Saturday, October 22, 2022

Boneyard - Fear of a Zombie Planet (2014)

Boneyard is a solo act of the Spanish musician Noel Kemper, who might best be known for Gruesome Stuff Relish, but also has a good number of other projects which all tend to fall under the realm of horror and exploitation worship, grind and death metal. You can already tell from the cover art that this debut album is focused on both ends of that, a paean to the zombie pioneers George Romero and Lucio Fulci whose seminal films of the walking dead are still venerated today. Kemper does all the instruments and vocals here, so expectations should be tempered; this is unlikely to provide some high budget, technical death metal, but rather one man doing the best he can with what's he's got as he pays tribute to the splattered guts and hollow stares of the monsters that helped define his upbringing.

To that extent, I actually think parts of Fear of a Zombie Planet sounds pretty amazing...he's got this super raw and ripping guitar tone which is a bit of a mix of the British grindcore legends and the classic Swede death metal, and he's unleashing a bevy of catchy hacksaw riffs in there, an awesome distorted bass tone, passable programmed beats and then a lot of undercurrent samples of screams and such. Even the wacky, amateur leads sound cool as hell when they erupt out against the rhythm guitars. Musically, this album is fairly on point at what it needs to be...but there is one major problem...the throaty, raspy, garbly vocals are placed WAY TOO LOUD in the mix, and pretty much destroy the production of this album. This is not uniformly the case, there are a few moments where they get a touch softer, but for most of the direction this is a massive distraction that spoils what would otherwise have been a good listen, it sounds like someone listening to an album in the background and then barking into a microphone over it with some effects pedals.

It's not even that the rasps are that bad, I think they'd work fine at a lower level where you just let those ripping fucking guitars take the center stage, because they are the best written and most professionally produced part of the recording. But at this volume the flaws become too apparent, and it just erases the value I could get out of the cool riffs, cover art, zombie and cannibal lyrics. To be fair, I have heard bits of a more recent album he did called Return to a Zombie Planet, and the vocals are mixed in much better there, though the songwriting was slightly different. I think this debut would probably be worth remixing and remastering with a re-recording of the vocals, maybe some better live drums, but keep the guitar and bass tracks; you could have a little cult classic here for fans of stuff like Exhumed, Ghoul, Impaled, or the rosters of labels like Razorback Recordings. As it stands, that one significant flaw just gets in the way, there is no escaping it but to shut the disc off.

Verdict: Indifference [5.25/10]

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