Review: Lordi – Lordiversity
AFM Records (November 26th 2021)
Reviewer: Jason Hopper
I should preface this review with a disclaimer. This is going to be a long and extensive review. Lordi have returned with no less than a seven-album box set, with almost all new material. Back in early 2020, Lordi released a fictional “greatest hits” album called ‘Killection’ that imagined what the band would sound like if they had released music in the 70s through the 90s. All the songs were new and showcased Lordi experimenting with various styles of music. Then the lockdown happened. Rather than just rest on their laurels, Lordi decided to expand upon this fictional storyline and actually create albums that sound like they were produced in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Before beginning this review of the breakdown of each album, I will state that having heard all these albums several times over, this is the most ambitious and impressive feat that I have ever seen from any artist. It’s amazing to think they created seven distinct albums over the course of one year.
I’ve been a big fan of Lordi since 2006. I can proudly say I attended their first American concert at a festival in May 2007. Got a guitar pick and a signed poster that is displayed proudly in my home. Despite there being 7 albums, I was eager to review this new release.
The first three albums in the seven-album collection is the most experimental and nearly a complete deviation from Lordi’s signature sound. Album #1 is ‘Skelectric Dinosaur’ and I was immediately shocked by what I heard. The album is a love letter to KISS and sounds like it was recorded back in 1975. They recorded the album using the equipment of that time period. 70s KISS fans will fall head over heels in love with this effort. Mr. Lordi does all of the Gene Simmons vocal tricks (the first song opens with Gene’s signature “Yeah, Yeeay”). As a result, this comes with two critiques: 1) The 70s KISS studio albums were never known for their great production and 2) The tracks sound so similar to older KISS tracks, they almost sound like cover songs with new lyrics. While I appreciate the dedication to the 70s KISS sound, I was never a fan of this era of KISS because of the production, so it may be off-putting to others as well. One last thing before moving on, is that Paul Stanley doing background vocals on some of these tracks? The press release does not give an inkling, but it sure sounds like him.
Album #2, ‘Superflytrap’, is the biggest surprise to me. It’s Lordi doing disco, and damn if it isn’t done well. If you don’t dig disco, then you’ll absolutely hate this record, but for all the albums, this one has the catchiest tracks. The melodies and harmonies are ever present. I also found it hysterical to listen to disco with Lordi-style horror lyrics, such an amusing contrast. If this album was released as a stand-alone, it would surely tank and be review-bombed by loyal fans, but as part of this collection, it works. First single ‘Believe Me’ did not do much for me when I first heard it months back, but in the context of this release, I understand why it sounds the way it does and now love the track. Other highlights include the rock/funk track ‘City of the Broken Hearted’ and the ballad ‘Cinder Ghost Choir’, which sounds like a 70s power ballad. There’s only two ballads found in this collection, and this one is the superior one. As stated earlier, it sounds like it was recorded in the late 70s (but better production than Album 1) and has the instruments to match. Remarkable.
Onto Album #3 and it’s a misstep for Lordi. ‘The Masterbeast From The Moon’ is Lordi’s attempt at late 70s/early 80 progressive keyboard-heavy pomp rock (Yes, Rush, Mr. Roboto-era Styx, and other bands of that nature) and it’s just not for me. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of this type of music as it takes too many different atmospheric, instrumental directions. There are certainly parts of it that sound good, but the good parts get bogged down by the varying time signatures and the keyboards being front and center to create that progressive sound. I didn’t care for one song off this album. Another point of contention is the album has 12 tracks but 5 of them are either intro/outro tracks or instrumentals. There are only 7 actual songs.
Album #4 has Lordi sliding back into their signature sound. Inspired by early 80s rock and metal, Lordi fires on all cylinders with ‘Abusement Park’, with the title track and its intro very reminiscent of the W.A.S.P. track ‘Inside The Electric Circus’. W.A.S.P. is revisited again with ‘House of Mirrors’, modeled after their hit ‘Love Machine’. There’s an Accept vibe with ‘Pinball Machine’, with its silly lyrics about banging a chick like a pinball machine. ‘Grrr!’ is one of my favorite songs off the entire collection and is classic Lordi. Despite the silliness of the Star Wars references and a guest vocal appearance by Chewbacca, the song could easily fit in on Lordi’s classic (and best) album ‘The Arockalypse’. The album faulters only with the last track ‘Merry Blah Blah Blah’. Christmas and Lordi…no…just no.
Album #5,‘Humanimals’. is modeled after mid to late 80s glam/hard rock and still well within Lordi’s comfort zone. Third single ‘Borderline’ is found here and is my favorite of the singles thus far released for this compilation. They do veer slightly into unfamiliar territory with ‘Heart of A Lion’, which has a King Kobra/Survivor hybrid vibe, as if they were trying to vie for placement in the next Rocky/Karate Kid Movie Soundtrack. The unreleased KISS-penned track ‘Like A Bee To The Honey’, which was also found on ‘Killection’ is on this album and is still a stand-out track. Never thought I’d hear saxophone in a Lordi song, but after listening to this collection, nothing should surprise me.
Albums 4 and 5 contain some great stuff, but I think my favorite album amongst this set is #6 ,‘Abracadaver’. This album showcases Lordi at it’s heaviest, taking inspiration from Painkiller-era Judas Priest, Pantera, and Metallica. The album is very much in line with Lordi’s mini-album ‘Demonarchy’, which was a favorite of mine. Standouts include the Judas Priest Painkiller-vibed ‘Devilium’ and the brutally heavy tracks ‘Rejected’ and ’Beast of Both Worlds’. It’s a little difficult to pick out favorites here, nearly every track is great and I was glad to see the band return to this type of sound.
Finally, there’s album #7. Lordi tries it’s hand at mid-90s era metal with a sound that is reminiscent of bands like Nine Inch Nails, Rob Zombie, and Marilyn Manson. Your love for this album will depend on how you feel about having a lot of electronic effects in your metal. There’s certainly some good tracks here, like the heavy yet catchy ‘Skull and Bones (The Danger Zone)’ and ‘If It Ain’t Broken (Must Break It)’. The surprise here is ‘Killusion’, which is more of a 90s techno dance song that is oddly placed on an album full of electronic heaviness. It has more of the disco vibe from album #2, but it’s still a fun dance track. I dig the intensity on this album, but admittedly was never a fan of mid-late 90s metal, but hey, at least they didn’t try to emulate grunge or rap rock.
I am in awe of this collection. Beyond belief, Lordi has constructed a fake timeline of what they would have sounded like if the band had started out in the mid-70s. If you gave these albums to someone who didn’t know the band, they would be convinced that this was a natural progression and not a contrived concept. What they have accomplished her is truly astounding. I found that the more I listened to this compilation of albums, the more I loved all the albums (except for ‘The Masterbeast From The Moon‘, that’s just too bizarre). Once you get over the initial shock, you start to dig the various genres tackled and appreciate the skill involved in putting this release together.
This will not recruit new fans to the band and newbies should certainly start with ‘The Arockalype’ or ‘Sexorcism’. For longtime fans like me, this is truly a gift, an experience that no other band could ever give me. I am use to and expect all the usual rock/metal tropes, but nothing could prepare me for this. It’s a pricey collection if you are purchasing physical media, but pay the money, get this release, set 5 hours aside, pour a glass of your favorite beverage, and take in an experience like no other.