Album Review – Clawfinger / Use Your Brain (1995)

Use your brain and listen to the cult album by this distinct Swedish act, presenting an austere and impactful fusion of Rap and Heavy Metal.

Rating4

use-your-brainA few years before Limp Biskit, Slipknot or any other band considered part of the Nu Metal scene from the 90’s/2000’s started, there was already a Swedish band called Clawfinger playing a very original mix of Rap Metal, Hardcore, Rapcore, Funk Metal and even Industrial Metal in a very aggressive, politicized and anti-racist way. Although the band was formed back in 1989, it was just in 1993 that they launched their debut album called Deaf Dumb Blind (which included a very controversial song called “Nigger”, but again, in the most anti-racist way possible), and a couple of years later, in 1995, they launched their most interesting album in my humble opinion, titled Use Your Brain. If you hate Rap by all means and/or if you’re too narrow-minded to accept it mixed with Heavy Metal, don’t even bother listening to it. However, if you enjoy heavy music no matter what, then Use Your Brain might be an amazing addition to your day-to-day playlist.

Use Your Brain starts at a high note with my favorite song from the album, Power, which talks about exactly the opposite of most songs with the word “power” in their names: power can be really harmful to anyone who doesn’t know how to use it properly, which happens to the majority of the people that have it anyway. “Power to the one who doesn’t want it / Do you want it why do you want it”, screams lead singer Zak Tell, accompanied by some excellent heavy riffs by Erlend Ottem and Bård Torstensen and keyboards by Jocke Skog. The song is followed by Pay the Bill, which keeps the energy level up, and Pin Me Down, a more rhythmic track with strong lyrics that ended up becoming one of the band’s biggest classics.

ClawfingerThe next song is called Wipe My Ass, a good example of how the band was able to unite Rap and Metal in a very solid way. The only thing I don’t understand is why sometimes I find this song with a different name, “Waste My Time”. Well, it’s probably due to the “beautiful” expression used in the original name, but honestly, who cares about that? Anyway, the next two tracks, Die High and It, are just average songs, especially the second one which is quite bland compared to the rest of the album. Fortunately the next song, called Do What I Say, takes the album back on track with its simple but strong riffs and amazing lyrics about the emotional and sometimes physical (and endless) war between parents and their kids, acidly declaimed by Zak Tell and his hostile vocals. I normally don’t add a huge chunk of any lyrics in my reviews, but this one is so good that deserves to be appreciated almost in full. Besides, although this song might have been recorded over 20 years ago, it still sounds fresh and contemporary, just to show you how parenting will never, ever be an easy task to anyone.

“I‘ve paid to raise you good
Done everything I could so don’t you dare to say
That I ever cared about you anyway
I gave you good food to eat
I kept you on your feet
I gave you all my good advice
Not once did I hear you
thank me for all that I’ve done
You don’t know anything
About my suffering
I went through a lot of pain
Just to get you where you are today
If I ever hit you
It’s because I have to
You have done something wrong
And you deserve the punishment, you’ll have to pay”

The rest of the album doesn’t have anything too special: Undone is considerably tasteless, while What Are You Afraid Of doesn’t do any good but at the same time it doesn’t harm the album. Things get a lot better with Back to the Basics, especially the eerie sound the band created with the guitars and keyboards working together; Easy Way Out with its addictive chorus and the groovy drums by Ottar Vigerstøl; and Tomorrow, a very good Rap Metal track that powerfully ends this very original and catchy album, with highlights to the rumbling sounds generated by Ottar and bassist André Skaug. In addition, the front cover is absolutely precise in summarizing the content of the music in the album (despite being fairly simplistic), and that “less is more” type of art is most probably the reason why I love it so much.

Use Your Brain_remastered

Use Your Brain 2004 Remastered Edition

The 2004 remastered version of the album also includes 3 bonus tracks and 3 bonus videos, so if you’re interested in buying it I suggest you go after the remastered one (which by the way is a lot easier to find in any webstore). Clawfinger released a statement around August 2013 saying they split up, which was a bummer at that time based on the quality of their music, but fortunately it seems those Swedish metallers are back in action and ready to deliver us another blast of their venomous music, going against the sea of boredom that dominates the scene nowadays. Hence, Use Your Brain (which can be enjoyed in its entirety HERE) is far from being a true masterpiece, but it’s an extremely enjoyable album with meaningful lyrics crafted by talented musicians and, above all, an excellent option to expand your horizons in the world of heavy music and a lot better choice than most of the crap the media makes us swallow every single day. In other words, use your goddamn brain at least once and enjoy the austere music by this unique band hailing from Sweden, alright?

Best moments of the album: Power, Pin Me Down, Do What I Say and Back to the Basics.

Worst moments of the album: It and Undone.

Released in 1995 WEA/MVG (Warner Music Group)

Track listing
1. Power 3:14
2. Pay the Bill 4:20
3. Pin Me Down 4:10
4. Wipe My Ass 3:13
5. Die High 2:34
6. It 5:21
7. Do What I Say 4:25
8. Undone 4:11
9. What Are You Afraid Of 3:47
10. Back to the Basics 2:27
11. Easy Way Out 2:39
12. Tomorrow 4:09

2004 Remastered Edition bonus tracks & videos
13. Better Than This 3:36
14. Three Good Riffs 3:56
15. Armageddon Down 3:36
16. Pin Me Down (Video Clip) 4:10
17. Tomorrow (Video Clip) 4:09
18. Do What I Say (Video Clip) 4:25

Band members
Zak Tell – lead vocals
Jocke Skog – keyboards, vocals
Erlend Ottem – lead guitar
Bård Torstensen – rhythm guitar
André Skaug – bass
Ottar Vigerstøl – drums

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Album Review – Faith No More / Sol Invictus (2015)

It might have taken 18 long years for Mr. Mike Patton and his demented squad to release a new album, but the result is so good it was definitely worth the wait.

