SUICIDAL TENDENCIES' MUIR AND LOMBARDO SEAL DEAL WITH 'WORLD GONE MAD'
by Pippa Lang
The firm handshake of death Metal/hardcore friendship, this is Cuba-meets-California in a world gone mad. To make matters worse, as if this planet weren't already in a state of chaos and insanity, Suicidal Tendencies' new album - out today - is about to kick it right off its axis.
'World Gone Mad', ST's first studio album since 2013's '13', is terrifying, a full-velocity, brutal yet diverse, weird, wonderful slab of esoteric artistry. The chemistry between Cuban 'legs of steel', ex-Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo, and veteran ST vocalist, heavyweight Californ-i-ay dude Mike Muir is forged from unshakeable mutual admiration. A match struck on rock solid respect, flames fanned by a band united by good karma. Of his initiation into ST, Lombardo enthuses:
"I'm honoured to be a part of Mike's legacy and can't wait for this album to drop."
Muir returns the compliment:
"I've always known Dave and been a huge fan and I've always kind of said 'wow! If we had someone like Dave playing with us'... You know, you get those little things sometimes in your head, never expecting it to happen."
Well it has happened, and it feels like a bomb just dropped. Slayer In The Hood? Well, the relationship between Muir's vocalised visions of reality and Lombardo's velocious drum workouts is visceral, but there is more to the album than a ranting vocalist and The Flash on drums. More on that later...
After Lombardo bagged the drumstool for ST's US tour with Megadeth, the transition to permanent membership was a no-brainer. After thirty-six years, it seems Muir has found his Angel Of Death. Lombardo, in turn, has found his Suicidal Family (heh):
"I feel very welcomed... there's a lot of camaraderie and respect amongst the musicians. We hang out as a band, which is very important."
Of the album's place in Suicidal history, he comments, "it takes me back to how it all started, which was that punk attitude".
'World Gone Mad', produced by Muir and legendary producer Paul Northfield (Rush, Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, Ozzy Osbourne, Hole, Marilyn Manson), is almost a retrospective through ST's backcatalogue. Coursing through every conceivable Suicidal territory, it's good to note that amidst the mid-career mash-up - the frequent nods at their late 80s thrash repertoire and complex funk tones of the Trujillo era (which inspired that wild and crazy offshoot, Infectious Grooves) - there are, as Lombardo has noted, throwbacks to ST's hardcore punk roots (first revisited after the 1996 comeback).
In particular, the back-to-back hardcore triplet of 'One Finger Salute', 'Damage Control' and 'Struggle Is Real' recalls halcyon ST days, although bear in mind there are few tracks on this album that stand still for long (exceptions to the rule the mean, insidious intent of 'Still Dying To Live' that slithers beautifully into endsong, the suspiciously balladic 'This World').
The first, a gloriously manic punk rant, is quite obviously bound for the riotous moshpits of future ST gigs where pogo enthusiasts will roar 'stick your finger in the air!' (niiice). 'Damage Control', too, hurls itself down the angry punk route that Muir knows so well. By 'Struggle Is Real', there's a riot going on, and the hood's on fire!
Well it ain't this hood. There is one neighbourhood Muir has yet to infiltrate, let alone set fire to, and that is the UK. Perhaps it is ST's inability to ST-and ST-ill, to be defined, or to truly relate to the UK hardcore elite over the past thirty-six years. Maybe things will change now that he's found the glue to bind his heterogeneity together - but with only one UK gig lined up so far (in London in January), 'World Gone Mad' may be their only weapon, apart from Lombardo of course.
Personally, I do hope the one oddball on this album, 'Get Your Fight On!', with its obscene glamrock chant, 'tonight's the night', isn't an attempt to reach out commercially to us over 'ere. Amidst a heaving wall of guitar and - granted - some top ranting vocals, there's a bewildering display of anthemic rock that will horrify hardcore fans. Thankfully, the title track soon erases all memory of this freakish trip into rocksville, as it pulls us smoothly back into the familiar Suicidal swamp with its infectious twisting riff and Muir's demented throaty vocals.
