Henry Metal – V – Album Review
This guy! There is so much personality and character in the music of Henry Metal that it should blow your mind. Here’s another solo-act that has the ability to sound like a raging full-band – this dude puts in an insane amount of work into his music that you can’t help but notice. I jumped on the Henry Metal bandwagon earlier this year over the summer with his EP, So It Hath Begun, which also featured an entire lineup of meaty tunes. I really dig that you can hear the roots of his influences…the classics & highlights of rock/metal’s early golden years…but at the end of the day, there’s no denying that he is completely doing his own thing right in the here & now.
So…for those of you that aren’t already familiar with Henry Metal, you’ve already probably noticed the tongue-in-cheek title of this solo project, which certainly implies the man behind the curtain has a sense of humor. And he does, there’s no doubt about that. You can even find Tenacious D listed in his influences, slyly slipped into a list of killer bands from the late 80’s & early 90’s – but don’t let that fool you. You can’t underestimate the class clown; they might make you laugh, but there’s no reason they can’t still get an A at the same time. Henry Metal will give you the occasional chuckle for sure, but for the most part, it’s the serious dedication to the musicianship, execution, attitude and style that will control your attention more than any punch-line ever could.
And for what it’s worth, I think good ol’ Henry has really expanded the idea from where it started & really moved it all forward in the right direction on his new record, V. If you’re looking for something that’s still metal enough to supply you the rock, you’ll get that here. If you’re looking for something that twists the genre artistically, loads it up with a genuine musical-perspective and carries out the ambitions with flawless execution – well hell, this is practically made for ya. If absolutely nothing else, the guitars in Henry Metal’s V should completely stand-out to you…half of me suspects this is already an infamous virtuoso of the mainstream that’s tripping out on a side-project here…he’s an insanely amazing guitarist.
I thought the way this record opened-up was freakin’ fantastic. “Consecrate,” in my humble estimation, immediately displayed Henry Metal’s continued push for diverse, versatile and imaginative tunes. Everything you hear is highly-textured and straight-up interesting – you just don’t hear music like this on a daily basis right now. He’s fully-embracing his persona and style now, I think you can hear that in the artistic approach to the beginning of this record’s first track. “Consecrate” goes on to expand even further as Henry hauls out the chops and takes his axe for a serious rip from just prior to the three-minute mark and slays hard, shredding to the end. The tone, the skill, the ideas – the execution is all here. From the murk of the verse to the slightly brighter chorus and wildly impressive solos, “Consecrate” instantly offers something different to the ears; they might not be traditional hooks of any sense, but the entire sound takes a captivating hold on you…it’s more than music, it’s a performance.
I liked the drums, pace & piano-accents in the music of “Vampyre,” but for some reason kept feeling myself rebel against this cut somehow. “Consecrate” starts the record in a much different vein…and later on, you experience many unique and highly creative ideas that seem to use his strengths more. “Vampyre” isn’t ‘easy’ by any stretch of the imagination, but in comparison to a lot of what you’ll hear on V, it’s undeniably more focused on being a real rock song as opposed to one of Henry Metal’s more artistic endeavors. That being said, I think the chorus has a seriously catchy energy to it, and something tells me that when it comes to the masses, “Vampyre” would actually make sense to put out as a single. Kicking the switch at the 2:40-ish mark, similar to where the first track of the album takes flight, Henry Metal cranks the attitude through the roof with resounding character and tone in his guitar; nearly creating a wall of sound only a minute later, “Vampyre” breaks into its defined verse & chorus before it exits its blend of confident & competent sounds. Definitely still an enjoyable cut, largely based on how hard this guy continually brings it to his performance and musicianship…any musician would love what Henry Metal is all about, especially if you know your history in rock music.
