Genghis Khan // Genghis Khan Was A Rocker
Rating: 1.5/5.0 — You’re tearing me APART!
Label: MDD Records
Websites: gengiskhan.fourfour.com | facebook.com/Gengiskhanmetal
Release Dates: Out worldwide on 08.23.2013
First off, let’s get one thing straight: Genghis Khan was, in all likelihood, not a rocker. He was many things — military genius, emperor, conqueror of many lands, and guy who killed a shitload of people. It’s possible that some of those things kind of rock, although the surviving populations of Russia, China, and the Middle East may beg to differ. Regardless, Khan lived many centuries before western music even existed, and there’s no evidence of him liking rock or metal (other than this, of course). Anyways…so yeah, Genghis Khan the band. These guys are an Italian trio playing what could loosely be called “power metal,” but is pretty much what we just called “heavy metal” in the ’80s, as we walked the streets in denim vests, whipped posers with chains, etc. Rocker is their debut full-length, but these guys certainly give the impression that they’ve been doing this for years. Song titles like “Into the Night,” “Heavy Metal Maniac,” and the awesomely-named “1984 in Tokyo” should give you the general idea. This is old-school shit like Anvil or maybe Accept, with a slight touch of glam/hair metal in the mix.
Musically, these guys are certainly up to the task. The rhythm section of Maurizio Leone and Martin Castillo is rock-solid, and guitarist Frank Leone has that abrasive early ’80s sound down cold. Even the production is charming in a lo-fi kind of way. The real issue here is Frank Leone’s vocals, and your enjoyment of this album hinges on whether you’re able to acquire a taste for them.
I’m trying to come up with a diplomatic way to describe this man’s vocal style, and the best I can come up with is this: Picture Tommy Wiseau from The Room singing Accept‘s “Fast as a Shark.” That’s what you’re up against here. Out of fairness, I can disregard Leone’s distractingly thick accent, as well as the laughably ESL lyrics. But this dude is literally unable to carry a tune, and off-key is off-key in any language.
The songs themselves are hit-or-miss. The straight-ahead rockers like “Dr. Midnight,” “Leaving This Hell” and opener “What The Hell Is Going On” fare best, and Leone’s enthusiasm is infectious. I can picture a festival crowd of sweaty dudes fist-banging the air to this stuff. “Welcome in the Middle” is a gentle acoustic number, but can’t possibly recover from bad singing and ridiculous lyrics. I was hoping that Blaze Bayley‘s guest vocal on “Revenge in the Shadow” might make things more listenable, but sadly I was mistaken. Blaze has had better days, and I’ll just leave it at that. The album also contains four songs from Genghis Khan‘s 2011 demo as bonus tracks, which is cool but kind of redundant. Two of these songs are already on the album proper, and “demo quality” is not all that different from “album quality” in Genghis Khan‘s case.
It’s really a fucking shame, because Genghis Khan is so solid musically — these guys know how to write authentic, entertaining throwback heavy metal that’s on par with pretty much anyone else in that game today. But even in a world that has made Dave Mustaine a multimillionaire, Frank Leone’s vocals are pretty hard to take. Ultimately, it is the listener’s patience (or perhaps their blood-alcohol level) that will determine if Rocker is headbanging fun or laughably amateur [KHAN!!!!!!! — Steel Druhm].