Saturday, April 21, 2012

SPLATTERS "Fear Of The Park"

(c) 2012 Atomic Stuff

  1. Intro
  2. Killer Clown
  3. Welcome To Zombieland
  4. Here Come The Monsters
  5. Die In A Leather Jacket
  6. Hope
  7. Why Do They Always Have To Die In This Way?
  8. Sinner In Heaven
  9. My Lucky 13
  10. Minotaury
  11. Dark Way

Drow - Lead Vocals, Guitars
Alex Damned - Lead Guitars & Backing Vocals
Mr. Sprinkler - Bass & Backing Vocals
Paul Destroyer - Drums

Despite the fact that Splatters hail from Italy, one of the burgeoning hotbeds of the New Wave of European Glam and Sleaze (as I affectionately refer to it), do not think that this band is going to instantly fit any preconceptions about who or what they are.  Splatters explore that bizarre genre that is often referred to as "horror punk", although I think "horror sleaze" is a tag that could also be used with these guys, similar in nature to the sound of Ragdolls, at least on most songs (there are a couple of definite exceptions).  There is definitely a punkish attitude and approach to a lot of the songs, but the music is performed with quite a bit more skill than the typical punk song, especially since there are true guitar solos and actual song structures present, which is not the case with a lot of punk bands.  For comparison, Splatters probably has more in common with the sleazier, more metallic stylings of Haunted Garage from the late 80's/early 90's, than they do with the neo-punk sounds a lot of band seem to be using lately.

The album tells a loose story about a haunted amusement park, and the song titles, for the most part, fit the theme very well. "Killer Clown", "Die In a Leather Jacket", "Welcome to Zombieland", and "Here Come The Monsters" all pretty much let you know where the album is coming from, and where it is headed, and the musical style of these tracks is pretty much the same throughout. The listener is blasted with punk-laden drum beats, some furious rhythm guitar and bass pounding, and then topped with moments of inspired guitar playing...and Drow's dominating, at times distracting, vocals.

Drow, is not going to win any awards for his crooning style, because it is non-existant.  In fact, his vocals, along with the drumming, are the two things that could be considerered to be pretty much punk throughout the entire disc.  With Drow, you rarely actually hear any singing, as he is always screaming, snarling, growling, or spitting out the lyrics.  The one exception to this rule would be the intro to "Why Do They..." where Drow finds himself very much in Alice Cooper delivery mode, showing he is capable of pulling off an on-key, non-gagged vocal line, but this is a rarity.  For the rest of the disc, even on his most laid back moments, such as the more spoken word style of delivery at the beginning of "Hope", Drow is still offering up more of a snarled whisper than anything else.   

The guitar playing on the album, as opposed to Drow's vocals, really do more to steer this project towards sleaze than they do punk.  There are multiple tasty little solos scattered throughout the project, and I get the feeling that if given the chance, Alex Damned could blister the finish off his fretboard, possibly melting the strings in the process.  The solo near the end of "Die In A Leather Jacket" is one such moment when he shows his ability to finger his way through some pretty cool 80's-inspired playing, but then the punkish drums kick back in, spoiling the moment, at least for me.  "Hope" has another great solo moment around the 2:10 moment that really leads me to believe Alex is a very gifted guitar player who might better ply his trade in a more traditional sleaze, or even glam, band.  He also rips of a scorching lead in "Sinner In Heaven" that is well worth giving a listen to...but not so good that I would advise someone to buy this album just to hear it.

At times, the music can seem pretty familiar, with "Sinner In Heaven" holding a strong Guns N Roses vibe throughout the guitar-heavy intro, for example, but then even these familiar sounding tracks morph into something completely different, usually hitting a break-neck punk-influenced pace or, as I mentioned, dropping off into some kind of hardcore breakdown.  To be honest, a lot of the songs kind of run into one another at times, due largely to the fact that they are all performed at nearly the same tempo.  Quite often only the off-tempo intros to the songs are the only thing that gives the listener any indication that a new track has started. 

There are a couple of stark exceptions to punk-by-numbers effort displayed on much of the record, wih the last two tracks being the most obvious.  Perhaps not coincientally, these are also the best two songs on the effort, along with parts of "Hope" and "Why Do They...".  "Minotaury" has a more typical middle-of-the-road sleazy groove to the bass, rhythm guitar, and drum line for much of the song, only really picking up the pace for the nice, if short, guitar solo.  The closing cut, "Dark Way", is the only ballad on the disc and it has some excellent guitar work on it, but it is recorded in such a way as to sound completely mono, rather than stereo, almost like it was done on an ancient four-track machine, or something.  This is a GREAT song that I sort of wish was given the full production treatment, as I think the band really finds their musical stride here.  It is an excellent way to close the record, and it gives me hope that the band can offer up some more musically interesting art on their next effort.

If the album featured more moments like the last two tracks, or the first half of songs like "Why Do They..." and "Hope", I think this could be a stand-out record.  However, there is too much samey-faux-punk mixed with B-movie horror themes for my liking here, and Splatters come off sounding so much like Ragdolls that I'm not sure I could distinguish one from the other.  I don't anticipate this being a heavy rotation disc for me, except maybe on Halloween...and not likely then, either.

Rating:  Overall, I would have to say rock this at a 5.5, which is probably being kind, but Alex's talent saves at least part of the disc for me.

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