Lombardo, whilst taking the band on his own assault course a la Slayer, is himself being challenged with an unbelievable assortment of hitherto untested styles, but it is to his credit that he grasps the gauntlet and runs with it, never faltering, his signature twin bass drum battering ram regularly breaking the speed limit; yet within such unbelievable velocity, his reflexes are spot-on, pivoting skilfully through the tightest rhythmic changes. Muir:
"A lot of people obviously associate Dave with the Slayer sound. When you hear how he literally attacks the various ST-yles on this album, you're instantly blown away at not only how insane a drummer he is, but also how tremendously diverse. Dave is a true legend, but I believe even a lot of his most hardcore fans will be blown away at what he's brought to this record."
Indeed, Lombardo is right in the thick of an assortment of offbeat gems - the eccentric 'Living For Life', for example, abruptly throws up a belly roar of rapid-fire tattoos and insane squealing guitars. The six-minute 'Happy Never After' (standout track for me) is a cleverly structured lesson in suspense, stoically maintaining its harmonic rhythm with a spooky minor creep until the last thirty seconds when all hell breaks loose. 'The New Degeneration', too, is a moving target, deceptively trudging through the hood before scampering off on yet another race to the finish line. 'World Gone Mad' is a masterclass in Metal evolution, and ST history (apart from 'Get Your Fight On!'). Muir continues to expound Lombardo's virtues:
"Live or in the studio, he brings a whole different intensity and rhythmic feel to the band. He's definitely got the Cuban thing going on, that Latin flavour, where he gets to show a little bit more of that style in Suicidal. When you hear it you know it's Dave, but it definitely takes us to another level."
Truly, there's no point getting comfortable when jokers are landing like suicide bombers, and Dave's capacity for split-second tempo changes is shocking, so be warned.
The undeniable boost Lombardo has given ST aside, there are other stories behind the diverse rhythms and styles that pepper 'World Gone Mad'. Joining Muir, sole surviving member of the original 1980 line-up, and long-standing guitarist Dean Pleasants are Lombardo's fellow Suicidal freshers, bassist Ra 'Chile' Diaz and guitarist Jeff Pogan. The teamwork between Pleasants, Pogan and Diaz is mind-bogglingly intense - after all, keeping up with Lombardo is no mean task. Diaz' journey to the ranks of ST is heartwarming.
Introducing his own distinctive Latino tarantella to ST, Diaz, from Chile (funnily enough, judging by his nickname), has always been a huge ST fan. He dreamt for many years of joining his favourite band and, despite being ridiculed by his friends, he doggedly practised bass every day. Eventually, with his family's full support, he left home and, finally, early this year, he received the phone call of his dreams. Diaz says:
"I'm extremely honoured to be a part of this band's history and legacy. Listening to ST influenced me in so many ways and knowing that I might be able to do the same thing for others with this album is truly a dream come true."
Diaz may well have bled all over his bass recording this album. On tracks like the hilariously titled opening track and first single (for 22 years) 'Clap Like Ozzy' and 'Happy Never After', he's spanking his plank so dementedly it sounds like he's trying to shake a tarantula off his hand. 'Damage Control', too, showcases his extreme bass skills. He is part of 'The New Degeneration', after all, throwing caution to the wind, galloping like a Chilean stallion(!) on speed.
Meanwhile, Jeff Pogan, from Florida, started with the band as guitar tech before becoming assistant engineer of the new album. He then played the one and only audition for rhythm guitarist and got the job, of course. Says Pogan:
"Being in a legendary band allows me to not only learn from the history, but to challenge myself to carry on and expand that tradition to the next generation of Suicidal with the new CD, and bring it live to each and every gig and tour."
Adding to this magical 'family' the magnificent guitar playing of veteran Dean Pleasants (in the band for nearly twenty years now), and the foundation has been set for the next chapter of Suicidal. Pleasants comments:
"In the over twenty-five years since we started Infectious Grooves (with Robert Trujillo and Mike Muir) to joining ST and playing on numerous albums and worldwide tours, it's amazing to see so many generations of ST maniacs, from young to old, getting more excited then ever!"
"ST maniacs" does not only refer to fans, but to the many generations of Suicidal members. Diaz has, of course, been both. Mike explains the importance of the band demographic:
"I really felt it was important that we had people in the band that love the band, understand its history, respect its history, but are dedicated to adding to that history and going to the next level."
Never mind the next level, I reckon Dave 'Flash' Lombardo's already finished the game...
Let's hope all ST's loyal UK fans get to see this 'World Gone Mad' come to life - judging by the album, it's going to be a brutal rollercoaster ride, so: buckle up!