Tuesday, October 6, 2009

    Mad Mav's Black Sheep - The Truck Stop of Metal

    Even repetition has a place in society, especially if it rocks your ears off.

    Who wrote the rules that state German Metal must rock harder than most?  I never saw the communique, but I certainly approve.  Scorpions have hammered their way through the decades like no other band.  Michael Schenker - wunderkind of the axe - did time with some of Europe's biggest rock names.  Uli Jon Roth is a true original whose creativity and howling axe work still bounces off the walls of concert halls around the Old World.  While much of society equates German music to Electronika or Kraftwerk, I think of rock - hard, heavy, and well-crafted.  The Unimog of the music world.  Black Sheep by Mad Mav follows that tradition of German craftsmanship.

    It has about a much bass response as you can get, short of driving a lowered 1987 Fleetwood with a bass tube in the trunk.  The scratch guitar work is relentless, pushing the message hard through every track.  There isn't one word spoken throughout the entire album; the music does all the yelling.  A nice piece of trivia here is that Mad Mav is one guy.  He does everything.  Talk about 'creative control.'  When you consider this is a solo project, the craftsmanship kicks up to a different level.  And overall this is a capable album.  Functional.  Correct in every way.  The mix is a headphone lovers paradise, so long as they're Seventies-style over-the-ear headphones.  It even has the customary Evil Child artwork on the cover, modus operandi for any Metal album.

    But it's repetitious.

    Most of the tracks are great individually; they evoke the sense of an 18-wheeler running hammer down through a bad neighborhood at 65mph.  Even a pair of 18-wheelers makes a ripping convoy.  But when I listen to the entire album - track after track - it starts to sound the same.  Think of it as a truck stop.  You've got a bunch of trucks outside.  They all look different.  Different brand names.  Some are idling quietly, while others are moving out and grinding gears.  But they're all trucks. At a truck stop you learn to accept that you're surrounded by big rigs.  With Black Sheep, you too can learn accept that many of the tracks have the same sound, beat, and even key.  After all, this is the Truck Stop of Metal.  So given the description, this poses the question, "Is there room in this world for Repetitive German Metal?"

    The answer is a resounding and reverberating Yes.

    Hey, not everything in this world can be unique at all times.  This makes great background music, possibly because of the style and lack of vocals.  Black Sheep shines as an album that can be played - in its entirety at full volume - while conducting such repetitious tasks as:
    • Cut Rib Eye Roasts
    • Hang Sheetrock
    • Stir Tar
    • Wack Weeds
    • Cut Logs
    • Wash and Wax four cars
    • Dance mindlessly for hours in a sweaty Seattle warehouse with 180 disaffected twenty-somethings
    • Display and unleash overwhelming affection for a loved one in a long-term overnight fling
    So you see that repetition isn't necessarily a bad thing here.  There's a place for Black Sheep.  Like Mexican coffee beans or tobacco, this album can be mixed with product from another source to bring out the value in both.  Alone, they are less effective than when they are blended.  Try mixing this with White Zombie, Guns 'n' Roses, Monstermagnet, or even Black Sabbath to help break up the music style a bit.  I love this album.  Combined with others, I love it more.

    My favorite tracks are 1, 5, and 9:
    • The title track Black Sheep builds up with haunting sounds, and launches quickly into a driving assault of scratchy guitar and tight percussion. The vocal chorus and high-pitched solo guitar notes give it a gothic sound reminiscent of stone buildings and tall ceilings. 
    • If the act of building the Empire State Building had a song, it would have been Freak on a Trip.  Various industrial sounds, coupled with repetition, make a song that sounds like a construction project.
    • Pia.nist brings out the desperate sounds of a piano, keyboards, and a slowly-building wall of heavy bass tied to multiple guitars.  The layering sets the mood of a man who has lost everything, looking towards either a future without hope or possibly a well-planned demise. Think of Elton John's Funeral For A Friend and GnR's September Rain, both songs with the same feeling.
    In any case, listen for yourself.  If you don't see the embedded player below, click HERE for listening to the album at Jamendo!

    Artwork Credit: Mad Mav
    Music Link:

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