Released: 2015, Hells Headbangers Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Look, I’ve been a metal fan long enough to appreciate the wacky shit that comes out of Japan; but seriously – what the hell am I listening to? Barbatos is the one man side project of Abigail’s Yasuyuki Suzuki, and while earlier Barbatos recordings mirrored the blackened thrash inclinations of his day job, STRAIGHT METAL WAR is rooted in classic NWOBHM inspired 80’s metal. Pretty straightforward on paper, but coming out of your speakers it’s something else entirely.
There’s about a half dozen riffs culled from the Motorhead/Saxon/Venom playbook, and those half dozen riffs are repurposed across most of the album. The lead work is pretty fanciful in places, and though I’m admittedly a sucker for a good throwback 80’s styled jam, it becomes clear pretty quickly that we’re dealing with a limited musical repertoire. And how ‘bout them song titles, eh? How great is it that a band can craft poetry like “Rockin Metal Sluts” and “Fly to the Sexual World” without fear of the internet decency police crying foul? Suzuki has a thing for booze, broads, and war (but, don’t we all?), and if I didn’t know how serious he was about his music, I’d swear this was some kind of performance art project (or at the very least, an overzealous parody 80’s metal).
But man, those vocals. I think early Dave Mustaine was the intention, but Bobcat Goldthwait was the result. The man scowls, creaks, cackles and warbles broken English in a rhythm and pace that often has no bearing on the song itself. That is when he’s not crooning likely a mumbling Joey Ramone on tracks like “Seven Teen”, as the incoherent syllables fall out of Suzuki’s mouth. And yet, even with all of this stacked against it, I’ve found myself listening to STRAIGHT METAL WAR several times. Each time I think, “This is ridiculous, I can’t do this again”, only to find myself air guitaring along to “Hells Witching Metal”.
STRAIGHT METAL WAR is equal parts nostalgia and WTF? Despite all of the detractions and distractions that litter the album, you have to appreciate how fully committed Barabatos is to that era of metal and the lifestyle that accompanied it. STRAIGHT METAL WAR is a tough record to recommend, but it’s worth the exploration if only for the reaction it’ll elicit.