non-knight won’t be enough to vanquish the remainder which literally goes all over the place, the mish-mash spearheaded by the last single released from here, the title “All Eyes on the Prize”, a sleazy funky rockorama which has its both not very apt (the tepid bluesy melancholia “Dragging fro Bodies”) and a tad more dignified (the optimistic rock/metal-ish vaudeville that is the title-track) assistants along the way, those last two possibly conceived around the “The Next Room” recording sessions but omitted from it for both good and not so good reasons. The attempts, or at least half-attempts, at edgier metallic tactics keep coming, “Dented Lives” is an example of slightly rowdier song-writing, but it all gets smashed irreparably with “Smash Goes the Bottle”, a frolic foxtrot-ty bubblegum which at least shares the infectiously unpretentious character that this effort has in spades.

Not terribly unpardonable, and even partially acceptable, especially if you’ve already settled for the fact that “Fools Game II” won't occur in this lifetime; but it’s not really dark, damn it; in other words, leave your night-vision goggles at home, cause you won’t need them, for more than half the time. And, this album would have fared even higher if the distribution of the material was a bit more even; you can’t expect to keep the audience fully hooked by throwing them intense thrashier bait at the beginning, and then start feeding them variegated fodder of dubious qualities, hoping that this disparate dish would still taste nice with all the mouth-watering spices placed at the top already devoured… readily.

Decidedly better than the EP and vastly superior to the last third-full-length, this opus will fight for its place in the band’s discography in the coming years, residing in this nomansland of not easy to categorize recordings, not exactly looking for exoneration as again this is far from a flop. Certainly, its fate would still depend on the next parade the guys unleash eventually, whenever that may be… nobody’s fool in this game of life, especially not the metal crowd; you can entertain them with innocent jumpy funkisms, but once you’ve started divesting the ironclad clout, next room… sorry, time a triptych of sharp thrash hymns may not be enough to save you from the bonfire of singeing invectives and scorching diatribes.

An attempt at Fools Game with extra nineties FaithNoMore vibe - 40%

morbert, August 2nd, 2021

Finally! A new Mordred album. And one with Scott Holderby on vocals. Holderby, who gave "Fool's Game" and "In This Life" that specific vibe with his higher than usual vocals. And boy, I still love those 2 albums!

At one point I was afraid a new Holderby fronted album would never happen because online a few rumours and stories began to emerge regarding a reunion with their first singer from the demo era, Stephen Shaw Scates. Yeah, that guy, from when the band still tried to be some sort of Sabbat version from the US. Fortunately that turned out to be for one gig back in 2007.

So fast forward to 2015, Mordred performed in a small venue here and they sounded rejuvenated! They even played 3 or 4 songs which were to be one a next album. So I have been waiting since 2015 for that to happen.

And here it is, 6 years after they told us a new album was in the works, 'The Dark Parade' finally arrives. And since I deny the existence of 'The Next Room', for me this is the third Mordred album. The 3rd Holderby album anyway. And what can I say, "Fool's Game" and "In This Life" were quite different from eachother. The first one being a thrash metal album with some hints of funk & rap and the second album the other way around. This third Holderby album is again an album with a face of its own. No subgenre takes the upper hand on it for starters. Although all subgenres they do play are by now pretty old school or even ancient.

Just like any once renewing band, they have become old school. Funkmetal, rapmetal, thrash metal, they're all 'old'. And so are Holderby's vocals to my dismay. His tone is lower on average and he tries much more to give the songs a Mike Patton kinda vibe. As a result Mordred now sound like a middle aged thrash metal band paying tribute to Faith No More. 'Dragging for Bodies' being the best example of this. Even though being a huge fan of the first 4 Faith No More albums, I quite dislike this song

Also worth mentioning, the opening of the title track is quite an obvious tribute to the British 2Tone sound of the early eighties. And I love this. The song itself however is quite meandering.

All in all, musically, the album balances firmly between "Fool's Game" and "In This Life" with an extra dose of Faith No More thrown in and this will entertain a few fans from the old days (like me) for a while but probably won't attract many new younger fans.

However it must be said, Mordred in 2021 sound at their best on the most 'metal' orientated songs and most of its energy remains on the A-side of the album. Actually, after the first 3 songs, the album kinda fades out and becomes okay-ish background metal. A shame really. Although closer 'Smash Goes the Bottle' does have a nice melodramatic touch to it and the vocals really add something.

