Released: 2004, Southern Lord
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
I didn’t think this CD was ever going to come out! I had first heard about this project back in 1999 when Dave Grohl appeared on Tony Iommi’s solo album, IOMMI. He mentioned that he wanted to work with all of the vocalists he admired and was influenced by growing up as a metalhead. The project seemed to be forgotten about and then last year, buzz began about PROBOT. The lineup was certainly impressive: King Diamond, Lemmy Kilmister, Max Cavalera, Tom G. Warrior, Cronos…this was shaping up to be an exciting release. . In every case, the vocalist wrote the lyrics to the music track given to them by Grohl. The recordings were done over several years and Fed Ex-ed between parties. Now that PROBOT is in stores, I have to admit that it is an amazing compilation of talent and music. The problem is also that: it is a compilation and feels as such. PROBOT doesn’t feel like a cohesive album because Grohl wrote each song specifically for its respective singer producing 11 tracks that are all over the map in terms of style. Do the songs rock? No question, but they must be taken as songs rather than as an album to fully appreciate this CD.
The tracks are a bit of a mixed bag. The best of the bunch include Lemmy’s “Shake Your Blood,” Cronos’ “Centuries of Sin,” King Diamond’s “Sweet Dreams” and Eric Wagner’s “My Tortured Soul.” “Shake Your Blood” is the quintessential Motorhead track…written by Dave Grohl! The bass line is thing and you can almost picture Lemmy plugging away at the gigantic Rickenbacker with his head cocked just so croaking into the microphone. “Centuries of Sin” has a cool intro featuring what sounds like some of those chanting monks. Again, Grohl was crafted the perfect song for former Venom frontman/bassist Cronos. The bass licks are thick as London fog and Cronos’ coarse growl hasn’t lost its touch. He brings in a thrashy break at the 3:00 mark, with his trademark growls and roars, that goes for nearly a minute before he falls into a coughing fit. What needs to be said about King Diamond’s voice? He turns in a stellar vocal performance on “Sweet Dreams,” which, despite the help of former Soundgarden axeman, Kim Thayil, on guitar, is a less than stellar song. “My Troubled Soul” has that sludgey doom guitar that made Trouble famous and Eric Wagner turns in an excellent performance here. Dark stuff done by a master. “Dictatosaurus” features a great riff and bass line and Snake’s original vocal style compliments the catchy chorus. “The Emerald Law” was a pleasant surprise for me with its great intro, trippy guitar and jazz-like drum sections.
Unfortunately, the rest of the tracks are mediocre at best. Celtic Frost’s Tom G. Warrior’s vocal has turned into a distorted mess on a plodding song. This was one of the biggest disappointments for me, because when I saw his name attached to the PROBOT album, I was eager to hear what the result would be. The one good thing I can say about this track is the fuzzed-out bass line that rattles throughout. Max Cavalera’s turn at “Red War” is not the return to early Sepultura roots (no pun intended) I was expecting either. Instead, we’re given a mid-tempo rocker that is probably the LEAST heavy track on the disc.
If you’re a sucker for punishment, look no further than former Corrosion of Conformity vocalist, Mike Dean’s track, “Access Babylon.” Mercifully, it is only 1:24 long, but the punk-influenced hardcore has never been a favorite of mine and this track will not change my opinion, either. DRI is another band whose sound didn’t appeal to me and Kurt Brecht’s skate punk “Silent Spring,” reminds me why.
*Don’t miss the hidden track that begins at the 8:56 mark of track 12. Rumor is that it is Jack Black of Tenacious D on vocals, but no official word has been given. No title is given either, though it may be called “I Am The Warlock?”
One must give praise to Dave Grohl for seeking out his heroes and staying true to metal with these songs. He wasn’t trying to get Lemmy and King Diamond to sing Foo Fighters stuff and that is how he landed these guys: his love of metal. Critics will call Grohl all sorts of names, but that love of metal transcends through these songs. The passion and care he took in crafting them so perfectly for so many VERY different voices is a testament to the man both as a musician and as a metal fan.
KILLER KUTS: “Centuries of Sin,” “Shake Your Blood"