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

Advertisements