(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Recording review: Beatallica, Abbey Load (2013)

Metalloid covers rather than full-on mashups

Like Dread Zepplin, Beatallica has always been clear about their musical mission: blending the Beatles and Metallica into a powerhouse mashup. It could be argued that they're a one trick pony, but both source bands have a rich enough back catalog that Beatallica hasn't exhausted the possibilities. Their 2009 album Masterful Mystery Tour (review) was well crafted, packed with songs like "Everybody's Got a Ticket to Ride Except For Me and My Lightnin" and "The Thing That Should Not Let It Be". These songs showed real ingenuity, finding common ground between their sources and coming up with lyrics that fit thematically with both groups. I came to Abbey Load looking for the next installment, eager to hear how they'd marry late-era Beatles with Load's bluesy metal sound. I imagined a mutant "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window", supercharged with DNA from "King Nothing".

Instead, the band has settled for metalloid covers of an assortment of Beatles songs. The album is anchored by "Come Together" and the medley from Abbey Road, and filled out with a hodge-podge of miscellaneous tracks. Dropping songs like "Oh, Darling" and "Octopus's Garden" seems reasonable, but "Something" could have had potential. By substituting songs like "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Please, Please Me", the project feels more like a random collection.

Of course, Masterful Mystery Tour wasn't a slave to a tracklist either, but the crucial difference is that Beatallica has abandoned their mashup home-base to make a less interesting cross-genre cover album. Each of the songs maintains the original Beatles' melodies and lyrics. This places them more squarely into Dread Zepplin's camp. Sure, Jaymz Lennfield still dials his James Hetfield impression up to 11 and the riffs are heavy as ever, but it's a let-down from the band's earlier work. The familiar musical references, like "For Whom the Bell Tolls" embedded within "Michelle" or the "Four Horsemen" intro for "Mean Mister Mustard" don't make up for the missing spark.

In an interview with Metal Assault, Lennfield blames the creative decision on their distribution channel, Sony International. "...he basically strong-armed us into either shutting the whole thing down or doing the next record by using the Beatles lyrics and the Beatles vocal melodies. So those were our choices..." That explains why they didn't include their song "Ktulu (He's So Heavy)" (from 2007's Sgt. Hetfield's Motorbreath Pub Band), which would have fit in perfectly. Evidently, Beatallica has already come up with real mashups based on this material, but was blocked from releasing the songs. Knowing that we could have listened to "Mean Mister Mustaine" is a bitter pill.

Lennfield seems philosophical about the situation and stands by Abbey Load. He's also mentioned that the band idoes include their more interesting interpretations in their live show. Even without that incentive, I'd recommend catching them if they ever tour nearby.

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