World Gone Mad
If you think you’re surprised to see this album on my best of the year top five, you cannot possibly more shocked than I am. I go way back with this band, to the late 80’s, and I have loved them ever since. But for me, the band kind of ended after Art of Rebellion. They’ve had many releases since then, but I never could get into any of them. When I heard they had a new album out this year, I thought, for nostalgia’s sake, I’d put it on and give it a try.
It’s good, real good, and after the first listen I knew it was an instant classic that could stand right up with their older stuff.
The album opens with a drum beat by new drummer Dave Lombardo (yes him) and then a bass riff by new bassist Ra Diaz. Talk about some chesty confidence. Then the riffs come buzzsawing in and next thing you know you’re in the middle of the pit wondering what just happened. “Clap Like Ozzy” is a strange song lyrically but it gets the point across: this is about fun, about getting lost in life, living for every good thing that motivates you, and knocking down anything that gets in your way. While the song plays, I cannot get the picture of Ozzy, clapping and grinning while whatever band he’s in blazes away behind him. That’s how to live life. And this song can usher you right into that feeling with its pulverizing thrash and moshable moments.
“The New Degeneration” rides in on a documentary sample and a mid-paced riff that makes you bob your head and grin with its old school control and power. Guitarists Dean Pleasants and Jeff Pogan know how to deliver, and they do so over and over again through the whole record. 2:36 in and the song picks up that patented thrash gallop that sweeps you along and sends you spinning into a frenzy.
Third song “Living for Life” begins with a loungy bass and swirling guitar weirdness that calls to mind 80’s ST as Mike Muir preaches with an almost psychedelic furor. And about a minute in, the slight pause, the holding of the breath while you wait for the hardcore/metal to kick in. And kick it does. Lombardo seems to be having the time of his life on this record and this song is a great example of it, with lots of his little fills bringing the noise as only he can. By the end the song circles back into itself and you’re happy for the respite, just so you can catch your breath.
Melodic guitars open “Get Your Fight On!” as old-school ST as a song can get. Muir singing before sliding into his patented evangelization as the band warms up to life behind him. The song slowly builds momentum until it is ready to pop and when it pops, bang! Riff, riff, riff and man you’re sliding along, banging your head, letting the goodness of the metal wash over you. If you like How Will I Laugh Tomorrow era ST, you’ll love this song. Oh, and sweet bass.
Snarling “World Gone Mad” comes next. This may be the best song on the album. Another sinister, slow start builds to the boiling point, Muir’s angry lyrics leading us into the footstomping, neckwrecking riff that tears our heads off. Vintage metal. Vintage, epic, awesome metal.
“Happy Never After” starts right away with the guitars, dips down into a touch of psychedelia and then comes back up to the surface with another rock-hard, steady riff that carries you along with a pummeling authority you don’t hear much these days. This is steady as she goes, all the way to the end, keeping your head banging, the drums pushing it along, never in a rush, never worried about a thing.
And then we come to another epic. “One Finger Salute” has that patented build up that ST is so good at. Muir brings the truth “The worst is coming yet” he sings, “but you know we’ll be waiting for it.” And then a hardcore moshpit whirling blast blows you over and you’re swept up into the rebellion, the defiance, and it feels so good. And from there it just carries on, reminding you what a potent song can do, moving your feet, your head, your body, your mind, and your spirit. “We stand in contempt, one finger salute.” Oh, yeah. Ripping guitar solos, drop down bass sass, a breakdown that makes you want to stomp around the room, this one has it all.
“Damage Control” is another mid-paced effort that lets you catch your breath, but not for long. About 1:25 in, the bass takes over and Muir starts up a chant that leads into the song picking up. At this point it’s all so effortless and excellent you wonder why this band isn’t at the top of the charts. Firing. On. All. Cylinders.
“The Struggle is Real” is the last of the rockers on the record. It blasts right out of the gate, thrash and hardcore melting into one, galloping drum beats propelling this thing forward at a dangerous pace. Muir brings it, Lombardo brings it, hell, they all bring it.
The last two songs are “Still Dying to Live” and “This World” are ballads, and by this point, soaked in sweat, you need these two to bring you back down to earth. Muir sings, laying his heart on the line, like he does in every damned song he’s ever recorded, whether it’s punk, metal, a hybrid, or a ballad. Every hardcore frontman from the 80’s on owe their existence to this man and the way he handles his business on stage and on album. These two songs are amazing and could easily be overlooked after the proceeding fury. But don’t pass them up. There’s more passion here than in just about every popular song recorded in the last year.
World Gone Mad is a raging return to form but more than that, it’s no nostalgia trip. It blazes and rocks just as hard as any new work around today. Do not miss this if you like your metal and anger and fervor straight up.