Henry Metal – So It Hath Begun – Album Review
And the award for best band name out there in the independent music-scene goes to…
So It Hath Begun. Damn right it has!
I’m rare to strip a direct quote unless I really see one that says something better than I feel like I ever could. I was trying to think about the best way to start describing the music of Henry Metal to you when I came across the perfect way to say what I wanted to within the bio write-up on the official homepage. It reads: “Lest we consider Henry Metal as merely some kind of comedy act, I would direct your attention to the technical skill, composition, performance and extreme soul with which his performance and message is delivered.” I mean it when I say this – I literally couldn’t have put it any better than that.
The new record from Henry Metal not only has an unbelievable level of skill, it also has that relentless enthusiasm and bombastic energy that has fueled the heart of the metal-scene since the 80’s on-forward. You can argue all you like that Henry Metal is picking up where Tenacious D left off…that’s a comparison that can certainly be made for the sense of humor and over-the-top antics for sure; but much like The D – it’s impossible not to notice the amount of talent that leads the music to success. Aside from the Tenacious D factor, much of what you’ll hear certainly reveals the kind of music that Henry Metal has grown up loving and blasting from ghetto blasters to full-on stereo systems likely all his life from Guns & Roses to Black Sabbath to Dream Theater…good lord…maybe even the B-52’s? It’s possible, don’t laugh! The range of influences you could cite throughout this record is very widespread.
You can hear the genuine respect for metal-music in all its forms stamped all throughout this album. Make no mistake…Henry Metal is more than gimmickry & clever song-names/lyricism…whomever is remaining anonymous behind the shroud of mystery that’s shielding ‘Henry’ from claiming the spotlight is built on more strength than most people have – most people out there would want the credit for this! So It Hath Begun is riotously entertaining and seriously gripping in equally lethal-doses.
But for real…you’d swear you were in for a brand-new record from Guns & Roses in the opening moments of “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” as those guitars kick-in. Henry Metal sold me by the time the chorus hit on this first tune – the words are absolute insanity, but like, perfect? When he starts getting into Tae Kwan Do and his Jujitsu moves and how legit they are, I was sold right there. Top it off with rad guitar solos and rock-solid composition that has depth, structure and energy – and you gotta love it right? Vocally…pretty legit right off the bat here…there’s a couple moments where Henry Metal slips into similar tones that you’d find from Weird Al’s vocals, which I’ve said in reviews before that I’m unsure if that’s a tone anyone really wants to strive for…but for the most part, even in those moments I felt like the vocals actually suited this one very well. Impressive energy at the very least, “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” starts the record off with a mere taste of its upcoming lyrical genius and musical talent.
Even I was surprised by just how much I ended up liking “Wrist Is Pissed.” Hitting the post-punk/gothic-side of metal music…the theatrical nature of this tune is actually quite compelling to listen to. Usually I’m not all about things I’d describe as ‘theatrical’ – but something about the relentless energy of Henry Metal’s music seems to have an early grip on me. I have a feeling it’s the raw power he puts into the chorus of this cut…or…that is…the first chorus? There are so many layers to this second tune it’s like the musical-form of a seven-layer burrito. I’ll fully admit to not being completely on board with the second chorus…the ‘talk to the hand’ part – but I get it. It’s an interesting take & spin on the meaning of the original phrase…plus the added element of surprise because you’d never expect that phrase to exist anywhere in music that sounds as heavy as this does. So…yeah…for me I almost felt like there was a more noticeable effort to achieve that shock through the lyrics directly on “Wrist Is Pissed” compared to the slick, sly & subtle ways Henry Metal does it by comparison on many of the other tunes. That being said…one of my favorite guitar-solos on this album is on “Wrist Is Pissed” and chorus-wise…well, that first chorus…you get what I mean, hopefully…it slays!
