The Grymm Grab Bag… Dungeons & Dragons-esque item of mystery and deception. The bag has blessed me with many musical gifts and bitten my sorry ass in equal measure over the years. Like the sorry cat-guy that I am, I should know better than to stick my grubby, unwashed paw into its gaping maw. This week, I have pulled out Songs of Future Wars, the debut album by one-man death metal act Stormland. Helmed by Canadian Justin Pierrot, Songs pulls inspiration from Mobile Suit Gundam, a decades-long anime series that concentrates on heavy subjects, such as psychological warfare and child soldiers. Hell, Pierrot has even gone as far as to offer personally hand-painted Gundam figures on his Bandcamp to promote the album! Surely, as a labor of love, Songs should win the metal populous over, right? Umm…
First off, opener “Blitz Fatality (GAT-X207)” rips across the galaxy, blasting away like an unpracticed S.O.D. with Pierrot barking, growling, and riffing. His programmed drum beats do a good job emulating decent old-school thrash and grindcore, and if you were to go by this song alone, you could see Songs being a compact, powerful, and chaotic-yet-fun descent into grindy, riffy goodness. Being led to believe that Songs was a melodic death metal album, and then being fed “Blitz Fatality (GAT-X207),” I tempered (and lowered) my expectations considerably heading into the rest of the album, expecting more of that blasty, grindy fun to win me over.
But even with expectations lowered, Songs (and Stormland) hits its head hard on the bar as it tries to limbo under. There is no gentle way to put this, but some of the performances on here as just plain sloppy, and not in that “old-school grindcore” way either. Rather, it’s the sound of someone who had a rough idea of a song, played it once, recorded it, and sent it as the final product without fleshing it out, making necessary cuts or additions, or even practicing their instrument or singing beforehand. His staccato riffing on “Conflict Child (GN-001)” sounds more unpracticed than chaotic, and his Tim Lambesis-with-a-cold screaming is off-putting and off-meter at times. And while his rhythm playing is sometimes tight, his solos are abysmal, sounding horribly grating (“Integrated Weapon System (GAT-X10)”) or pitchy (“Reclaimed Human Debris (ASW-G-08)”). Nowhere is this lack of practice or discipline more apparent than album closer “Psychic Casualty (MSZ-06),” a ballad about a man trapped in his armor for eternity, where Pierrot sings horribly off-key to some rather bad riffs and breaks.
Amazingly enough, Songs at least sounds decent for a one-man recording, with his bass punching through the guitars and drum machine. His drum programming is mostly on point, hitting all the right notes. What doesn’t hit the right notes is the songwriting and performance. Look, I get the need to release the music that’s in your head to the public, and I respect anyone who has the gumption to do this on their own. That takes sizable guts. But most people who have done this at least practiced their instruments or taken lessons to improve their skills, whether it’s on guitar or singing. Seeing as how Songs is released by Pierrot directly through his Bandcamp, I’m led to believe that he can release this without any label pressure, meaning that he could have gone back to correct mistakes, flesh out ideas, and, most importantly, tighten his playing and vocals.
When people on the street ask me what it’s like to review the music that I love, I always tell them it’s a double-edged sword. On the one side, you discover new bands that re-ignite your love of metal music and remind you why you write about it in the first place. On the other, more vicious side, it slaps you with the cold reality that you will eventually get an album where you don’t want to tell it like it is, but you have to all the same. Songs of Future Wars is just such an album. I want Pierrot to continue honing his craft and putting his passion into music, but he’s got to put in the work, and that involves songwriting, lessons, and actual practice. I don’t want anyone giving up on their dreams, but at the same time, I can’t recommend Songs to anyone, Gundam figures or not.