Standouts:
- Demonic #7
- I Am Charlie
- Smash Goes the Bottle

They continue marching to the beat of a different drum. - 88%

hells_unicorn, July 31st, 2021
Written based on this version: 2021, CD, M-Theory Audio

Popular culture has an unfortunate tendency of giving too much credit to the present when it comes to creativity, often glossing over the lesser known prime movers that set the stage for the current craze. This was arguably at its most blatant during the late 1990s when the nu-metal fad was picking up steam, with every other writer in the field of music journalism commenting on the novelty of incorporating a DJ into a hard rock or metal arrangement. More inquisitive thinkers would naturally note the influence of outfits such as Faith No More, Suicidal Tendencies and Anthrax in introducing funk, fusion and rap elements into the metal equation, though one would be hard pressed to find a mention of Bay Area thrash pioneers Mordred, a band that was at the forefront of genre-splicing at around the same time that Mr. Bungle was putting out their earliest demo material, and whom were arguably the first to ever incorporate a full time record-scratcher.

Sadly like many trailblazers of the 80s and early 90s, this fold would be plagued by a shifting lineup and a fickle market, causing them to call it quits after three full length albums and an EP that largely set the stage for what was to come towards the end of the millennium. To be fair, the band’s own experimental proclivities did result in a body of work that was difficult to nail down for the average metal head, with the 1989 debut Fool’s Game being the most accessible to thrash enthusiasts given its limited and tasteful employment of funk and hip hop influences relative to neck-ruining riff work. With the original lineup that participated in that seminal opus now reunited (though technically Aaron “DJ Pause” Vaughn was functioning in a guest capacity back then), it would stand to reason that their long awaited fourth full length work would tend the closest to the more metallic contours of their earliest installment, and The Dark Parade proves to be just that.

Indeed, this is the sort of album that exhales pure nostalgia with an obscure, innovative twist like few albums have since thrash began making its resurgence in the early 2000s. Right from the onset of the high octane riff monster of an opener “Demonic #7”, the blaring lead guitar drops some pretty loud hints of a Testament influence with some occasional nods to Grandmaster Flash, with lead vocalist Scott Holderby dancing back and forth between a quasi-rapping approach to the verse sections mixed with a bombastic choir of voices during the refrain. Thankfully this relatively short combo move of fast-paced metallic thunder and funky stylings is not alone, as the somewhat groovier yet largely Anthrax-like cruiser “Malignancy” and the blazing cooker with some almost industrial-levels of sampled interlude moments “I Am Charlie” perform an equally compelling job of meshing this outfit’s eclectic influences into a cohesive, easy to follow progression.

For the lion’s share of this album’s entirety, the template sticks pretty consistently to a 80s thrash template, differing from its 1989 point of reference only in that there is a more consistent presence of the band’s non-metal influences. Arguably the closest that this album gets to veering into the more funky and less thrashing territory of 1991’s In This Life is the longer and more mid-paced rocker “Dragging For Bodies”, which also sees Holderby coming the closest to sounding consistently like Mike Patton and duel shredders Danny White and James Sanguinetti opting for a slightly less agitated presentation, at least until the song’s climatic conclusion. Likewise, the carnival-like demeanor of the title song “The Dark Parade” occasionally comes off as a quirky alternative metal aside, to the point where one could almost see band dressed in similar attire to that of Swedish melodeath turned nu-metal trustees Avatar.

Despite being a bit on the quirky side, this is just the sort of well-crafted, varied mode of thrashing that many younger followers of the subgenre will want to hear, as it provides a more unique foil to the legion of Bay Area and Teutonic traditionalists that tend not to dabble in turntables or sampled voiceovers. But ultimately its core audience will remain the older guard who are no strangers to the thrash scene wandering off the stylistic reservation on a semi-regular basis. It’s the sort of album that makes the purist metal head want to shout out at the Limp Bizkit and Slipknot crowd “Hey, you hear this stuff over here? This is how it’s done!” There are no duds to be found in this concise and occasionally comical romp through the primordial days of Avant-garde metal exploits. Truth be told, this album’s lone flaw is that it’s a bit on the short side, but hopefully future efforts after the spirit of this one will make that a non-issue.

Originally written for Sonic Perspectives (www.sonicperspectives.com)