I don’t know what the hell is going on in Finland these days. Late last year the quirky northerners gave us a band by the name of Speedtrap, a proto-thrash garage band who put out a messy but fun album, Straight Shooter. Now we get Initiated, another garage band naturally featuring Speedtrap’s guitarist on the lead axe (I don’t know if there are enough people in Finland for bands to not share members), for a less thrashy but no less messy record, World on Fire. There’s only one letter separating garage and garbage, and it’s not easy to avoid the “B.” Anyhow, Initiated are ready to spread their brand of adrenaline-fueled, sexually aroused and arousing face-spitting pagan heavy rock upon the world — their words, not mine. Will we all “B” damned? And do all Finns play in garages?
This motley collection of musicians wanted to take their love of raw underground heavy rock and put out something in line with the likes of The Dictators, the MC5, and whatnot, and they sort of have, but in a much poorer manner. Their first attempt, a self-released cassette tape in 2015 called Seed of Evil, was “good” enough for actual label interest, and so here we have World on Fire gracing our ears a mere year later. World on Fire starts off with the frantic riffing of “Celebrate the Dead,” a song which exemplifies everything wrong with the album: thin, scratchy guitars, a drum kit that sounds as if it was recorded by a single mic, terrible singing, and a goofy arrangement that sees the song drag to a halt 2:24 as though the band couldn’t figure out what else to do. After one song, I’m sure this is just a gag album, but when “Thirst” kicks in I try to ignore the bad production. A bluesy lead break kicks things off and segues into a decent riff. All good, until once again the vocals come in, and sound even worse than on the first song.
Amateur night continues throughout the album. Moments of promise are quickly stomped into oblivion by the sloppy performances, and it’s impossible to enjoy the singing. I’m as crappy a singer as there is, or at least I thought so until I heard Initiated. I did start up a good drinking game while listening to World on Fire, though. Every time Harri Kuokkanan gave out an “ooh” or “unh” or “hwaa!” I had a drink. Nine songs and 39 minutes later, 51 shots of JD meant I had to have my stomach pumped.
It’s not all bad news, though. As mentioned, some of the riffs are pretty good — the beginning of “Thirst,” for example, as well as the title track and “Seed of Evil.” Jaakko Hietakangas pulls off some sweet leads throughout. He’s clearly got the chops to be in a decent band, which makes me wonder why he’s wallowing around with bands like Initiated and Speedtrap. Closing track “Rites of Passage” is chaotic fun. And thankfully, World on Fire is neither sexually aroused nor arousing, so I didn’t feel too dirty at the end of it all. These positives aren’t much to hang one’s hat on, but they are just enough to keep this from going from bad to embarrassing.
I get what Initiated are going for here: straight up, stripped back metal with no frills. But as I said at the beginning of the review, it’s a fine line between garage and garbage, and Initiated fall on the wrong side of that line. Crappy production and shitty vocals are too much for ripping solos and the occasional good hook overcome. This is the kind of album you should only be trying to sell to friends and family, and a label certainly shouldn’t be pushing it. Close that gar(b)age door and move along, folks.