Henry Metal – 8 – Album Review
The associations we make with music can be wonderfully strange sometimes. If you’ve been following along with our pages, then you already know from reading past reviews on Henry Metal that this is one of my all-time favorite band-names EVER – but I’ve never actually described how I hear it in my own head. It ties in with a complete separate pair of artists and the excitement that comes along both the story told and with checking out a new record from this highly inventive & wickedly creative one-man project. If you haven’t had the chance to listen to Henry Rollins telling his stories about working with William Shatner over the years – you should, because every story Henry has ever told is amazing, but in particular how he was able to embody the uncontainable enthusiasm that Shatner had for music & art, creating & collaborating was second to none in how he told the tale. According to legend, Rollins would roll up to wherever he was required to work with Shatner, only to be greeted with a massively warm “HENNNNNNNNNRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRYYYYYYYYYYYY,” every single time. So while this might all make for a strange intro, I figured I’d just take a moment to let you in on what really goes on in my head on a daily basis…it’s things like changing the sound of a straight-up Henry Metal to a HENNNNNNNNNNNRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRYYYYYYYYYYYY Metal in my head when I see these records pop in. I’ve always felt like that echoes the enthusiasm I personally have before even pushing play on this band’s new records, because I truly know, before even hearing a single song, that there is ALWAYS something completely wild, fresh, and unique in the music of HENNNNNNNNNNNRRRRRRRRRRY Metal. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar! I’m amped – let’s do this thing.
Dude starts this one out nearly rooted in an old Billy Joel style with the piano & vocals of “Robes Of 8” before the organs kick in to add that signature twist on the Henry Metal sound, which one way or the other with whatever idea or sounds being chosen, will almost always show up to steer these ideas on 8 in directions you won’t expect. On that first listen through, I have no doubt that fans of this band will slip right into this vibe from where they exited their last experience with Henry Metal with no problems at all – for the rest out there that are unfamiliar, there’s also zero doubt that you’ll probably be wondering just what the heck this music is all about – and that’s fair. While it’s inarguable that Henry Metal draws on Metal music for a lot of what it creates, it’s still a highly expressive branch of that genre that expands into all kinds of sounds you wouldn’t normally associate with anything that has ‘Metal’ right there in the moniker. So guaranteed, the music of Henry Metal is always going to throw a few people for a loop or two – but for those that dig commitment to ideas, performance, and a theatrical presence in their music, there’s so much for you to love on this record and right away with “Robes Of 8.” You got piano, organ, and a distinct vocal-hook that lead the way through this song, before being joined powerfully by the drums and guitars that brilliantly take the entire atmosphere & energy of this song to the next-level. “Robes Of 8” builds & breaks with the smart use of space and structure, allowing for the dynamics of the music to shift around behind the vocals strongly while the melody on the mic stays stoic, confident, and on-point with the artistic & expressive flow maximizing the potential in the hooks. Ultimately, “Robes Of 8” plays like a great introduction to a new record should…it’s filled with enticing ideas and sound, building with intensity and giving you a taste of the instrumentation without giving away the full-scope of Henry Metal’s capabilities. Believe me, there’s plenty more fireworks to come.
“THIS…IS…SPARTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” Henry Metal likes an epic story to write about…that’s been proven plenty in the past already – and with a battle-cry to storm the gates through “Sparta,” it’s like he’s bringing the full power of the 300 into this second tune. The energy is on high here…no denying that – a track like this SHOULD get you amped-up as I’ve been listening to this record, because damn is there a lot going right here for Henry Metal! The guitars and drums are literally as killer as they’ve ever been or better on this cut, with a massive highlight for crunchy & killer tone coming through the solo past the two-minute mark; a perfect example of the smart choices that this band makes. You’ll know what I mean when you get to the solo around the three-minute mark just a minute or so later on down the road – that first one around 2mins is a walk in the park for Henry Metal, but it’s the perfect sound for that moment and a really professional display of control & restraint when you hear how easily this dude can light-up a fretboard only a minute later. Dude does what the song calls for…and not only do I think the choices he makes are impressively smart, but they also lead tracks like “Sparta” to have so many dimensions of sound & ideas within the structure that you honestly couldn’t possibly get bored. There’s simply no time for it! “Sparta” moves quickly like the battles it’s based on, raging through section after section with a killer verse – but MAN this dude raises the stakes when it comes to the chorus of this cut, the melody is fuckin’ fantastic. Don’t know if it’s just me or not, but the drums in particular seem to really stand out for all the right reasons on this album…even at the most subtle-ish like you hear in the opening tune, they remain viciously impressive and a massive part of the energy that fuels the fire in these tracks on 8. But C’MON people – right around the 3:30 mark when the solo exits back into the main hooks and this barn starts really burning towards the finale…I mean…it’s straight-up killer. “Sparta” does an incredible job of revealing a lot of what makes Henry Metal such a kickass band.
