At the risk of sounding completely out of touch with modern metal genres, I’m going to steer clear of trying to classify Marion Crane — other than to say they are some subgenre of metal. And, to be honest, the only metal I really listen to anymore is of the darkest sort: Sunn O))), Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Fantomas. And, I am somewhat reluctant to admit, the last Mastodon album was pretty freaking good. But given my proclivity for macabre theatrical heaviness, my expectations for the new Marion Crane release were fairly low.
Still, I made a personal vow to review the album in context, or as close to in context as I could, given my lack of interest in new metal. And I was pleasantly surprised.
This is not to suggest that I’m in love with the band’s five-song EP, Rock is Dead … And I Know Where the Bodies Are Buried, which hits on May 10 with a release party at Jack Rabbits in San Marco. But fans of whatever genre this is will like this album very much. The album opener, “Murder TV,” is by far the best track on the record. A crunchy start-stop ballbuster about fame in America, it hits all the marks. Chunky guitar tone. Big, tom-driven backbeat. Lots of yelling and profanity. And, in spite of all that, it’s still a great song.
“Zero Chamber” follows, and the tone temporarily slips. There’s some solid metal riffage here, but this one’s a little too predictable. The acoustic strumming and distorted AM-radio guitar breaks only serve to emphasize the point that it’s designed strictly for radio audiences — if such a thing even exists anymore. Should I even mention the lyric “I will smile while chewing razorblades”?
Let’s move on.
Redemption comes with track 4, “Savior,” which is thick, heavy and tightly executed. And despite my misgivings about metal singers’ tendency to vocal affectation, I get it: You gotta sound pissed off or no one will believe you’re pissed off. Yet this one works very well, an aggressive piece that would whip up a manic pit at a live show anywhere. Especially impressive is the drum arrangement, with nicely placed Smashing Pumpkinesque snare builds. The dual lead work isn’t bad, either.
The closing track, “Freakshow,” is medium-tempo moody rocker that brings the album to a suitable close, albeit a bit early. Why only five songs?
“We had previously released a full-length album [The New Religion],” says lead singer and chief songwriter S Thomas Crane, “but then came to the conclusion as a band that, with the new music market as it is, it makes more sense for us to go with EP releases from here on out. The iTunes world has changed the industry, and people just don’t go for full-lengths like they used to. We’d rather record four or five songs and release EPs with more regularity than waiting two or three years in between full-length releases.”
Especially notable on Rock Is Dead … is the production — clean, crisp, dense. “This album was recorded with Stan Martell in Kingsland, Ga.,” says Crane. “This is our second release. Our first album, which came out in 2012, was also recorded with Stan. He’s a brilliant musician and engineer, and I would highly recommend him to any band out there.”
As for the band’s chosen genre, Crane generalizes even more than I have: “I’d say we’re a hard rock band. It’s that simple to me. I don’t think it needs any more genre specification than that.”