Butcher Babies- Take it Like a Man (2015)
Groove Metal/Crossover Thrash/Mallcore
Century Media Recordings
So, women have pretty much had a solid history in heavy metal since the days of Doro and Lita Ford. Sex appeal has often times been a part of that success, but never the absolute defining element. Doro and Lita both had amazing talent to back up their sexuality, and their skill gave them credibility in a growing scene that required technical proficiency and golden pipes. Most importantly, they believed in heavy metal, and owned the heavy metal image. Women have fronted many acclaimed metal bands- Angela Gossow of ex-Arch Enemy, Otep Shamaya of Otep, and Tarja Turunen, formerly of Nightwish, have all garnered praise for both their vocals and image alike…and none of them make their tits and asses the focus.
So, this brings me to Butcher Babies, an ultra-generic Pantera inspired groove metal/crossover thrash band that just released their second major studio LP, Take it Like a Man (hahaha, get it! GET IT!). Their brand of metal is to repeat the same few riffs over and over, growl pathetic-sounding screams/growls that are ear-piercingly amateur in skill, dress it up with two sexy lead singers (why two? They’d be just as “good” with only one), and throw some shock rock frills on it. Make noise, fuck shit up, be an animal. That’s…not really good metal songwriting. Good metal is more about why humanity wants to fuck shit up, and what fucking shit up can do to both you and others, not a pure and total celebration of it. That’s more the realm of hardcore punk, and that crossover thrash vibe that permeated bands during the sonic wars of the 80s is pretty apparent here. The clunky, chunky guitars often sound like detuned electric farts on loop, causing me to actually cringe when listening to it. This music is designed for you to be drunk BEFORE you listen, the kind of calloused love of wanton destruction that caused Fred Durst to encourage people to destroy Woodstock. Remember that? How Limp Bizkit singlehandedly destroyed the greatest live music event in American history? Just wanted to remind you all.
That’s not to say this album is on par with Bizkit’s worse, or to suggest that Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey want you to literally destroy things, but it’s hard to really see anything else in songs like “Igniter,” which seems to be from the point of view of an angry teenager who near the end of the song claims that “I’m an apathetic monster controlled by my TV with an itchy trigger finger.” It comes completely out of left field and shifts the until-then substandard “RAAHHH FUCK YOU, gonna kill ‘em all and everything SUCKS” lyrics into “Holy shit I hope they don’t think that passes as social commentary because that isn’t how it works” territory. It’s pretty tasteless and stupid to use school shootings as a platform to make metal music unless you’re in a black metal band where the entire point is to be tasteless and oppressive. Especially in such a watered-down and commercialized subgenre of heavy metal in which Butcher Babies finds themselves! Five Finger Death Punch is basically the same band but with a male lead singer who has vocal talent (but equally awful songwriting skills). I loathe both bands entirely.
Butcher Babies’ gimmick of blood-soaked raging sex is impossible to hear. It’s purely visual, so just listening to the album makes it readily apparent that only one of the singers has marginal vocal skill- Carla Harvey. Heidi Shepherd’s screams, on the other hand, are anemic vocal fry attempts at best and high-school level at worst. The lazy songwriting is one thing, but their music is haphazardly put together as well. It all feels like the most calculated plan to be a successful band with a formula for success met the truth of hack talent and instead of dying like it should have…it just kept on churning. And that’s what this unmemorable album does- churn on and on and on. I mean, I can only listen to lyrics like “We built these walls,” “I am an animal,” “I don’t fit in,” “you can’t stop moving,” and “Tear me apart, rip out my heart” once or twice before I start pining for the tales of epic mythology and musings on war and strife throughout history. I have no interest in such tired and pathetic genre clichés. I also have little tolerance for breakdowns that sound exactly the same as the one in the last song, or pseudo-philosophical lyrics that make no sense in context. All of that is rife in this album, which comes in at a far-too-long 45 minutes. None of the tracks are listenable save for the opening track “Monster’s Ball” and its catchy chorus, but even that overstays its welcome after two or three listens.
The band is a product of an attempt to appeal to stereotypical fans of a genre. Slow burn ballad “Thrown Away” gets closer to full-on Three Days Grace/Linkin Park complaining than anything your average 30+ metalhead would even think about listening to. Plainly put, it’s commercialized, low-talent generic “metal” with a lot of energy but no substance or talent. It’s Pantera, Slipknot, and Hatebreed at their absolute lowest, minus all of the talent the musicians in said bands actually possess. This is a must-miss for classic metalheads and anybody who has grown past angst-ridden mallcore bullshit. That’s exactly what this is.