(We challenged DGR to review the entire discography of the Danish metal band Raunchy. Amazingly, he is doing it. To see his reviews of of the first three albums, go here, here, and here.)
The chronological aspect of this project is really starting to get to me, mostly because the last album that we covered hit while I was in high school, and now we’re at 2008 and I’m two years into working graveyard shifts at my current job. Now, to be clear, I knew almost nothing about Wasteland Discotheque going in, other than that original vocalist Lars Vognstrup shows up during one of the songs and that they have a cover that has become something of an unofficial NCS theme song; mostly for the hilarity of it.
The Wikipedia article for the band states that Wasteland came out in 2008 and that it was, “generally well received among the press”. Which press? Who knows. Who is responsible for the Raunchy page over on that site? The fun part was traveling to the actual article about the album itself and seeing a one-sentence summary and a link to one review…which gave it five stars. The website is still around, although the review link on that page points to nowhere.
Now, as a pragmatist I know not to be worried about stuff like this, but I figured I’d ask my fellow NCS compatriots what they thought about this disc. Andy, acting as my Sifu for much of this trip. said the disc was “half awesome”. Everyone else wondered what the hell I was doing. That’s what I get for trying to provide some sort of backstory to the disc and not just doing this entirely off of a first listen.
Wasteland Discotheque has to be one of the most frontloaded albums to have hit the public’s eardrums in a while. There’s a strange flow to this disc. It’s like halfway through writing the album Raunchy decided that once listeners hit the title track, they were going to get all sorts of weird — and so from their cover of Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me” on, Raunchy decide to start experimenting with their own sound and throwing as much strangeness into each song as they can. It’s like every song after that cover has its own strange gimmick, some of which work and some of which don’t.
The back five songs on Wasteland feel like a completely different era of the band. It’s odd, too, because it’s the same lineup on Wasteland as it was on Death Pop, and believe it or not, many of the members in the group up to this point in the band’s history had been part of it since 1994. The only recent additions at the time would’ve been Kasper in 2004 and key-player Jeppe in 2001.
I don’t know why, but I feel like I need to point that out every time I talk about this band; maybe it’s because in heavy metal, lineups shift so often that any sort of stable base seems amazing. Maybe there’s just nothing to do in Denmark these days other than have idiots like myself constantly lose track of what the heck to call someone from Denmark and then have the nerve to go, “Wait, like the donut?”, when we suddenly remember. We have legacy bands that we all love that practically have no one from the original lineup left in them, and yet Raunchy at this point, almost twenty years after their founding, had held a stable core of musicians for fourteen of them. Why Wasteland gets so strange, I can’t fathom. The songs aren’t bad, but a couple do whiff pretty hard, which relegates Raunchy to “every once in a while” status for this album.
“The Blackout Is Your Apocalypse” is an intro track – the real action begins on “Somewhere Along The Road”, which has a pretty good “Go!” yell at the very front of it. Not one of the best out there, but it’s a competent “Go!”. For the first few songs on Wasteland, things should be very familiar to the initiated, and Raunchers (I believe that’s what they call their fans, right?) who enjoyed much of what the band played on Death Pop Romance should be right at home. As I mentioned, things don’t get odd on this disc until the back half, so barring a slower moving song called “The Bash” – which in itself is alright for a key-heavy, simply power-chord-laden affair, Wasteland moves at a pretty fast clip.
Apparently, Death Pop Romance was mixed by Tue Madsen, which explains the massive low end and attempt to bring the drumming forward. He’s also well known in melodeath circles, so his production style is ridiculously familiar. Wasteland Discotheque, on the other hand, was mixed by Jacon Hansen, another familiar name, but his production style tends to be razor-sharp and a little thin – which has the effect of making Kasper sound a little reedy in his screams, even in the random death metal lows that pop up in the latter half of the disc. When both of Raunchy’s vocalists, Lars and Kasper, appear on the creepy stalker-esque song “A Heavy Burden”, then you get a really thick vocal mix. They actually compliment each other pretty well as they alternate sections of the song. At least I think that’s what was happening; the guys do sound really similar, and with the clean singing involved, “A Heavy Burden” may actually have three guys singing on it at once.
“Somebody’s Watching Me” is one of those songs that is almost un-fuckwithable. It’s damn near impossible to screw that song up, and by playing it relatively straight, Raunchy actually do the song a solid. It’s just metal enough that metalheads can now enjoy the song without being too embarrassed and it can always be passed off as an ironic cover to folks not in the know.
Not that the Raunchy guys view it as ironic, considering they did a cover of a WHAM! song earlier in their career and it apparently has done well enough for them that they continually mention it in all their bios. Of course, they also list their musical style as ‘Raunchy!’ too, so take that as you will. Since the band at this point in their career still haven’t pinned down a true genre other than some made-up stuff, they are afforded the ability to do stuff like this on Wasteland Discotheque, whereas other songs also see the band absorbing other styles as well. There’s actually some full-blown string bends in one song, and they add some very discordant, angular riffs into the mix just to break some of the songs up.
Wasteland Discotheque is probably the most Raunchy sounding of the Raunchy albums that had come out by this point, as each preceding disc s had them playing with different sounds; Wasteland sees them going for the mix. In a way, it works because you have some pretty good songs and it’s easy to identify who was behind them, but likewise it also feels like Raunchy had a checklist for what to made of each song and how to go about it. Because of that, and the fact that they really only play around on the last four tracks, I can see why Wasteland is highly regarded but isn’t brought up as much. The disc has a weird flow to it, and it’s hard to tell by now where the band will go next.
All that is left for this project of mine is to give A Discord Electric a listen, which is actually the only Raunchy disc to have come out since I began doing what I do now, pretending to be a heavy metal writer. That should be interesting because it should also be relatively recent-sounding – at least that’s how I expect it. It’s also the last disc to feature vocalist Kasper before the band would switch twice, once with a touring vocalist and then by adding Mike Semesky of The HAARP Machine fame earlier this year.
Holy crap, how quickly time moves when you do stuff like this long after they’ve released any material.
A little too much filler, but man, some of those choruses (chorii?) are killer.
Digging these reviews… Raunchy is one of my secret indulgences.. I hate disco, and I can’t stand euro-pop, but Raunchy make it all okay. I remember talking to one of the Guitarists after the release of confusion bay, really nice guy, but I remember asking him if he thought Raunchy would ever come to Australia. He smiled and said ‘yeah, we hope to come down with Linkin Park’, I didn’t mean to, but I burst out laughing, I thought he was joking… he was not. From that point I realized the depth of their metal, so to speak.