Thursday, June 01, 2006

BEER-DRINKERS AND ORC-RAISERS: Pop metal music, all varietals


Very familiar with beer-barrel polkaDon't be afraid of the highwayman with antlers on the cover. Korpiklaani -- Backwoods Clan in Finnish -- are just signaling they want you to drink until you fall over on "Tales Along the Road." "Happy Little Boozer," the first song on the LP is polka metal, heavier on the oompah than guitar crunch. About half the songs are in English, half in Finnish. When in English, the band sounds vaguely United Kingdom but always Celtic.

Accordions -- button-boxes for you old wurst fest fans back in southeast Pennsylvania -- and bagpipes adorn the guitar rock. The oompah metal is not such a new sound. More matter of factly, it's the noise of people making happy, partying, eating a lot. Listen to it and you want to hit the 'fridge for refreshments, which is probably the best compliment the band could be given. If you still have your Seventies import vinyl rotting in the garage, these guys sound something like Horslips (they don't sing as well, actually), a band that once turned The Tain into rock opera and performed another, if one wasn't enough, about the Irish immigrant experience of coming to America in steerage. Right now, I'm giving Korpiklaani the edge for not being ponderous or important.

Orcs like to sit by scenic lakes and enjoy pastry Next up are The Summoning from Austria. No, your eyes aren't failing. You absolutely cannot read their name in the upper lefthand corner of the CD sleeve. Yes, it's that way on purpose.

It's so you know The Summoning are serious when they insist they have written the first song ever sung in the language of Orcs and it is on this record! I couldn't tell which one it was because all the vocals, and they are spare, sound the same. Think of the guttural grunting sounds by men in the theme musics of Ennio Morricone for the Fistfuls of Dollars/Good, Bad & Ugly movies.

If that sounds hard to take, be assured The Summoning's "Oath Bound"CD is pretty easy listening. It furnishes long relaxing stretches of mellotron or orchestral arrangement, pipes and synthesizer work. The drums are of the kettle variety, plodding and pounding in a stately manner, great for watching the old Alistair McClean movie, Where Eagles Dare, with the sound muted and subtitling on. (I tried it and can assure you it works.) In any case, the more I listened to "Oath Bound" the more I thought that if it truly was about Orcs, they must be in a fairly serene mood, eating pastry by a lake.

If you don't like watching old movies to The Summoning, feel free to be more modern. May I recommend it while surfing the Internet for porn or making a petty nuisance of yourself on chatboards under an alias?

I also realize this is not what the guys in The Summoning want to hear because they're sinister black metal fellows. But they have made good movie theme music and should be commended.

The fiddle player isn't as icky as he looksLast in this trio is Naio SSaion's "Out Loud." (And, nope, I don't know how to say their name.) The cover makes the girl and the fiddle player in the band look evil but that's for show. Naio SSaion are hit parade and Eighties/AOR-friendly. In fact, almost all of it is medium tempo pop metal with G-rated titles like "Teen," "Miss You," "Shut Up" and "Blah-Blah." Naio Ssaion are ready right now for a soundstage videotaping of a show for the Disney Channel, the girl's range and delivery falling into commercial teenpop with heavy metal guitar. A couple days ago Dick Destiny mentioned the Boston band, Damone, sounded like this group for the beginning of its new CD.

The fiddle player adds wistful and melancholy flavors to some of the songs because it wouldn't do to have listeners get the idea that this rock music was made by twenty and thirtysomething kids with no troubles at all.

All albums are on Napalm Records and in stores now.

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