It seems as if everyone is getting back on the metal bandwagon these days. In the early '90s, music fans scoffed at the long hair, makeup and ridiculous, over-the-top performances that ruled the airwaves for years -- but you can't kill metal with flannel shirts or analog keyboards. It has reared its head again.
Always the musical chameleon, Dave Grohl has gone from playing with DC hardcore veterans Scream to guest drumming with Queens of the Stone Age. However, before he became honorary alt-rock God, Grohl's teenage years followed a path familiar to many of us with a metal background. Grohl had a vicious musical habit -- a burning desire to seek out releases from such underground metal bands as Voivod, Mercyful Fate, Obsessed and Celtic Frost. If names like those evoke fond memories of yesteryear, things are about to get a whole lot better.
Probot is Grohl's metal side-project. The talented multi-instrumentalist wrote and played almost every instrument on each of these eleven tracks. However, instead of adding his own voice to the mix, Grohl tracked down and enlisted vocalists from notorious underground '80s metal bands to add the finishing touches.
Venom's Cronos helps to open the album. The original spreader of Satanic metal is in top-notch form, sounding better than ever as he rasps and growls his way through "Centuries of Sin". But Cronos isn't one of those all-too-familiar guttural growlers (no one sang that way in 1981!); he's quite comprehensible. "Centuries" could be one of Cronos's finest moments; Grohl's bruising rhythms seem to have awakened the beast that brought us "Bloodlust" and "Black Metal".
Sepultura's Max Cavalera comes in right behind Cronos, delivering his grinding low-end vox as Grohl sticks to a dense stream of staccato chops and muted riffs. It's not a bad start and you're only two tracks into the CD!
Two of my personal crossover faves are up next. DRI's Kurt Brecht provides a biting social commentary on "Silent Spring", a shuddering 4 of a Kind-era number that would please old-school thrashers, skaters and metalheads alike. Swiss-born Tom G. Warrior dusts off his Celtic Frost pipes, lighting up "Big Sky". Warrior alternates between brutish bludgeoning and weepy snarls that invoke sweet memories of "Mesmerized" and "Inner Sanctum". Damn it, now I've gotta dig out my old Celtic Frost tapes!
Voivod fans should recognize the monstrous metal creature and robotic logo on the CD's cover. It's provided courtesy of Voivod's resident nutjob drummer, Away. Voi-vocalist Snake joins Grohl on "Dictatosaurus", applying his melodic vocal sneers to a curious mixture of overdriven guitar and prog-metal changes a la Nothingface.
Not only has Grohl released a fantastic album, he has done a wonderful job giving several aging metal vocalists another fifteen minutes of fame. Without Grohl, few of these musicians would ever have penned another metal tune. Grohl's compositions were definitely written with particular vocalists in mind, but that's what makes them so great -- it's like listening to lost tapes of '80s metal favorites.
After you finish getting your Probot on, it's absolutely recommended that you hunt down the classics from the featured vocalists and their respective bands. Many never got the credit they deserved, but they're getting a new lease on life years after the fact. In a way, Grohl has become '80s metal's savior. God Bless.