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Probot

Probot

Review by Mike Korn
It seems a sad fact that many artists forget the music of their younger days when they "mature". It's not unusual to find a successful musician trying to deny or belittle his time in punk, heavy metal or hard rock bands. But there are exceptions. One of them would certainly be David Grohl, the current mastermind behind the Foo Fighters and former drummer of the legendary Nirvana. Despite his current status as a mainstream rock icon, Grohl has no trouble acknowledging his great love of the 80's heavy metal scene he grew up with.

The result is this unusual album, a kind of loving tribute to 80's underground metal. Not only has Grohl written music in style of that time, but he went out and got a lot of the people who actually created it to work with him. "Probot" consists of 11 tracks, each with a different vocalist from an 80's band and each written in the style of that band. Grohl composed and played the basic tracks and then sent them to the vocalists, who laid down their own vocals and lyrics and sent them back. Most of the instruments were handled by Grohl himself, but Kim Thayil of Soundgarden, little heard from since the demise of that band, Matt Sweeney of Zwan and Bubba Dupree of Void, contribute some guitar work.

What an amazing line-up of talent is on view here and what a trip through memory lane listening to them all. The vocalist line-up includes: Cronos (Venom), Max Cavalera (Sepultura), Lemmy (Motorhead), Mike Dean (Corrosion of Conformity), Kurt Brecht (D.R.I.), Lee Dorrian (Cathedral), Wino (The Obsessed), Tom Warrior (Celtic Front), Snake (Voi Vod), Eric Wagner (Trouble) and King Diamond (Mercyful Fate)! At onetime, Tom Araya of Slayer was also scheduled to be on board, but sadly could not contribute. You could hardly have a better line-up of 80's/early 90's vocalists if you tried and in most cases, Probot's music fits the various singers like a glove. Hats off to Mr. Dave Grohl, a man who most assuredly does not forget his roots!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Centuries of Sin
This builds up slowly and ominously with an eerie moan before hitting a hard bass note. The production is a little muddy and bassy, but boy, is it cool hearing Venom's Cronos snarling, growling and spitting like it was 1984 again. This wouldn't have been out of place on one of the later period Venom LP's.
Red War
Max Cavalera of Soulfly and formerly of Sepultura is the guest here. It's a slamming, angry sounding cut like something from Sepultura's "Chaos A.D." Max gives it his all with a robust performance.
Shake Your Blood
I was a little disappointed with this cut featuring Motorhead's Lemmy. It's not terrible at all, but it kind of sounds like Motorhead by the numbers. Lemmy phones in his singing and it's just too typical.
Access Babylon
Short and sweet, this is a nervous sounding hardcore thrasher with COC's Mike Dean on vocals. I sure wish COC would go back to tracks like this, instead of the dull and predictable Southern-fried stoner rock they've been doing the last decade.
Silent Spring
D.R.I.'s Kurt Brecht does the vocal honors for this song, which is based on a cool bouncing riff. The lyrics sound pretty intense, and it's a killer cut.
Ice Cold Man
This was the biggest surprise of the record. Grohl and his buddies completely nail the doomy, Gothic sound of early Cathedral, which features Cathedral vocalist Lee Dorrian. In fact, this song is as good as anything Cathedral have ever done. It starts with that slow doom feeling before going into a more rocking, Sabbath-style section and then returning to doom. Dorrian sounds great and the whole song is top-notch stuff.
The Emerald Law
Along with "Ice Cold Man", this track shows Probot has way better songwriting than most "novelty" acts. Featuring legendary doom metal impresario Wino on vocals, this is a smoldering tune that's a bit too aggressive to be called stoner rock. Excellent riffing in the vein of Wino's band The Obsessed and a screaming guitar solo help this cut shine.
Big Sky
This is the record's big disappointment. It features Celtic Frost's Tom Warrior, but anybody who was expecting a Frost-like tune in the vein of "To Mega Therion" or "Morbid Tales" will be surprised. It's a plodding, industrial sounding cut based on very basic riffs, sounding more like Prong than Celtic Frost. Warrior's vocals don't even sound like him, which kind of defeats the purpose, I would think.
Dictatosaurus
Voi Vod's Snake is the vocalist here and the song does indeed have the jerky quality of prime Voi Vod. This is actually heavier than most of the stuff on the last Voi Vod album, but the chorus has surprising melody that is almost reminiscent of Foo Fighters. It's a pretty good tune.
My Tortured Soul
Here's another album highlight, this time with Trouble's Eric Wagner singing. Wagner sounds melodic and almost John Lennon-ish during parts of this track, but the song is crunchy retro-metal with catchy Sabbath-like riffs. This is good enough to be on any Trouble album and shows Grohl and Probot really know what made their inspirations tick.
Sweet Dreams
The final song features King Diamond's unique falsetto screams on a very moody and rather slow-paced cut. The drifting, Gothic music becomes repetitive, but what saves the track are the full-blooded screams and groans of King Diamond, sounding a lot less restrained here than on his recent album, "The Puppet Master". Note that Soundgarden's Kim Thayil plays guitar here and what a pleasure it is to hear him cutting loose again as well.
 
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