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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Supermercado

Scary Baby

Review by Mike Korn

Here's another one of those surprises that makes being a music critic so interesting and worthwhile. I had zero expectations of enjoying this record, especially when I got a look at the frankly second-rate cover. Add in the fact that Supermercado seem to be in the radio friendly modern metal side of things and I thought it would be a chore to get through.

Well, this Chicago-based band featuring former members of Mindbomb is most definitely leaning towards the nu-metal spectrum, but there is far, far more to them than that. There's a stratospheric level of energy and intensity on this record that carries through to the listener. In opposition to the usual bone-crushing doom and gloom I slap myself around with most of the time, "Scary Baby" is actually a happy record with an infectious vibe. The riffs are pretty catchy, the production is excellent, the rhythm section tight and best of all, the band can boast the incredibly soulful and powerful vocals of one gentleman named Killa Kat. This guy has got awesome pipes and puts everything's he's got into these tracks. I think his Prince-like falsetto is sometimes silly but he really shows range, lungpower and enthusiasm in his performance here.

The record also features a blistering assortment of lead guitar work courtesy of main songwriter Matt Mercado and accomplice Michael Ray Garrett. It's a treat to hear a record where not only each song has its own identity, but each guitar solo as well. So many CD's these days are monotone, with the same production and sounds throughout their length - not here. Supermercado also has a funky type feel to many of their songs that separates them from the pack. I wouldn't say this is 100% yet, but as far as commercially oriented heavy metal with a strong soul/funk feel goes, "Scary Baby" hits the jackpot in just about every way.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Scary Baby
You know the band doesn't skip on heaviness right from the start. This has got real crunchy riffing combined with funky bass slapping from Skender that recalls Flea from the Chili Peppers. Killa Kat unleashes some strong roars, some fast paced rapping/scatting and smooth melodies to show his versatility right from the get-go. The tune is deceptive in that it seems simple yet it contains a lot of facets to it - a Supermercado trademark.

Ditch Kitty
The nu-metal feeling is unmistakable on this one and I'm not a big fan of the rapping vocals, even though Killa Kat handles them better than most. What really makes this song is the incredibly catchy chorus that will sink deep into your brain. This is the stuff hit songs are made of. The guitar sound is very thick and fat and Mercado's solo is excellent. It's just those whiny falsettos and early rapping that keep this from being a real monster for me.
Sparklz
I'm reminded of the best and heaviest of Living Colour with this metallic cut that rides on the back of some juicy bass licks. The chorus has a sort of soaring feel to it, contrasting with what seems to be raunchy sex oriented lyrics. The guitar soloing here is fantastic and sizzling...perfect compliment to a fine song.

Tried to Save You
This starts with a reggae vibe that manages to alternate with a spooky, extremely crunching riffing. Man, this is so catchy, I can't stand it! Somebody has got to pick up on these guys, because their songwriting is so tight and punchy. This cut seems to mix the best of 70's hard rock with a more modern thrust.
Bitch Ass
This has got super springy and bouncy bass to really drive home the funk elements of the band. But there's still heavy metal riffing to keep the song strong. The chorus is a kind of call-and-response number that asks "What's up with your bitch ass?" before answering "Whooo!" There's a kind of funny fast paced monologue in the middle from Killa Kat. When the guitar solo comes in, it's so cool and changes the feel of the song so much that you can't help but be impressed. This is the type of track I ordinarily hate, but somehow these guys turn it into a fun, funky anthem.
Turn It On
I like the more straightforward and uncomplicated power of this track, which is one of the heaviest on the album. There's even some thrash-like riffing to help push it along...short but sweet.
Leather Messiah
This is a great track that starts with a smoldering bass run before cutting into an awesome chorus with an unforgettable refrain. This reminds me of Sevendust at its best, but even Lajon Witherspoon couldn't match Killa Kat's work here. It's a near perfect mixture of metal power and sizzling funk, complete with a trippy Hendrix-like guitar solo.

What I Say
The rapping vocals become a lot more prominent here, mixed in with wah-wah guitar slapping. The Sevendust comparisons again become kind of obvious. This track is not bad but one of the less inventive ones on show, even though they toss a kind of silly reggae break with goofy vocals into the middle.
Pookie
Despite the ridiculous title, this is the album's bone-crusher, even though the first part has a poppy feel and some very cool vocal hooks. Some of the funky bits reminded me of 70's cop shows, if you can believe it. It builds in power and intensity and there are actually some guitar hooks that reminded me of Priest/Maiden smuggled in there. It's a very neat, multi-faceted song.
Cannonball Dream
The cleaner, more melodic guitar sound here reminds me of King's X. This is a lighter cut than most Supermercado songs but the quality of the hooks is outstanding. The chorus has the same psychedelic quality that typifies a lot of King's X stuff. Killa Kat shows his chops again with a more subdued but highly melodic approach...check out his pure soul croon at the very end!
Supermercado
This is a really weird and almost dorky sounding cut, with the band gang shouting their name and Killa Kat singing on the top. It has a kind of cartoony, ominous feel and some of the distorted vocals give it an almost industrial touch. This is a really heavy, quirky cut that is not 100% successful with its mish-mash approach, but at least it shows a band with some ambition that is unafraid to bend genres.
 
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