In a bid to promote Homefront - a game being touted as the game that will make you forget about Call Of Duty: Black Ops - THQ are giving away 25,000 digital copies of the soundtrack to the game, an album of war-themed covers. I managed to bag one, and I figure I've got nothing better to do than to break it down track-by-track.
1. As I Lay Dying - War Ensemble
I don't like Slayer. I've never liked Slayer. This is a pretty by-the-numbers cover, with the exception of the vocals which are given the As I Lay Dying treatment, and at first I wasn't keen on it. That said, two of the things that really put me off Slayer are Tom Araya's vocals and Kerry King's pretty uninspiring solos, neither of which are in evidence here, and that really helps. The track really benefits from modern production values and a lower tuning, giving it a real in-your-face kick that I feel is missing in the original. With the drums really pounding it's easy to forget that this song is nearly 5 minutes long (the AILD version clocks in at 4:51, exactly the same as the original). The more I listen to it, the more I like it - which is something I've never said for... well, anything Slayer have recorded. A good opener for the album.
2. Fight The Power - The Dillinger Escape Plan feat. Chuck D
Does it count as a cover if you're getting the original singer to put vocals down? Simply put, yes. When I saw that Dillinger had covered this I wondered if I'd be able to recognise it, and I'm not sure I would have done until the chorus kicked in (even knowing the lyrics). Dillinger really make this song their own, but in amongst the wall of noise that they make you can still hear Public Enemy. Which will have something to do with Chuck D being on the track, won't it? I love how well the two genres - the math- noise of Dillinger and the hiphop funk of PE - mash together. If you skip to around two minutes in, when the song moves away from blast beats and Greg screaming his lungs out you'll hear how brilliantly it works. I'll be listening to this a lot.
3. Uprising - iwrestledabearonce
I've always felt like iwrestledabearonce are trying a little too hard to be Rolo Tomassi, and they're just not as good at it. This is a cracking version of a sub-par Muse song, though; the bass is filthy in all the right places and Krysta's voice works perfectly. On this song she reminds me of a I Touch Myself-era Debbie Harry, and that's no bad thing. I was expecting to hear this song math-d up, the same as Dillinger did to parts of Fight The Power, and I'm glad they didn't. Yes, it descends into screams and blast beats about 3 minutes in, but the groove keeps going all the way through and that's really what this song is all about. Solid effort, though it doesn't bring much new to the table.
4. War Pigs - The Acacia Strain
Black Sabbath were the first band I fell in love with, back when I was about 6 years old, and War Pigs is one of the first songs I remember learning to play. I discovered Faith No More not long after that, and their version of this song is one of my all-time favourite covers. So The Acacia Strain had a lot to live up to here, for me at least. They didn't manage it. Musically it's pretty true to the original - obviously made heavier in places, and the bridge is given the soaring metalcore treatment, and with Vincent's growl over the top. That's the problem for me. The changes to the arrangement weaken the song rather than strengthening it, and I really struggle to take death metal growls seriously. Sorry guys. Skip.
5. One - Periphery
This impressed me from the word go. It's post-rocky and glitchy and just huge-sounding to start, and Spencer's vocals suit it perfectly. The heavier parts at the end of the verses don't work very well - they stick out musically; I'm not sure if it's a production issue or just that it plain doesn't work, but it just sounds flat. Once the second solo has been and gone and we move into the heavy part that everybody knows from One, though, those issues have vanished. The second half of the song is huge and aggressive and almost identical to the original, which really is what that part of the song needed. And juxtaposed with the glitchy, almost ethereal opening, it just plain works. Awesome.
6. Fortunate Son - The Ghost Inside
Creedence Clearwater Revival don't get enough credit. Fortunate Son is an awesome song. Unfortunately The Ghost Inside manage to make it sound like any other mid-tempo not-much-to-it hardcore song. That's a shame, because they're a good band and it's a great song. It gets better when they drop the tempo round about the 1:40 mark, but by that point the damage has already been done. Instantly forgettable.
7. For What It's Worth - Winds Of Plague
I'll admit that I didn't know the original song or Winds Of Plague before I heard this. Having now listened to both of them, I can safely say I prefer Buffalo Springfield's version. The two notes that ring out throughout the entire song grated on me after about thirty seconds in Winds Of Plague's version; in the original they're nice and soothing and really pull all the instrumentation together. What I also realised when listening to the original is that I've heard it before, because I knew the chorus. I didn't spot it in the cover; WoP have managed to strip this song of everything that's good about the original and make it just another metal cover.
8. Us And Them - Misery Signals
I was ready to tear this to pieces, because Pink Floyd covers very rarely gel well with me. Especially after how disappointing the last couple of songs on the album had been, I was anticipating really hating this. Luckily, Misery Signals pulled a blinder here. I didn't think I'd ever enjoy a Pink Floyd song given the metalcore treatment, but they keep it to a minimum here. The screaming is minimal and is used in the right places, and even when they rock it up they still somehow manage to keep the dreamy, epic quality that runs through pretty much anything on Dark Side Of The Moon. There's some impressive drumming towards the end, too, and that always wins me over. This just saved the second half of this album for me.
9. Masters Of War - Arsonists Get All The Girls
No compilation of war songs would be complete without some Bob Dylan, would it? This version starts off well, sounding a lot like Pearl Jam's version, and when the screaming kicks in it works. At first. Then it turns into the kind of metal that I really don't like - technical, and fast, with a couple of breakdowns and some synth but with no feeling behind it. This would have benefitted from the same kind of treatment as Misery Signals gave Us and Them, because here all the meaning of the song is lost. Even the switch into lounge-funk-jazz at around three minutes in can't save it.
10. War - Oceano
How Oceano managed to pull this off I'll never know. It's discordant and in your face, pig squeals all over the place, and doesn't have any of the camp cheesiness that every other Edwin Starr cover ever has been filled with, yet the song survives despite the very deliberate mangling its given. Given how much I usually hate this kind of metal, its testament to how well Oceano do it that I love this version of the song. It's probably because the guitars are interestng throughout, and Adam sounds like his tearing himself a new esophagus. That, and I'm a sucker for a really, really good inward scream. Which he has.
11. Sunday Bloody Sunday - Veil Of Maya
Another admission; I don't like U2, and I dislike this song even moreso. Especially after hearing this.
To be brutally honest, I'm glad I didn't pay for this album. There's some good tracks on it - most of the first half I really liked - but there's also some complete rubbish. Which I suppose is the way all metal covers go, really, and a whole album of them was never going to be a complete winner. Still, there's more on it than I enjoyed than on some compilation CDs that I have paid for (Masters of Horror soundtrack, I'm looking at you) so I can't really complain. The good songs are very good, and the bad ones - for the most part - are just a bit meh rather than truly bad. If you can get hold of a copy, do. But what would be even better would be to make a playlist of the 11 original songs, because that would be great. Although feel free to keep the Dillinger track there instead.
Verdict: 6/10 - Download it here [if there are any left]