Like…if you could somehow marry the vocals of Queen with the writing of Meat Loaf and infuse the punch of a Led Zeppelin sound into the amplifiers of such a marriage, you’d have something that might resemble “I Got The Fever” – which is a mover & groover that expertly combines a lot of what’s influenced Henry Metal’s music over the years. Or you could go with the love-child of Elton John and the Stone Temple Pilots…I’d accept that as well; I’m sure you get what I’m going at here, Henry Metal has a seriously wild & ambitious range of sound & style on “I Got The Fever” that works that sexualized vein of real Rock to fantastic. The pace grips & rips once it kicks in to gear, never letting up in another solid match between the lyricism, music, and ideas on a cut like this. But you’ll hear that Queen-esque beginning to this song…and man, I gotta say, I think it’s completely brilliant. You add in the ever-killer drums that have been rocking this whole record to pull you in even more as it starts to flex its muscle on “I Got The Fever,” and by the time you get to the guitars scorching riffs throughout this song & piano along with it, this fire has more than started, it’s BLAZING. Another highlight solo around the two-minute mark…this dude can SHRED with the best of him whenever he wants to throw that switch – and noticeably, much like on “Sparta,” it’s the exit back out from the solos and into the main hooks/finale that seems to get Henry Metal inspired to generate as much heat as possible as these songs burn with powerful groove and energy right to the end. It’s the more playful side of Henry Metal in a sense, but it’s a style that this project wears extremely well – the confidence radiates in the music made by this band and that’s incredibly important when going after such ambitious, creative, and complex material.
“Bodhisattva” digs right into the dirt to find its roots in a Doors-esque “Roadhouse Blues” kind of dealio when it comes to the main rhythm & groove, but eventually goes on to reveal some seriously impressive that are also remarkably fresh as well. I’ll admit that the first time the chorus comes around, I felt like the mellow approach from Henry Metal might have needed an energy drink to match the vibe in the music…seemed like a good spot to stamp down a bit more power in that moment, yet by the next time you hear them, they seem to fit the mood perfectly…so what do I know? Love the guitars you can hear in the background, love the rambunctious ideas and punch the drums add…but really, it’s the vocals that you’ll end up paying most attention to on this cut, because those hooks are genuinely strong. The first time you hear them, they do seem like an odd fit coming from the blues-rock stomping of what was just happening prior, but like I said, stick with it…the more you listen to this cut, the more addictive that it gets – and especially the way Henry Metal sings these hooks with such a bizarre-but-effective approach. Those moments from like, around the 1:45 mark where the dude’s putting the most power into them becomes even more satisfying to the ears as a result – and that could very well explain the more subdued approach earlier on…it gives “Bodhisattva” somewhere to go…which if you’re familiar with the meaning behind the title, maybe that’s for the best. At its core, “Bodhisattva” examines that push/pull between staying & going, sticking it out or moving on, choosing to be selfish or selfless…these kinds of themes are cleverly explored from Henry Metal’s perspective and that struggle with the emotions of this kind of weighted situation are smartly echoed in the way that he chooses to sing this song. So in that sense…I suppose it all makes sense after all…the ending, in theory, should somehow sound like that final release or freedom that would come along with making a choice in one direction or the other; at the very least, finding out who you are and what you’re capable of would be comforting to some degree. Highly interesting tune overall…I felt like this was a great example of Henry Metal switching it up from what we know and taking us into what we don’t…and again, thematically-speaking, there are multiple tie-ins & connections between the music, concept, & lyrics there to be discovered by your ears as well.
