Forgive me Darnielle, for I have sinned.
John Darnielle is one of my musical heroes, and it’s no secret that I love the Mountain Goats. I also think he seems like an interesting and funny guy, so on occasion I will check out his blog (Last Plane to Jakarta), where his posts are usually music-related, and in that case usually metal-related. A while back he had posted a list of his favorite albums to come out thus far in `07. Pheromone was among them. However…
I can’t stand this album.
Okay, Darnielle is not my god, but I was excited to see this album in my review package purely because of his name-drop. Also, let me say I know little about metal, but that doesn’t mean I dislike it. I enjoy a good brain-rattling head-banging session as much as the next guy. I find the name Bloody Panda hilarious, though I don’t think they meant it as such -- but it’s like a Dethklok song title. When they referred to singer Yoshiko Ohara as their ‘vokillist’ on their website, I chuckled. Live, all members save Ohara wear black hoods, much like Dethklok’s minions. God, I love that show. But this band isn’t joking…I don’t think.
Every tempo here could be described as ‘plodding,’ the guitars as ‘sludgy’ and ‘uninteresting,’ the bass and keys as ‘unnoticeable’ and the vocals as ‘howling spider monkey.’ Ohara’s voice sustains endlessly over the top of this mess, sounding like Siouxsie Sioux as a monk.
So the first track “Untitled” gets slightly more interesting after the three-minute mark when it actually gets quiet, and through the next couple minutes as it builds drummer Dan Weiss get to show off a bit. Ohara singing in Japanese doesn’t really matter as I can’t understand her on the next track either, which is howled in English. One of the dudes gargles something at the beginning, too; I have no idea what. This 10-minute track is appropriately titled “Coma” because it practically put me in one. Zing! “Fever” is only interesting for the last 30 seconds when they finally decide to give the song some rhythm and push the tempo. The last track (yes, it’s a four-song full-length) is more of the same with its one-word-per-minute vocals, but the overlapping shrieks about 3½ minutes in are particularly chilling. I guess that’s a good thing in this case.
The only occasions that would warrant playing this album would be at a Halloween party or as the soundtrack to your homemade slasher flick. If ‘horrifying’ was the goal then perhaps this album is a success. If they were going for “you’ll want to listen to this more than once” then mission failed. In Darnielle’s original blog posting about them he basically calls it a challenging album and one that ‘repays repeated listening.’ I just can’t do it.
Sorry John, gonna have to disagree on this one. He is right about Bowerbirds though. Go listen to them instead.
P.S. - Hail Satan!