Rating4

FNM_frontAt long last, after 18 fuckin’ excruciating years, the demented squad composed by the gentlemen Mike Patton, Jon Hudson, Billy Gould, Roddy Bottum and Mike Bordin, “usually” known as American Alternative Metal/Rock band Faith No More, is back with another freakish experiment entitled Sol Invictus (Latin for “Unconquered Sun”), the seventh studio album in their revolutionary career. Without Faith No More there wouldn’t be Alternative Metal, Funk Metal, Nu Metal, Grunge, contemporary Hard Rock, and so on. And if you think what I’m saying is bullshit, how about what Corey Taylor, frontman of the biggest Alternative Metal group in the world, Slipknot, said after seeing Mike Patton and his crew performing the all-time classic “Epic” at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards? “I was mesmerized by that. I never felt a moment like that until that moment. It completely turned me around.”, stated the iconic #8.

Perhaps the greatest question in everyone’s minds, after knowing the band was officially getting out of their state of “creative hibernation”, was that if they were going to be capable of releasing something as amazing as their previous albums, especially the masterpieces The Real Thing (1989), Angel Dust (1992) and King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime (1995). Well, although Sol Invictus doesn’t have any “A Small Victory”, “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies” or “Digging the Grave” among its songs, it’s still a well-set album with lots of thrilling moments, showcasing a band that doesn’t seem to have been on hiatus (not including their sporadic live performances and tours along all those 18 years) since their previous release, the also spectacular Album of the Year, from 1997.

The title-track, Sol Invictus, is just as weird as the album artwork, which means it’s perfect for opening their live performances. It’s short and melancholic, just like they’ve mastered doing through the years, and we all have to agree that with that piano intro and those whispering vocals you know somehow it’s Faith No More even if you’ve never heard anything about the band in your entire life. The same can be said about the awesome Superhero, a very melodic and alternative tune with interesting keyboard notes by Roddy Bottum, where after only two seconds you know it’s pure Faith No More. I guess there’s no need to mention how incredible Mr. Patton’s crazy screams and vocals are, but it’s valid to mention that the lyrics beautifully follow that vocal craziness (“Like an American drug / Makes a mean cock grow / …kill a priest / Makes a superman of glass”).

The next track, Sunny Side Up, sounds a lot like many songs from Album of the Year, with a stylish blend of Jazz, Blues, Rock N’ Roll and everything else. In other words, fans of the band will enjoy it for sure, while others will probably ask themselves “what the fuck is this?” Even if you don’t understand that song really well, you’ll relish Separation Anxiety and its stronger Rock N’ Roll vein. Mike Patton once again steals the show with his wicked voice and proves why he’s among the best and most versatile singers in the world. The only setback in this exciting tune is the drumming: I was expecting more from Mike Bordin, despite him doing a relatively decent job throughout the whole song.

FNMThe dark intro in Cone of Shame corroborates they really enjoy sounding bizarre, with its last part getting a lot more vibrant and intense, while Rise of the Fall offers the listener some elements from Reggae music and more audible guitar lines, as well as more rhythmic beats. Moreover, the crazy screams by Mike Patton end up adding a lot of electricity to a song that’s below average for a band like Faith No More. Following the lowest point of the album we have Black Friday, a song purely inspired by 80’s classic rock music which despite its lack of creativity has a good blend of semi-acoustic parts and heavier riffs and screams.

And just when you think Faith No More cannot get weirder, they come up with the stupendous Motherfucker, another perfect choice for opening their live concerts, where the focus is obviously on Mike Patton’s vocal lines and the song’s eerie lyrics (“Get the motherfucker on the phone, the phone…”), also including the best guitar solo of the entire album. Not only that, I doubt you won’t be singing this song everywhere, even at work with your boss by your side. Unless you don’t know shit about the band, you probably know how much they love songs with Portuguese or Spanish names (and sometimes lyrics), but unfortunately the boring Matador doesn’t get close at all to the marvelous classic “Caralho Voador”, for example. It’s just an average song with nothing new or outstanding, except for the strong bass lines by Billy Gould. And sounding like a B-side from King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime, From the Dead gives a melancholic ending to Sol Invictus with the band’s trademark. It’s a good listen if you’re at home or in your car, but definitely not recommended for their live performances.

I wish there were a few more guitar solos by Jon Hudson and some faster beats by Mike Bordin in this or that song, as Sol Invictus sounds too calm for me in many of its moments, but at least we can loosen up knowing Faith No More are not “dinosaurs”. They are a more-than-alive group that still got it in them, and from now on (well, they’ve been doing this already) there are even more outstanding tunes in their lunatic arsenal to be masterfully played during their live concerts all around the world. And we’re all very thankful to the unparalleled Mr. Patton and his fellow mates for that, even if it took so many years for them to return.

Best moments of the album: Superhero, Separation Anxiety and Motherfucker.

Worst moments of the album: Rise of the Fall and Matador.

Released in 2015 Reclamation Records

Track listing
1. Sol Invictus 2:37
2. Superhero 5:15
3. Sunny Side Up 2:59
4. Separation Anxiety 3:44
5. Cone of Shame 4:40
6. Rise of the Fall 4:09
7. Black Friday 3:19
8. Motherfucker 3:33
9. Matador 6:08
10. From the Dead 3:06

Band members
Mike Patton – vocals
Jon Hudson – guitar
Billy Gould – bass guitar
Roddy Bottum – keyboards, vocals
Mike Bordin – drums