What will also surprise you…mind you, in almost the completely opposite way, is the amount of melody you’ll hear in a song like “Butthead Maven.” I think this track is damn near a hit-song for Henry Metal…which is not what I was expecting to come at me after reading the title; but if not a radio-hit, then certainly a highlight live from the stage…the shifting dynamics are amazing on this cut. And as if guitar-solos just grow on the trees around him, Henry Metal once again delivers an extraordinary moment in time on So Hath It Begun with an extended run over the frets that will drop your damn jaw. Really like the chorus on this tune; lyrically I could probably take it or leave it if I’m being entirely honest – but the way that Henry Metal approaches the vocals and sings “Butthead Maven” is one of my favorite performances on the album. Smart pacing, professional precision…the production and performances on this whole record are truly commendable, but I really do appreciate being able to hear Henry Metal give himself a shot at really singing one out for us. I think it works out insanely well for him…even though lyrically it wasn’t my favorite by a bit of a stretch, I felt like he really nailed the energy & tones brilliantly on “Butthead Maven” and found an insightful amount of balance in between the light & heavy aspects that rage and range within this tune.
There is a part of me that always instantly wants to deny a band’s own theme-song. Never been a fan of any of them…and I’ll admit, it’s just something in music I’ve never understood no matter how much I love the band, artist or genre it would come from. Defying the odds completely, Henry Metal’s anthem called “Henry’s Saga” was somehow completely awesome to me. I mean…perhaps it’s not been until now that I realize all I’ve ever heard in my life are ATTEMPTS to get the self-anthem correct…because THIS is the way you do it! It’s a song…about a song…about a guy…a guy who writes a song and plays a song…a lyrical blueprint of how Henry Metal plans to go about gettin’er all done RIGHT. And just when the energy needs that extra pick me up to really bring it home, shouts of ‘Henry Metal’ fill the chorus brilliantly and supercharge this one in ways that’ll get your fists pumping in the air even while sitting on the couch in your livingroom. Might even have your lighters going-up for the blues-rock beginning of “Henry’s Saga,” which sounds determined to bring it all back to the Use Your Illusion era of G&R; that’s plenty cool with me…I’m about the only person I know that digs those albums more than the rest of their catalog. So they got serious and all ballad-y for a while there…the music was extraordinary in its structure, ambitions, intentions and composition – just like “Henry’s Saga.” Representative of the entire journey that he’s been on and the wild ride it’s taken him for – the twists & turns of “Henry’s Saga” are 100% impressive in their progressive spirit. Perfect doses of different ideas, unreal transitions from part-to-part and performance-wise – Henry Metal is right into his own anthem from moment one matching the energy of the vocals with the words & music like it’s all meant to snap together tightly as it does.
“God You’re So Hot” had me feeling a bit closer to how I felt about “Wrist Is Pissed” earlier. I think there are certain moments where you can hear the effort to write with specific intent a bit more in the lyrics than others…this would be one of them to me. Again…I feel like I ‘get it’ – the juxtaposition of using several pop-culture buzz words and catch phrases in such an odd setting to find them in…but it becomes a lot harder to identify that genuine connection between the artist, music and words in a track like this. I will say this – the guitars on this song…and really on this whole album, are absolutely incredible. The crunchy distortion and tone of the guitars on “God You’re So Hot” is seriously what rock/metal is all about, aren’t they? If that ain’t the classic sound you’re looking for in anything rock…I’d say you’d be damn near missing the point altogether…but Henry…Henry Metal clearly gets it. Rhythmic & catchy – I wouldn’t argue against anyone making a claim for “God You’re So Hot” actually being one of the more accessible songs on the record for the masses overall…I think there’s still potential for this one to be heard. I’d just encourage Henry Metal to really stick to the guidelines he outlined for his own music within that first quote I used at the beginning of this article…songs like “God You’re So Hot” would be what would more likely threaten the legitimacy of his writing becoming perceived as more of a novelty.
