Released: 2012, Reversed Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
What initially was intended simply as the third Meldrum album ended up serving as a tribute to band namesake/guitarist Michelle Meldrum, who passed away from a cerebral hemorrhage in 2008 after the tracks were written for Lifer but before she could contribute to the recording. The surviving members - drummer Gene “The Atomic Clock” Hoglan, who seemingly plays with everybody, bassist Laura Christine and singer Michele Madden – made the tough choice last year to team back up and complete the album, with Christine also handling the guitar parts, as a way to pay homage their fallen sister.
Despite how events transpired, there's no hint of the melancholia that one might expect here. To the contrary, Lifer is exuberant and full of energy, much more celebratory than mournful. The band perform with gusto and plenty of attitude, with Madden declaring “Cunt. C. U. N. T. It's a term of endearment” to start the album - before Hoglan and Christine kick the speed-metally opener “A Toast To Romance” into gear - and ending the track with a growled “fuck you!” as if to prove there will be no pity party here.
Madden, who also fronts the Australian band Tourettes, is a real force in her first, and probably only, outing with Meldrum. Her frank lyrics and feral vocals are angry, scornful and sarcastic, and definitely pull no punches, recalling Otep Shamaya, though without so much of her heavy-handedness.
Musically, Lifer rocks hard throughout, jockeying between Alice In Chains-like grunge, Black Label Society butt-rock and muscular Pantera-esque metal, with Christine ably handling double duty on guitar and bass. Chunky riffs abound, and the propulsive rhythms she provides with Hoglan – who's drumming and timing are as impeccable as ever – keep things moving along nicely. The rousing “Paid,” the “Walk”-like “Blackened Blue,” “'68 Blonde” and “Inamorata” are especially good, even though the album does kinda fizzle a bit at the end.
Still, Lifer is a fine way to honor the legacy of Meldrum – band and person. The surviving members made the right call by finishing the album up so the music could be heard, and playing it with the vibrant spirit it deserved.