Album Review: Death or Sandwich

Death or Sandwich

death_or_sandwich_albumcover

Lords of the Trident

Genre: Metal/Alternative

Released February 9, 2009

Junko Johnson Records

Reviewed May 5, 2009

After first glance at Lords of the Trident, one wonders if auditions were conducted with a time-traveling phone booth. The lead singer is clad in leather, shrieking at the camera and holding a microphone as if it will either burst into flame or be driven through a vampire’s heart. The drummer is a demon king who brandishes drumsticks over Hellboy-style horns, the base player clenches a dagger twixt his teeth and the guitarists resemble transplants from ancient Greece and feudal Japan, replacing lyres and katanas with Stratocasters.

But while the appearance may make them seem hard to take seriously, underestimating the Madison, Wisconsin-based quintet would be a mistake. The roles they inhabit are tools to craft their own style of music, a metal that owes as much to alternative rock and Dungeons and Dragons as it does to the original genre. Their first alloy of this metal is the debut album Death or Sandwich, and it proves to be as solid as if a blacksmith hammered it into place.

lordsgroupred

Photo by Chris Guess (tryandguess.com)

Structurally, most of the songs follow a basic structure, driven by the impressive vocal range of lead singer “Fang VonKillenstein” (doppelganger of Ty Christian, formerly of Paper Tiger). “Asian Metal” and the “Socrates of Shred” form crossed swords to propel each of the songs along, while the demonic drums and buccaneer bass of “Korgoth” and “Captain Bluddbeard” respectively are reliable backings to the more prominent riffs. The band plays well together, with little sign that they are overwhelming each other or detracting from a song’s structure.

The majority of Sandwich takes on a medieval subject matter, channeling Black Sabbath by way of Boris Vallejo. “The Virgin Vault” is the best example of this, built on a solid riff and percussion as VonKillenstein alternates between cackles and wails to give the picture of an epic journey. “Cliffs of Desolation” and “The Barbarian Horde” are both tracks about the impossible odds of marauders and dragons, with the guitar especially standing out and building as the battles reach their respective peaks.

As a quote-unquote fake metal band, comparisons between the Lords and Spinal Tap seem inevitable, but the former actually make for a far more credible group. While Spinal Tap played the metal role for laughs, writing songs that were deliberately over the top, the material of the Lords is a bit cleverer in its presentation. Some of the songs could pass as pop or indie rock if it wasn’t for the guitar work and shouting chorus, while others seem to imply the group has created the first instance of proper geek metal.

A case in point is the opening track – and best track – “The Robot’s Revenge.”  It’s driven by excellent rapid arpeggios reminiscent of Muse’s Black Holes and Revelations, and vonKillenstein’s rapid wails of surprisingly clever lyrics: “In his laser eye no could dispute/For him forgiveness does not compute/from his Tesla coil in his metal breath/filled with 200 gigabytes of death!” Not since Flight of the Conchords has there been so entertaining of a song focusing on the robot apocalypse – and this one allows for more head-banging.

Even when Sandwich move to more general topics, they are never divorced enough from the overall tone of the album to feel separate. The lyrics of “The Road” could be easily adopted by another band as a pop song, but the drum fills are quick enough to tie it to earlier efforts and the mentions of wolves and wasteland keep things vaguely bestial. On the other side of things, “Rapeshore” is a much darker tune than earlier tracks, but the booming chorus ties to earlier tracks and also deserves praise for a channeling of Axl Rose with a solid “You’re gonna dieeee!” wail in the chorus.

By the end of the album (“City Lights,” a Van Halen-esque number that has a priceless rhyme of “road rash” with “Johnny Cash”), it is very difficult not to feel animated by the album’s energy. The variety of influences manages to make each track feel interesting without distracting from the whole, whether you prefer to play the album at an amplifier’s top level or as background music for a D&D session. The Lords played this music to have fun, and burn down some villages in the process, and it’s in that spirit that Sandwich should be enjoyed.

– Death or Sandwich may be purchased through the band’s website or through iTunes.

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~ by Les Chappell on May 5, 2009.

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