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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Macabre

Grim Scary Tales

Review by Mike Korn

Chicago's goofy goremongers Macabre have spent over twenty-five years putting the fun back into murder with their twisted tales of serial killers and human monsters. Following an agonizing eight-year gap, Grim Scary Tales sees Corporate Death, Nefarious and Dennis The Menace jumping back into their blood-filled pool with a resounding splash! This is the best sounding and most epic Macabre yet!

Describing the jovial ghouls' music is a difficult task. They take the heaviest of metal but throw in a menagerie of the most unlikely sounds. Singer Corporate Death can break up his assault of pain-filled shrieks with perfectly rendered nursery rhymes featuring a murderous twist. Songs can feature hillbilly country twang or sprightly polka frills before slamming back into churning grindcore. On Grim Scary Tales, you'll hear the band's most sophisticated and experimental songwriting yet while managing to lose none of their maniacal metal fury.

And of course, their fascination with serial killers remains. This album sees them dealing with killers both notorious (Nero, Lizzy Borden) and obscure (Joseph Vache, Mary Ann Cotton) with their usual combination of historical fidelity and tongue-in-cheek humor. For those with a passion for the sinister, Grim Scary Tales is a ghastly delight!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Locusta

Locusta was the first recorded serial killer in history and still one of the few female members of that exclusive club. Macabre plays tribute to her with a bruising, brutal metal track based on a creepy guitar arpeggio and featuring Corporate Death's vocals at their most extreme and shrieky. It's obvious right from the start the band has got their best production ever, which shows their ultra-tight musicianship to great advantage.

Nero's Inferno
What a change of pace! This comes across like a berserk Italian folk song, complete with exaggerated vocals from Mr. Death, who sounds kind of like a drunken grape-stomper here. You almost feel like bursting into a jig during this catchy tune, which showcases the excellent drumming of Dennis The Menace, one of the most underrated sticksman in extreme metal.
The Black Knight
Telling the gory story of the perverted Gille de Rais, this is the best track on the album and one of the best Macabre songs ever. It has a perfect combination of technical thrashing metal with comic elements that will put a smile on your face. The real strength of this cut is the awesomely catchy mid-paced stoner type riff that will have you banging your head like crazy. I haven't heard a better riff all year! This is just a perfect Macabre track!
Dracula
Starting off with that familiar spooky riff from "Night On Bald Mountain", this soon turns into an ultra-heavy, grinding metal assault that reveals the history of Vlad Tepes, the historical inspiration for Dracula. This track is just a crushing whirlwind of brutality.
The Big Bad Wolf
Macabre is about the only band on the planet that can start a tune by singing the nursery rhyme "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" and then ripping into a ripping death metal assault. The song is about Giles Garnier, a medieval Frenchman who thought he was a werewolf and devoured children. The chorus is classic: "Such big ears to hear you with / Such big eyes to see you with / Such big sharp teeth to eat you with!"
Countess Bathory
This is such a perfect song for Macabre to cover, I can't believe they haven't done it before. They give the Venom classic a rousing and pretty faithful rendition, with Death's vocals giving the only real difference from the original. This is one cover song that fits in perfectly alongside its original cousins.
Burke and Hare
England's most notorious grave robbers get the Macabre treatment here and the result is a classic song that shows how complex these guys really get. The majority of it is a fast, creeping kind of death metal but it suddenly switches to a very happy sounding English jig motif and then a kind of dreamy, majestic section where Corporate Death narrates the grisly tale. The playing is outstanding on this cut and it's almost what you could call progressive death metal with a touch of traditional English folk.
Mary Ann
It took me a little longer to get into this unusually melodic track, which has a sad, Gothic feeling to it. Corporate Death puts his karaoke singing background to use here and shows he's capable of "real" singing (whatever that is). It's a haunting track quite different than the usual Macabre.
The Bloody Benders
To tell the story of the murderous Kansas clan, the band decides to inject some down-home country flavor into their music, including corny hillbilly vocals and an almost bluegrass (bloodgrass?) metal approach. The song doesn't do all that much for me but it does again show Macabre's versatility.
Lizzy Borden
This brief track recounting Lizzy Borden's famous tale is pretty par for the course for Macabre but at least doesn't take up too much running time.
The Ripper Tramp From France
This ups the intensity quite a bit with a nervous, jumpy death metal song featuring a lot of precise high-speed picking. There's another sprightly jig type of break in the middle to liven things up. The song tells the story of bloodthirsty transient Joseph Vache, who randomly slashed people he met in his travels.
Bella The Butcher
You'll get a kick out of Corporate Death's spoken limerick that starts this track...tasteless doggerel at its best! This number is one of the fastest on the record, but the speedy grind parts are mixed with a ridiculous singalong chorus that will put a smile on the stoniest face. "Where Belle is now I do not know, but my advice is fair / If a widow advertises for a man with cash, beware!"
Kiss of Death
One of the most straightforward death metal tracks on the album, this has a great galloping tempo to it. The chorus somehow manages to be extremely brutal and humorous at the same time. But by this time, this is something you should expect. By the way, the lyrics tell the story of European serial killer Bela Kiss, who was never punished for his crimes.
The Sweet Tender Meat Vendor
Grim Scary Tales ends with the sickening tale of Karl Grossman, who turned his victims into sausages he sold as a street vendor. It's more fast and vicious metal with memorable riffs and a silly chorus.

 

 
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