8 continues to display a diversity & versatility in sound & style by switching it up from the Blues-Rock vibes of “Bodhisattva” and taking “Gotta Get Back To Chicago” into a light Funk/Pop-Rock combo. I’ll say this…I wasn’t always as sure about this track being a fit for this particular record, but I did always feel that it was a really strong tune in the Henry Metal catalog. “Gotta Get Back To Chicago” is pretty irresistible in many ways…the hooks in the guitars for sure, the way the atmosphere fills up and then clears-out to reveal that crunch of the main riffs. True to form, the drums remain wild & highly inventive – the beats & parts of this tune stand-out as being some of the best you’ll find in how expertly the energy transitions from the melodic & mellow-side of Henry Metal to the Rock-filled energetic-side. Chorus-wise, I think he’s got something special here again…I also dig how you get a bit more presence from the bass in the melody of “Gotta Get Back To Chicago” as well – both the instrumentation & vocals have a solid turn in the spotlight at moments throughout this song. Around the 3:15 mark, Henry Metal just CRUSHES the earth with a brilliantly colorful & well-suited solo once again, right before heading back into that signature strength of the structure in the finale bringing back those smooth hooks in the vocals once again. FLASHY sounds and riffs at work on this cut…I have no doubt that the sound of the music would draw in listeners just as easily as anything happening with the vocals of this tune.
“Propaganda” might be one of the biggest chances that Henry Metal has taken on in sound/style – and it very well might lead to one of the most massive payoffs for many when listening to this record. Lyrically and performance-wise, this song has high-levels of incredible attitude and a seriously direct point of view; Henry Metal pulls no punches here and takes on the media and “Propaganda” of all kinds – eventually combining what starts out as a solitary voice and simple riff-based beginning to an atmosphere that continually envelops you as you listen until it damn near swallows you whole. This is the kind of cut that I could pretty much write an essay on…so I’ll do my best to keep this under a whole page here…but suffice it to say, this is freakin’ brilliant…for real – LISTEN to the words on this cut! It’s not just insightful – it’s deadly accurate. Henry Metal is making very relevant points here on how we watch, listen, consume, and believe in a lot of what we’re being told without questioning it half as much as we should be…thankfully it’s because of writing like this that we know just how awake the man behind the music actually is…he’s on the right side of the argument and doing his best to wake YOU all the fuck up as well on “Propaganda” by pointing out a shitload of things that you should bloody well know. Whether it’s big government, media, or even those out there that are talking heads of perpetual insanity, Henry Metal is taking them all to task here and calling out the situation of our current social climate and tendencies for what it truly is. Now…where it gets tough…at least for the average listener out there…is that “Propaganda” is really built from two entirely separate genres…for some people that’ll be a struggle, there’s no doubt. For how smooth & inviting the verse is to how rage-filled, wild, and complex the chorus can be through its multiple layers all firing off at once – that’s gonna be an impossible jump for more than a few people to make. Like my wife for example…she knows I love her so I can say shit like this, but she wouldn’t be able to take this cut. She would LOVE the beginning of this song, and she’d turn her nose up at the sheer force & power of the antics that Henry Metal creates in the chorus, I can guarantee it without her even listening, I know her that well. As I’ve said to many bands out there, she’s the litmus test for what the everyday music listener will & won’t accept. Here’s what I’d challenge her with though…and it comes down to concept again – because listen to how smart the execution on this idea truly is. THINK ABOUT IT. “Propaganda” isn’t always in your face…in fact, quite often, when it first begins its nearly disguised or completely veiled as it starts to take shape – damn near WELCOMING and WARM. Coincidence that “Propaganda” starts out so friendly? I don’t think so. I also don’t think it’s any accident that Henry Metal is making the point just as much musically as it is through the words as well by that intense shift of sound into what’s damn near straight-up chaos in the chorus…because if you DO get sucked into that eerie friendliness and eager messaging without questioning it, you end up in a brutal storm of shit soon after before you even have time to realize how it all happened. I think that’s completely reflected in the way “Propaganda” moves & flows with such a powerful mix of jarring & smooth sound combined…and I also think that’s largely why this entire song is so damn compelling all the way through. Everything from concept to execution, music to lyrics, vocals to production…it’s all spot-on perfection here and “Propaganda” is relentlessly entertaining and thought-provoking as a result. There might have been risks taken here, but everything paid off like it was lining The Man’s pockets with loot and liberal tears – even the high-energy peppy salesman-esque style that Henry Metal takes on in the friendly sound of the vocals in the verses completely works, and there’s no doubt that’s outside of the norm for this dude. Freakin’ brilliant track bud.