Because in spots, without being cheesy, you can even pick out influences like Meat Loaf in more rock-opera style cuts and thematic ideas like you’ll find on “Where The Dumbasses Roam.” It’s undeniably an update on the Loaf sound and much heavier…but you’ll notice that similar level of expression in his vocals and the tightness in this overall idea. He’s really focused here. Listen to the lyricism and you’ll hear how this entire concept comes together…it’s a socially-aware track for certain. With a song that you can define as ‘theatrical’ or compare it to a ‘rock-opera’ – it becomes much more about ambition and artistic vision here, even in a song called “Where The Dumbasses Roam.” If anything, that might be the one stumbling-block I had with this particular song; he makes his points so directly throughout the entire song that the punch-line of “Where The Dumbasses Roam” almost seemed like one step too far. BUT! I found the entire melody-line in the vocals of the chorus to be a seriously unique one and really liked how that came out – and the switch that occurs at around the 2:20-mark absolutely takes this whole song right to the place it needed to go. Upping the tempo and pace, the kick-drum furiously pounds out the beat and Henry Metal soars through the middle of this track’s most strong & passionate parts. I’ve been enjoying the way that Henry’s approached the vocals on this record right from the beginning so far, but I’d also have to say that the frantic pace and tone of his voice sounds perfect from that spring-step forward when the song jolts to life in its mid-section. Early highlights for the vocals exist here on one of the album’s most ambitious tunes and focused themes. I kind of liked how I was unsure about the whether or not the beginning would be enough at first, then being hit with that surprising burst of energy and transition in “Where The Dumbasses Roam” that completely made the whole song suddenly make sense. The next times I’d hear the song, it was much easier to grasp the entire idea here and appreciate the real focus that Henry Metal applies to this track from the words to the music. Final verdict on this is that the word ‘dumbasses’ is an awkward one to get away with, but I think the ambitions and ideas are achieved completely overall, and I think it marks a shift into a strong middle of the record with “Bad Mother” and “Baby” to follow.
“Bad Mother” is as chockfull of attitude as a song can get – and Henry Metal is fully owning this one. Those guitars sound wicked right from the drop and start the groove instantly, complemented by a spot-on performance from the vocals. Add in some well-placed and pivotal keyboards to heighten the atmosphere in the chorus & a stomping beat that sounds terrifically punchy & confident and you’ve got the recipe creating the landscape for the magic to happen. “Bad Mother” has Henry Metal sounding his best and the music at its most entertaining – the hooks in this song aren’t likely to let anyone escape them. He’s like a super-charged Zappa-esque metal & groove-rock beast on this cut, perfectly using the cadence of the title to create a serious rhythm in the vocals that you can’t help but love. Without a doubt, “Bad Mother” is one of the album’s most widely-accessible tracks to the listening ears out there.
“Baby” was one of my favorite tracks on the record. You can hear added seriousness creep into the music and methods of Henry Metal on “Baby” and it was a highly effective transition in sound on V. Something about this entire song just felt like it totally reached for more and completely succeeded. I like the low-chopping chords on the guitar that guide it along with the beat, the subtle layers of keys that haunt the atmosphere and I loved the mix on Henry’s vocals throughout this entire cut. He’s sitting perfectly in the mix here, the music is surrounding him without enveloping him – and I think he gives another compelling, noteworthy performance on “Baby” that is highly memorable. The way this song shifts its gears & sounds between the verse and chorus is more than exceptional; the drone of the verse bursts-open into the chorus with audible inspiration. Both of the song’s main elements really fit the mood and hit the mark, but I gotta say, that chorus is a truly stunning piece of writing all on its own. Loved this song from beginning to end.
The guitar-god loving guy in me really digs the way that Henry Metal opens up the throttle for the surging energy that rips through “Turbo Stang.” If we’re examining this track for any kind of completeness to the idea itself, or its intense focus thematically, it’s a winner – the entire track is seriously cohesive in its ambitions and intentions. Does the world need another rock song about cars? I’ll leave that assessment up to each of your own individual tastes. Where I think this track succeeds the most aside from how intact this whole idea is presented, is definitely in the wild execution of the chorus. Henry Metal adds in some drama to the sound and it’s highly effective, he’s also doing the same with the lyrics and furthering the story. I like the way he sings the chorus and the entire atmosphere is exceptional…it gets more serious…darker…and it suits him. The brightness in the gigantic solos that stoke the fire and fuel the engine driving the verse of “Turbo Stang” serve well to contrast the chorus.