Good chance that “Workin’ For The Man” is my favorite track on this record. After spinning it several times over…and even though I think there’s an apt comparison to both Starship and the B-52’s to be made in the writing of this song, somehow Henry Metal more than pulls this one off. The dramatic nature of the music has enormous depth to its transitions and different parts throughout its versatile structure. Switching up the vocal-sounds into different approaches, each part hits the mark of its intentions brilliantly, but perhaps none as much as the amazing chorus of “Workin’ For The Man.” It’s a pop-influenced melody, no doubt about it…but you combine the smoothness in the sound here with the relentless edge of the guitars like Henry Metal’s done on “Workin’ For The Man” and you’ve really got something special. The contrast between each part has each defined moment in the music making the most impact it can – that’s an entirely memorable chorus with massive hooks & a sound that shows Henry Metal can actually be just as beautiful as he can be badass. LOVE the frantic delivery on the main verse and spoken-word-ish rants with the accent that come from the working-man in this tune as well – but it all comes back to the chorus of “Workin’ For The Man” for me – it’s straight-up music-magic.
“Terrible Driver” had a tough act to follow…and somewhere in a mix of murky sounds you’d expect from The Cult or Danzig, this track takes you for a heavy ride with grooves, rhythm and crunch laced into every deadly moment. The lower menacing tones & bass-rumble work incredibly well…drums sound crisp and drive the beat with the gnashing teeth of the guitar-riffs chomping and biting subtly but sure to leave their mark on you. Vocals-wise…there are a few moments where I felt like Henry Metal pulled his punches a bit on this one…which may/may-not have been a sacrifice made for tone or clarity…might just be a stylistic choice. Specifically, the lead-in lines to the chorus come out a bit mixed in their results…like you can hear Henry Metal wants to put more power into it but doesn’t want to piss off the neighbors down the street if he screams too loudly. Once you get there mind you, that kick into the chorus sends it strongly into a seriously captivating part of the song. Melody-wise…idea-wise…I’d argue that “Terrible Driver” is one of the strongest tunes on the entire record with its dark, cohesive music & lyrics, mood, character and atmosphere…there’s a lot for the ears & imagination to feast on here.
It’s hard to say exactly what might grab you in any given song from this record, there could be multiple reasons per track. You might dig it for the music…any of the elements involved from the bass, guitars, keys, drums – all that’s more than commendable. You might dig it for the soaring range and intense ideas from the vocals…that’s valid too. And certainly, throughout this record, Henry Metal has given you plenty of reason to love the lyrics – so many genius lines along the way that go beyond jokes and into brilliant observations from a whacked-out view/perspective on life in general. “Squeeze You” fits into this category for me; I really dig the music and the movement with the words on this tune, but it’s the actual words themselves that truly sold me on this cut! A true tale of romance if I’ve ever read one…err…I mean a true tale of Craigslist-induced potential-debauchery…ummm…with goat-cheese involved…you know, just another glimpse of what it’s like in a day in the life of Henry Metal I’m sure. Ha! All jokes aside – the writing on this tune is truly awesome…it’s kind of got this whole like…”The Nurse Who Loved Me” by Failure humor to it…I’m definitely digging “Squeeze You.” The movement in the vocals and the way Henry Metal sings this one from the low-growls to the almost-R&B/funk-style delivery that he ends up using in the chorus all works incredibly well for him on “Squeeze You” and those guitar sounds & tones he uses in the middle of this track solo-wise are some of the most damn fine & exquisite you’ll hear this year. It all works insightfully well together – you’d look at the idea of this one on paper and likely think he was crazy…until you hear the end result of it all, which is genius.
The end of So It Hath Begun proclaims Henry Metal’s ultimate perspective on “Boss Of Me” and certainly represents the break he’s looking to make in between work-life and the life he’s looking to lead. Massively energetic and versatile once again in this final blast of drama-filled metal…the almost opera-esque approach he’s got to the chorus works really well as the vocals climb note-for-note while the guitars grind & chop underneath. The message and intention of the words gets continually more aggressive and adds hints of menace & mayhem right up until its final moments where it just lets loose all together for an impressive ending to one hell of a highly imaginative & seriously well-executed record. Not much I can think of that’s out there right now that’s like this…sound-wise it certainly leans towards a traditional metal-style for sure, but when you examine the combinations of the intense composition, structure and character in this record…this could definitely find its way atop many a playlist out there. Innovative and wildly inventive – music like this entirely deserves an audience.
Find out more about Henry Metal at his official homepage here: www.henrymetal.net