Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Review: Macabre - Grim Scary Tales (2011)

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Grim Scary Tales

Chicago's Macabre is definitely what you'd call a niche sort of band. Their lyrics are focused exclusively on mass murderers and their sound is an unholy amalgamation of death metal, punk, grindcore, thrash, and nursery rhymes. Yes, that's right...many of Macabre's songs impart their gory tales in a sing-song fashion that inserts itself into your brain just like those silly rhymes from the kindergartens of yore. The band has been on the periphery of my awareness since the '90s, but none of their peculiar qualities ever intrigued me enough to investigate their work. Recently, though, a copy of their latest release Grim Scary Tales crossed my desk and offered me the opportunity to take in whatever it is this unique outift has to offer. I'll admit that I was pleasantly surprised, for some of the break-neck grindcore that the band is known for has been replaced by a concentrated - though tongue-in-cheek - effort at songcraft.

Grim Scary Tales is still all about murder and gore, though Macabre's source of inspiration is more historical in nature than has been shown on albums past. From Dracula to Lizzy Borden, Gilles de Rais to Nero, the band draws from myth and sanguine reality to paint a crimson portrait of the worst that humanity has had to offer. While many of the characters are known to the average metal consumer, I personally found the band's research into the more obscure acts of violence to be an educational bonus. "The Bloody Benders", for example, tells the story of a family of psychopaths who lived (and killed) in Kansas in the 1870s while "Mary Ann" recalls the many victims of English black widow Mary Ann Cotton. Interesting, if gruesome, stuff.

Musically the album is all over the map. The basic Macabre grind still finds it's way into most of the tracks to one degree or another, with "Locusta" and "Burke and Hare" being the most familiar to the band's long-time fans. "Nero", however, has a strong psychobilly influence and clean, almost operatic vocals from frontman Corporate Death. "The Bloody Benders" is set to a twangy bluegrass melody, while "The Big Bad Wolf" is more of a speed/thrash offering and "Mary Ann" could almost be called a power ballad. The vast array of influences on display isn't limited to those examples, making Grim Scary Tales a sonic smorgasbord that's sure to please (and irritate) just about every extreme music fan. The only time that the band sticks to one style is on their true-to-form cover of Venom's "Countess Bathory", so be prepared for quite a roller-coaster of an album. Whatever direction they happen to be on at the moment, one thing's for sure - the guys of Macabre are probably some of the most underrated musicians in metal today. They consistently deliver sharp solos, catchy riffs, relentless double-kick, and groovy bass throughout the album.

If you don't mind the morbid subject matter and the constant switching of stylistic gears, Grim Scary Tales is an album that can be fun to listen to and educational to boot. Their back catalog is almost certainly not my cup of tea, but I'm curious to see what Macabre has in store for their next release. Hopefully they won't take another six years to put it together!

Track Listing
2Nero's Inferno2:46
3The Black Knight4:08
5The Big Bad Wolf4:09
6Countess Bathory3:29
7Burke and Hare4:20
8Mary Ann3:40
9The Bloody Benders2:49
10Lizzie Borden1:36
11The Ripper Tramp From France3:41
12Bella The Butcher3:03
13The Kiss of Death3:27
14The Sweet Tender Meat Vendor5:07
Total Runtime50:28

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