Okay everyone, this week things are going to get just a little bit weird. I first stumbled upon Belgian gents Raketkanon when I saw this video. Go ahead and click on it, spend a minute or three with your eyes agog wondering what the hell is going on, and then come back here. Are you back now? Okay, now we’ve established a starting point for this band’s music. RKTKN#3 is the band’s third album, following RKTKN#1 and RKTKN#2.1 The band promises a more eclectic and dynamic set of songs here on #3, refusing to be pigeon-holed as simply a metal band. In that regard, they definitely succeed, but will their renewed approach pay off over the entire album?
As Dr. Fisting and I sat on the floor outside the washroom at Angry Metal Guy Headquarters, quaffing the last of the Christmas party hobo wine, we agreed that, while folks these days might consider Raketkanon and their shtick kind of weird, back in 1994 the band would have been comfortably on stage opening for Faith No More. Their bizarre accouterments, kitschy stage shows, and (what seems to be, although I could be wrong) nonsensical lyrical dialect would be right at home in an Angel Dust–King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime era. That works for me: I love Faith No More, and more than that, I love bands that push the envelope and are willing to go on unexpected forays, even within single songs.
On RKTKN#3, Raketkanon specialize in two basic song templates: the menacing, driving, hard-hitters and the slow, dreamy crooners. The former are the money shots. After faking us out with a cheesy, boppy synth lead, “Ricky” blazes out of the gates with abandon, somehow making its laid-back beat seem frantic, and showing off Pieter-Paul Davos’ excellently unhinged vocal chops. The only thing odder than this song is its accompanying video. “Fons” and “Hannibal” are even more off-kilter. “Hannibal” is just a blasting 4/4 all-in beat, loaded with noise and Davos’ insane screams. The stops and starts are heart attack-inducing at high volume. “Fons” is a mix of all-out aural assault, with explosive guitar-synth hooks, and bizarre croon-screams looping in and out of the musical quagmire. All three songs are beautiful in a mad sort of way.
Unfortunately, the crooners occupy nearly half of the album, which blows the pacing and allows the listener to lose interest. On their own, each of these four songs are acceptable, but they rarely diverge from their basic composition, making us think we’re listening to the same song four times. Adding more left turns to these songs to allow them to stand out would increase the effectiveness of RKTKN#3 as a whole. The eclectic variety of the more “metal” tracks gives way to a sense of monotony on songs like “Melody” and “Lou,” which can be hard to tell apart. And the longest song, “Robin,” is an almost six-minute foray into calming waters, with a laid-back groove, swirling, undulating synths, and lazily-picked guitar. We keep waiting for a payoff that never comes in these songs.
As it stands, the frantically nutty songs Raketkanon drop here are enthralling, disturbing, and hypnotic, and a few of them are seeing regular spins in my non-review playlist. Devos is an excellent singer who constantly channels his inner Mike Patton, both on disc and in the band’s performances. Pieter De Wilde does a fantastic job behind the drum kit, and Jef Verbeeck and Lode Vlaeminck provide outstanding support on guitar and synth. RKTKN#3 is an album that’s so close to genius I can almost taste it; sadly, that fine line isn’t quite met consistently here. When it is, though, it is gorgeous.