One line less than one page. Told ya I could do it.
As can often happen when you hear what’s decidedly one of your favorite cuts on a record, that next track can take the brunt of the impact it makes…and I think that happens a bit here on “Winberry Lavender” when you first listen to 8. A track like “Propaganda” doesn’t even have the time that would be required to come out loose from any moment on that song, which makes adjusting to the extremely loose vibe that “Winberry Lavender” starts out with a bit hard to absorb…you miss that tightness. It still exists in many ways, but audibly, it comes out with a beginning that moves lethargically, almost as if the song itself didn’t care to spring to life in that same vibrant way that “Propaganda” did only moments before. The longest tune on the record, I think as listeners you feel that a bit as Henry Metal wades through the opening two-minutes of this song…I dig the amount of character & personality you get from the vocals and I really have no qualms with the music either…perhaps it just feels like it takes a moment or two for this train to really leave the station. Chorus-wise…it’s also arguable that the verse outshines it here…in my opinion it does – Henry Metal’s written some incredible lines into this tune that’ll definitely get you to raise an eyebrow or two, but you’ll certainly hear what’s being said – check out the second verse if you want an awesome example of what I mean. Yeah…I think I’m going with the chorus here…I think that’s what’s got me resisting giving “Winberry Lavender” the full thumbs-up by the end here…I felt like the verses, bridge, and instrumentation all surrounding it always came out decisively more engaging. It’s really not until the end – that signature move that Henry Metal likes to make in exiting the solo and making the most of the finale – that the chorus of “Winberry Lavender” really starts to find that sweetness it deserved & needed to make the impact it should. Smartly adding new vocalizations that are melodically spot-on and wonderfully expressive, with bold backing vocals that draw out that sweetness even further…it’s a six or one half-dozen of the other situation whereby you WANT more of what’s happening at the end to happen in the choruses earlier on when you listen to “Winberry Lavender” that next time around, but you KNOW that moment wouldn’t come out as such a spectacular highlight if it DID. And all that being said, I mean, how often are you going to hear a love-song that’s dedicated to a scent of a shampoo? You gotta hand it to Henry Metal…this band is nothing else if not unique. He’s having fun here…it might not be the tightest track in the world, but it is fun.
Traditional Metal sound & themes take this record to a stunning finale on the wings of “Raven” soaring to a scorching-hot conclusion that’s stuffed to the brim with high-energy ideas & colorful solos. HENNNNNNNNNNNNNNRRRRRRRRRRRRRYYYYYYYYYY Metal gets his shred on immediately, putting that intensity & skill we love in the guitars right in the spotlight as “Raven” takes flight, working in powerfully dynamic & dramatic moments where the drums will pound out a quick hit and send the guitar-strings into fast & furious action. Mixing mythology & melody into epic proportions and a gripping final tale, the music moves at an insane pace – and LISTEN to the added brightness that comes in through the solo past the two-thirty mark will ya? Probably one of my favorite switches in tone & style in any song on the record – I think everything about the mid-section of “Raven” puts it right over the top in all the right ways – I mean, this is just straight-up inspired energy & sound running rampantly from every angle and seriously refreshing just to hear it! Digging back into the intensity and hitting those drums with full force as this final tale draws to its conclusion…when you look at the time as it heads towards the end, it’s almost like the feeling you’d get in an airplane trying to land while speeding way too fast to the edges of the tarmac – you wonder if you’re even going to survive or if your speakers are just going to explode from all the heat generated on this journey! Massively satisfying tune – I feel like overall, throughout everything that 8 had to offer us, that Henry Metal really stepped the game up on this third record I’ve now reviewed – I truly think this is the best one yet and without a doubt the most entertaining by far.
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