Arthur Brown – Monster’s Ball [Things You Might Have Missed 2022]

When I approached His Thiccness Lord Steel about writing up a TYMHM about the new album from shock rock godfather Arthur Brown, his response was much like one of his gorilla jabs: swift, accurate and painful (at least for Grier). “He’s the original Alice Cooper,” Steel said. “And by extension, the real King of Diamonds.” It was with these words of simian wisdom that I set out to dive deeper into this English octogenarian’s latest album Monster’s Ball. While it just dropped in late October, I only recently took time to consume this surprisingly fun album from one of our chosen genre’s forebears.

A lot of Monster’s Ball plays like a novelty record, which contributes to its charm. While Arthur Brown will forever be known as the “God of Hellfire” based on his hit “Fire” from 1968, his latest album some 54 years later is an unqualified, campy success. It’s not perfect, but man is it fun. He sings about vampires, werewolves, hearses, sinister dive bars, and a whole lotta Hell. The songs range from 1960s novelty tunes with a touch of grime to heavier, Rob Zombie-adjacent tracks that are sometimes caked in psychedelic grunge, sometimes awash in 60s prog. Monster’s Ball also features a variety of guests, including veterans from Deep Purple, The Stooges, Vanilla Fudge, Hawkwind, and Jordan Rudess from Dream Theater. Everything is stitched together by Brown’s trademark croons, which sound like a latter-day David Bowie and Ted Neeley had a lovechild, who was immediately christened by a drunken Tom Waits

At 47 minutes, the album goes by in the blink of an eye. That’s thanks not only to the catchy hooks and the spooky, schlocky vibes, but it’s also a testament to Brown’s eagerness to serve as heavy metal’s weirdo great-grandfather after all these years. It’s as endearing as it is effective. “Bucket of Blood” is an album standout, with its simple but memorable guitar licks and theatrical, spoken-word vox that relate the tale of the creepy denizens who populate a ghoulish bar. But you can’t go wrong with any of the horror-themed tunes, from “Screaming Ball (at Dracula’s Hall)” to “Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard” to “The Monster Hop.” To cap things off, there’s an uncharacteristically synthy, ethereal tune in “Late Last Night,” as well as three unexpected covers (including a re-recording of the aforementioned “Fire”) with the highlight being a rollicking rendition of Cream’s “I Feel Free.” Yes, the metal might be olde, but it’s also a blast. 

I only happened upon Monster’s Ball after suggesting “Fire” to a friend putting together a Halloween-themed playlist for a local radio station. While revisiting that classic, I noticed Mr. Brown had just released an entire album chock full of quirky, psychedelic Halloween-themed delights. In fact, it’s his second of 2022 (his first, Long Long Road, is also worth a listen). I’m glad that I took the time to experience this dose of Monster Mashy weirdness and that Arthur Brown is still out there, keepin’ it creepy for all us sinners. So while October is not much more than a memory as we barrel headlong into December, I’d advise taking Monster’s Ball for a spin. It won’t be making any end-of-year lists, but it’ll certainly get you hankering for the halcyon days of All Hallows’ Eve. As for Arthur Brown: shine on you crazy, fire-helmeted diamond. 

Tracks to Check Out: “Bucket of Blood,” “Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard,” “I Feel Free,” “Screaming Ball (at Dracula’s Hall).”

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