Saturday, July 3, 2010

Austrian Death Machine - Total Brutal (2008)

As a youth and teen, I grew up in an era when people actually looked forward to each Arnold Schwarzenegger film with baited anticipation, because once upon time they were usually great fun, and showed all the innocence of film-making which seems to have died out in the big budget green screen revolution. Commando, Predator, The Running Man, Conan the Barbarian, and the first two Terminator films are in my opinion the best he's done, and still entertaining views over two decades in the future, where we find ourselves in a cynical age just as short on taste as any criticisms one might have leveled at the 80s and the Austrian bodybuilder whose career went supernova. Obviously, the accent and rather one-dimensional roles the man was handed were catalysts to a massive, nigh unending cycle of parody at the hands of comedians, celebrities and really just about everyone you know...

How many of us have exclaimed 'I'll be back!' or 'Get to tha choppa!' out loud, even at random, in our lifetimes? Arnold is a household name around most of the world, and if there's an exception, it must be some place without electricity, or another dimension, because even the deaf, dumb and blind know of this man's exploits on screen. By the 21st century, this is beyond played out, and Schwarzenegger impersonators have long since ceased being cool or funny. Someone forgot to mention this to Tim Lambesis, frontman for the crappy Christian metalcore band As I Lay Dying, because he decided to streamline his personal entry into the latest thrash trend with an all out Schwarzenegger parody, or should I say a tribute, interspersing bits of original dialog using a half-decent Arnold voice with a faceless mesh of youth hardcore, modern Slayer-like thrash riffing, gang shouts, overbearing metalcore vocals akin to his other band, and breakdowns.

It's actually impressive to an extent that Lambesis laid down all the groundwork for this record himself, demo'ing the instruments and then having friends come along to compensate for his own shortcomings by redubbing some of the specific guitar and drum tracks. Fair enough. He also brought on a host of metalcore guitarists like Adam Dutkiewicz of Killswitch Engage, Nick Hipa of As I Lay Dying and even Jason Suecof, studio wizard and guitarist of Capharnaum & Crotchduster, to add some guitar solos to the material. Most of the song titles are lifted from movie quotes featuring the Governator, and between these we get a few awful dialog sequences of Arnold's impersonator going through the band motions, skits similar to something you might find on some terrible hip hop record, only not as funny.

The problem of course is that a parody band must be funny, and Austrian Death Machine is not at all fucking funny. This is like the pitiful comedian you see at some gig, trying to rely on the old Arnold impersonator shtick because he cannot actually write an original joke to save himself. Musically, there is nothing of value unless you really think the Cro-Mags, Madball and shitty post-80s Slayer need an update to 21st century studio standards. Whether it's the hardcore meets shred indulgence of "You Have Just Been Erased", the Municipal Waste meet Earth Crisis stomper "Here is Zero, Now Plain Zero" or the terrible thrashing Slayercore of "If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It", there is simply nothing memorable beyond the fact that it's tight, in time and performed with some degree of competence. A few of the riffs like the choppy thrashing in "Who Is Your Daddy, and What Does He Do" or "Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers" might have actually worked with better vocals and no hardcore injection, but they're simply disposable in this context.

Almost all the songs have some horribly derivative metalcore breakdown from the days when Earth Crisis and peers reigned and already wrote them all, and I really cannot abide by Tim's vocals, which are your dime a dozen angry metalcore overkill which sounds like a mix of Phil Anselmo and Karl Buechner, with a little NY slant like Lou Koller of Sick of It All thrown in for good measure. The guest solos, while not technically unsound, are merely tripe dressing for the lame procession of songs that fly straight in one ear and out the other like a bazooka shell, only you don't gain the benefit of dying and escaping the stain this record leaves on your conscious. But even lamer, so much lamer than any of this is the self-referential diatribe Lambesis has in some of the skits, or the disclaimer that the album is somehow above criticism because its a joke band. Are you kidding me?

'Wait a second, I gotta try out my new delay pedal...' No one cares, brutal guy. You are not funny. Arnold's 'new song ' title in the "Broo-Tall Song Idea" is not funny, even if you half-ass Cookie Monster guttural vocals along to it. What the fuck, did you get this idea while hanging out with skater bois for a Mountain Dew commercial shoot?

Perhaps some Honcho at Metal Blade got a kick out of this concept, or perhaps they thought it was the right time to strike and turn a few more bucks in the nu-Thrash-xplosion! The Arnold Schwarzenegger thrash tribute band was really inevitable in a sudden rebirth of 80s worship in extreme music, and really I'm surprised it hadn't been done before to this extent. I might argue that Austrian Death Machine is superior to As I Lay Dying, but that's like arguing that a poop joke is more effective than a whoopie cushion. They're both perfectly effective fun for a six year old kid, but their impact grows a little sour through adolescence. Of course, if you're six, you can probably skip out on this review, go buy the album, the t-shirt and if mommy's got the change, maybe even a mouse pad or the McDonald's theme Happy Meal. Make sure you get two straws, because this sucks enough for both.

Verdict: Fail [2.75/10]
(no, screw YOU)

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