Released: 1999, Independent
Reviewer: Michael De Los Muertos
I’m going to start this review by talking about a band that has nothing whatsoever to do with A Million Pounds: Mayhem. The formerly grand (no pun intended) masters of Norwegian death metal this year put out a certain coaster titled A Grand Declaration of War, and in an attempt to be progressive, innovative, and “break the boundaries” of black metal, made asses of themselves and their fans with a load of tripe that was probably metal’s biggest bomb of 2000. I realize full well that others will disagree strongly, but this is how I see it, and that’s the plain truth.
What struck me about listening to A Million Pounds’s The Long Journey Back From The Brink – after I nearly turned it off midway through the first track – was that this is the kind of album Mayhem should have made. Now, just because I made that statement, don’t get any illusions that A Million Pounds is in any way a black metal band – they’re not – but what I’m saying is that the progression, innovation, and boundary-breaking that the boys from Helvete sought, and failed to achieve, is par for the course this startling disc. Anyone looking for true innovation in heavy music ought to take a lesson from this equally startling band, who hail from the Dallas, Texas area. Hit random shuffle on your CD player at any time listening to this album and you may mistake A Million Pounds for grindcore, death metal, mallcore, funk, punk, jazz, rockabilly, you name it. What they do well is to mix it all together in a way that’s pleasing and thought-provoking, making A Million Pounds quite talented in the art of transition.
For example: the track “Bogus Elitist” starts out as an almost bayou-themed number, complete with banjo and harmonica; “Jerk” sounds like an off-color blues club in New Orleans, about 3AM, then without warning turns into grindcore; “Aeons,” probably my favorite track, has a classic mid-80s doom metal groove; the opening of “Rubbermallet” sounds like the guy who plays guitar down at your local Mexican restaurant, only he’s in a really depressed mood. There’s a bit of everything here. Trying to categorize it all is completely useless. The best I can do is communicate that the experience of listening to this album is very surprising, and if you hear something you don’t like, wait until the next track – or maybe even wait 30 seconds – and it might change dramatically. Is it metal? Yes. Despite its eclecticism, it is undeniably heavy. What kind of metal is it? I’m not even going to touch that question because there’s no answer to it.
This album does have problems; I really don’t like the first track, and sometimes the unpredictability becomes annoying. However, on the whole, A Million Pounds’ innovations and excursions into boundary-breaking ring much truer and far less pretentious than Mayhem’s. Give this band some black clothes, corpse paint, bullet belts, and a couple of ex-members in prison, and you’d have the album that Grand Declaration of War should have been.
I have no idea how to get this disc, but I recommend you find a way. The band’s web site http://www.amillionpounds.com
might be a good place to start; or if you’re feeling adventurous, call (817) 882-9120.