[EDITOR’S NOTE: Here we go — the first of the guest posts we’re running while I’m on vacation. And our first installment comes from our tentacle-loving bro, Phro, now stationed in some Japanese backwater and surviving on a diet of metal, Japanese poetry, and other things we’d rather not know about. He has some music to share with you.]
At first brush, Lizard Skynard might seem like a gimmick. The name alone is absurd and evokes entirely the wrong image for the band. After all, you are probably imagining lot lizards putting their frothy mouths on the short nubby ends of truckers right now. But!!! Perish that thought (you sicko) and let’s talk about something completely different.
You obviously know how to use internet, so I can assume that, like all internet denizens, you are probably a mentally deranged individual. I will also assume you know who the Lizardman (http://www.thelizardman.com/) is. If not, that link right there will enlighten you. We’ll wait. Have fun.
Okay, so now you know pretty much everything you need to know before we begin this review of the band’s self-titled debut. The Lizardman (or Erik Sprague, if you want to be pedestrian) is the frontman for the band. I would go so far as to say that he is the personality of the band, but we personally haven’t seen any live performances, so we’ll reserve judgement for now. Needless to say, it is his voice that dominates and informs the songs. And his voice is, for lack of a better term, the madness of modernity.
Okay, enough literary theory horseshit, let’s talk music! What does it sound like? (more after the jump . . . including eels)
It sounds like experimental metal, to put it simply. The music is interesting, and occasionally even quiet. This isn’t the usual NCS grindcore/death metal, but it’s also not the bedroom djent or long songness that we’ve been exploring recently. It’s definitely heavy. But possibly a bit melodic for our average reader. It has a dirty, muddy sound, vaguely reminiscent of a primodrial swamp. There is a rawness to the guitars that wraps its fingers around your head and slides tendrils into your brain. Like thousands of space eels. (More about the eels later.)
Most songs have a front-loaded structure. By this, we mean that there is a strong, usually very aggressive, first verse followed by a slower interlude and then an outro. Whether this is a deliberate rejection of the standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-solo-chorus motif or simply a manifestation of the lyrical style isn’t exactly clear, but we would hazard that it’s the former.
This slightly unsual song structure means that the listener spends the first half of most songs focused on the lyrics and the last half simply listening to instrumental music. This usually works well, but as some songs tend to slow toward the end (possibly to allow for more ambient/experimental sounds), listeners may sometimes find themselves wishing the band would hurry and get to the next song.
Naturally, not all the songs sound the same. “Fractal Love Song” has a dance/techno feel (appropriate to the lyrics). “Criticism”, the opening track, is more of an angry hardcore/metal song, lasting a mere 35 seconds. “Normal” has driven, obsessed guitars and a nice fat bass that sits on your back, repetitively shoving your face into the sidewalk. “Ocean Electric” starts slow and builds, jerking this way and that, like a wounded beast picking up steam for a final frenzied attack after which it slows to a slight limp at the end.
“Bird Robot” is…a mess, to be quite frank. Reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails or KMFDM, the song harkens to an industrial age that many here may be glad has passed. The song is not overly burdened with its industrial garb, but the tinges are strong enough to make the listener take notice. “Bell & Syndrome” has a sort of punk rock feel (one might be reminded of the Murder City Devils, if one appreciated that sort of music) that is interlaced with the maniacal desperation of a mental patient. And the final track, “Austin Slow Trip”, is of debatable merit. Certainly some may find the experimentality of it appealing. It’s more atmosphere than a song. But it does seem a bit indulgent, particularly for a 30-minute album.
Now, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, the vocals haven’t really been discussed yet. Well, the name of the site is No Clean Singing. So, we wouldn’t be reviewing this album if it did, indeed, consist mostly of clean singing. On the other hand, there is narry a scream nor a grunt, neither a howl nor a squeal, to be found. Instead, we find that the Lizardman is mostly just…talking to us. Yes. It’s practically spoken word–albeit very angry speaking.
Before this sends you running for the shotgun/flamethrower/shuriken/crossbow/whatever-you-use-to-dispose-of-spoken-word-spouting-hippies, I strongly urge you to take a listen to some of the songs. Or all of them, as you can do so on their MySpace page. The main focus of the album is on the lyrics. Any other vocal style would surely lose the impact of the lyrics, thereby rendering Lizard Skynard less Lizard Skynard and more just another hard rock band.
So, what the fuck DOES the Lizardman have to say?
All of the songs have unique lyrics. We don’t want to delve into what they mean, but rather simply gloss over their general content. “Space Eels” is about a homeless man trying to protect the world from Venutian spies. “Criticism” lets us know exactly how the Lizardman feels about Anderson Cooper (though, mysteriously, not why). “Normal” is a wonderful indictment of the establishment of normalcy, and “Fractal Love Song” is…actually, exactly what it sounds like. Well, with the inclusion of space strippers. “Ocean Electric” asks a very pionted question with a loaded gun. “Bell & Syndrome” is a meditation on the untreatable ailment that is madness.
We won’t go any further into the specifics of the songs. Instead, we will merely say that the lyrics are as crazy as you’d expect from a man who shoves nails into his nose for a living. But don’t think that’s a bad thing. This is not the kind of craziness that flies planes into buildings or throws poop at children (they fucking deserved it), but the kind of craziness that plots out exactly how to realize a nightmare. And then give it a silly hat.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The Lizard Skynard self-titled debut can be acquired at the band’s official site — here.