One of my favorite parts of this record was “Love Song” – I’d actually be interested in how other people hear this tune. The progressive structure is a tougher one to absorb in the sense that the song moves unexpectedly from part to part…you won’t see a lot of this song coming the first time you hear it. As many of you know, surprise is one of my favorite things about music; “Love Song” surprised me in just about every way. Sincerity and melody reign supreme on this cut…mind you, it’s all expressed through Henry Metal’s own…let’s say ‘unique’ perspective. But it’s relatable descriptions and real emotions like these that actually connect to the people as listeners…it’s a remarkably ‘indie’ approach to the lyrics when you look at it from that angle. I felt like “Love Song” gives you so much to chew on that it was like four songs threaded perfectly together and equally satisfying – it’s a real journey of a song from beginning to end. With multiple parts, you’re likely to have your favorite moments along the way; even as much as I’d argue that this is one of the best songs on the record, there were still parts I liked better than others, just as anyone else would. I thought the opening was strong, but undeniably, that switch at the 35 second mark is pure fucking magic. Henry sounds better than ever before here, extremely sincere in his tone right when it sounds like it matters most, he nails the melody on this cut beautifully. Is he going to score more comparisons to The Loaf here? Certainly. But again, at least give Henry the credit of updating the sound to suit his own style – nothing about this is a copy, but you can definitely hear the influence good ol’ Meat’s music must have had on Henry at least at one point in time. When he sings “I fuckin love you bitch!” as the song heads into its chorus, he sounds brilliant; it’s a quirky addition to the song, which was already on a roll by that point…perhaps a risky move but one I felt really paid off for him and adds a bizarre, uplifting energy to the sentiment. Guitars are off-the-charts cool as you’d expect, smart piano accents…seriously tremendous use of space and pacing as the song transitions from part to part. I might have been able to live without the bridge this time around, but as far as the rest goes, I felt like this track showed Henry Metal in a different light, but certainly another dimension & extension of the overall sound & style that really worked & showed that evolution in his work.
The most chuckles you’re likely to find on this record will come through “2 Chicks.” Though as funny as it can be, you’ll also notice Henry makes the time to make a few insightful points along the way as well. I dig this kind of stuff though…call it music that’s bound to fool the surface-level listener…the kind of song that has enough hook & pull for people to start singing along before they realize what it is they’re actually singing about. “2 Chicks” is Henry Metal at its dirtiest-direct…whereas many of the tracks on the record so far have only hinted & flirted with humor by comparison. Musically, it fits right in with the record and has that excellent mix in the crunch of guitars & thundering drums we’ve come to love. Lyrically…I know how I feel about it as a song…I’m wondering if I felt like it suited & served the record as a whole. I’ll say this…it didn’t necessarily feel like a step backwards, but at this point in V, things have been decidedly less…umm…pointed. “2 Chicks” dials back the seriousness…as a song I think it’s freakin’ hilarious personally…and you really gotta dig the way Henry sings these songs so passionately, like there’s real love in his voice when he’s revealing the scenario taking place on his penis in the chorus. The verse around the three-minute mark is 100% sick as sick gets in terms of sheer awesomeness, and from there Henry rips into one of the wildest solos on the record before flipping the switch back into the adventures of his cock’n’balls. It’s probably not the song you’ll be playing at your holiday gatherings this year…but “2 Chicks” is likely a track you’ll find yourself turning up when you’re alone. It’ll make you grin like a complete idiot and the subject matter is dirty enough that it will take you right into the gutter.
“Was this a mistake? Was this even worth it? Well I knew the answer, the moment they opened the curtain.” I thought this was a fantastically insightful part of the lyrics on the album’s final tune “Rock Like A Bard” – a lot of this track seems like it’s based on Henry’s own personal experience and that seems like a real way to describe how he’s confirmed what he was meant to do on this planet. Like, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this was the mantra in his head from the moment that he opens his eyes in the morning and his motto for life. Lyrically I think he did a great job on this tale of what it takes to ROCK…it’s kind of a testament to all of what Henry Metal is really all about from concept to execution. I think the majority of the strength on this record exists in its middle, but I felt like this last theme also did a great job of bringing this album to a decisive conclusion. “Rock Like A Bard” certainly embodies the spirit of rock and pretty much spells out the fact that there’s nothing on earth that can keep Henry Metal from plugging into those amps and turning everything he does right up to eleven.
Henry Metal V officially releases December 1st, 2017 – until then, find out more about Henry Metal at the official homepage at: https://henrymetal.net/
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