Lordi are a divisive band for metal fans. Starting out as a shock-rock band in 2002, at least as far as their lyrics and stage presence were concerned, they rose to unprecedented levels of fame after their successful participation in the 2006 edition of Eurovision. This level of success, particularly obtained in what is clearly a “pop” forum, created a certain backlash, since liking Lordi, who were now known outside of the normal metal fanbase, would no longer be cool. I’m not even making that up. The funny thing about that is that Eurovision didn’t change Lordi’s sound at all; in fact, if you liked them before 2006, you would definitely be comfortable with any of the albums that they released afterwards; if you hated them before (and there are plenty of reasonable people who hate their guts) your hatred would remain the same.
With their latest release, Monstereophonic (Theaterror v. Demonarchy), Lordi demonstrated that, despite their flirtation with the elusive “mainstream success,” they have indeed tried to maintain a certain consistency within their work. This is an album where the band sticks to its guns as it unleashes the kind of horror-inspired material that made audiences fall in love with them when they encountered cuts like “Blood Red Sandman” (from 2004’s The Monsterican Dream) or “Monster, Monster” (from their 2002 debut, Get Heavy).
For a band that has always been proud of the influence that Kiss had on them, Lordi do dare to break some boundaries that the sexagenarian duo quartet always stayed clear from. Whereas Kiss, having made a career out of singing about getting laid, being cool, or being super motivated, can now be found opening wholesome places like a “Rock & Brews” restaurant at an Indian Bingo and Casino joint, Lordi, influenced by classic horror films like The Evil Dead and The Last House on the Left, delight themselves in nauseating their audiences with tales of terror. “Hug You Hardcore,” the first single of this new record, is actually an interesting example of how Lordi, even though they largely stick to what they’ve always done, try new things.
Unlike the majority of their backcatalog, with songs that focus on simple catchy melodies, “Hug You Hardcore” emphasizes a repetitive and uncomfortable riff that creates a weird claustrophobic sensation. For a song that talks about anal fisting (“let me mount you gently / love with a fist / intruding rear entry / you’re gonna like this”), likely of the non-consensual kind, the music seems to fit the bill in creating a deeply uncomfortable feeling. Even the video seems to be risky in its own right, showing a man being kidnapped and forcefully sodomized by a Hostel-esque psychopathic couple. Sexual torture of men isn’t something we’re used to see in our horror, so to see Lordi giving that a shot (despite the criticism and hatred the video has received) is, at least, new.
These adventures notwithstanding, there’s no denying that Monstereophonic does play it safe in its musical content. By and large, Lordi maintain the same sound that made them famous, with some of the songs (like “Sick Flick” and “None for One”) sounding like they could have been placed side-by-side with any of their previous releases. Lyrically, of course, they stick to the horror theme (they are, after all, a band of monsters) with songs about werewolves, zombies and demons, as well as a strange and cheesy anti He-Man song. There are definitely some golden nuggets here and there, like “Demonarchy” (heavy and with a hint of power metal thrown in), “Down with the Devil” (as straightforward as they come, though sounding pretty close to their backcatalog),“Hug you Hardcore” (I’m still obsessed with that creepy riff), and the epic 7-minute finale, “The Night the Monsters Died,” but nothing that will change anybody’s opinion.
Although dismissed by many as merely a novelty band, a bunch of people running a gimmick to the ground, the truth is that Lordi are more than that. Under the costumes and the lyrics (which are, yes, pretty cheesy at times), there are a bunch of talented musicians who continue to deliver what is clearly a loving tribute to classic heavy metal. They keep things simple, they know what they want, and they’re happy to give it to you. True, their costumes have seen way more changes than their sound (and this is perhaps the biggest criticism that can be leveled against them), but there’s a certain honesty to people who, having succeeded in an international pop stage, decide to destroy their undeserved family-friendly image by forcefully shoving a strapon up a man’s ass. And, you know what? You gotta respect that.