My suspicion is that a single glance at the artwork above will suffice to tell you whether or not you’re going to like this record. Some will say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I’ve been living by that strategy for years, and I think it’s served me well. Thus far, it’s kept me well clear of books by Simon Fucking Pegg and JK Bastard Rowling, so I’m sticking with it.
Look, I’m not going to waste your time and mine by trying to bluff an expert knowledge of the sort of bombastic, dramatic heavy metal that forms the bedrock of Absolute Power; and there are a multitude of writers out there better equipped and qualified to evaluate this album on the basis of its metal pedigree than I am. Instead I have something else in mind, and I bet you cannot fucking well wait to find out what.
What you’ve got here, as far as I can gather, is a love letter to heavy metal written by a supergroup of blokes who have more than made their mark on the business of rock. I like listening to it, and I think it’s a really neat record. I find the idea of experienced musicians compiling a scrapbook tribute to all the music that shaped them intrinsically valuable and worthwhile. If you like metal even a bit, you’ll enjoy something about this. You will note that I am very confident of this. So, think on. It is a great album.
The promo materials indicate there’s a higher artistic purpose, too – a marriage between classic heavy metal ideation and up-to-the-picosecond production techniques. Further, we read: “What began as a nostalgia-trip has evolved into a full-blown mission: spreading the rebirth of old school metal to the masses.”
Every so often, some self-invented music guru comes along to assess the health of rock-as-a-genre, and, after trying to span the history of music in a couple of paragraphs, concludes that the prognosis isn’t good. Look, it’s coughing up alarming orange phlegm and everything, they will say. Is that a bedsore or a birthmark? What’s this unpleasant grey porridge leaking from its penis? Should we call a doctor in or something?
The last man to try this tactic on, at least by my reckoning, was Sam Leith in the Guardian, wherein he described how rock is the David Brent of music genres; dated, embarrassing and monumentally deluded about how cool it is. With reflection, I think Leith might have a point, despite the Guardian being the organ of record for self-deceiving liberal idiots everywhere, and therefore wrong by default in almost every single identifiable instance.
Among the fans, the reaction to this is as typical as it is predictable. It begins as a sort of muted outrage, passes through gentle knee-twitching and ends with the sniffed contention that the culprit just doesn’t ‘get’ rock.
This is a problematic argument for me though, because one, there is fuck all to ‘get’; and two, because I’m beginning to agree. Rock really is dead, or at least on its last gasp; and Absolute Power prove it. When you’re crafting retro-modern erotica about music that was vaguely hip and relevant nearly 30 years ago, you really might as well be writing a eulogy. I’m not saying I blame the band. All they’ve done is try and shut the stable door long after the horse is being used to put up wallpaper. They’re just the men with the bagpipes at the funeral, that’s all.
But then again, Leith’s not entirely correct, either. It’s not the music itself that resembles David Brent; it’s a fucksight too self-aware for that. Absolute Power insist they aren’t a parody band, and I’m prepared to buy that; but I refuse to believe that they don’t have all their tongues wedged up their cheeks as they write stuff like Full Metal Roar or Raging Pursuer. I just will not chuffing have it. All the best metal bands are patently, obviously aware of how silly the trappings are. All the worst metal fans, however, are not.
Your bog-standard metalhead is no stranger to the land of imagination. Here is a man (and it’s usually a man) who thinks the fact that he listens to raucous noise for bell-ends and owns a wardrobe full of illegible t-shirts makes him tough. He works in IT and is going rapidly bald. His diminutive penis hasn’t been squashed into the guts of nearly enough women for his liking, but at least the sad, thin gruel produced by his seed-like testicles has managed to root itself in his embittered wife’s uterus on a couple of occasions, so he carries with him everywhere the incipient smugness shared by every single middle class parent.
He refuses to cut his fucking hair off and has a number of tattoos he pretends not to regret, because he thinks he is still a rebel at heart rather than a child. He is nearly done paying off a Ford Focus, rather than a Harley Davidson, but still believes he will own one, one day. He religiously buys Metal Hammer from Tesco’s (never Kerrang!), and sneaks into the bogs at his work with it. He thinks DevilDriver have got some ‘hooks’. He owns at least one guitar, but doesn’t know what the knobs at the top end are called. He can play some Nirvana riffs, though, check this shit out. Wait, hang on. No, wait. It’s been a while, sorry. What’s E major again?
That’s your David Brent, that man right there, and he loves this album despite not remotely understanding it. He’s the state of metal in 2011; a New Rock boot, stamping on a goatee-wearing eyebrow-pierced face, frozen in an expression of bewilderment because it hasn’t got the joke, forever.
He’s the one who killed rock, and he killed it by trying to use it for a personality.