What makes a great album? There is no one thing that makes an album "great". Is it the quality of the music? The talent of the musicians? Sometimes, but some of my favorite albums were made by bands who were not what you would call "great musicians". The Misfits or The Ramones come to mind. Is it lyrical content? Again, sometimes but not necessarily. A song need not contain flowery prose or well executed poetry to make it great. So, what is it then? Art appreciation (and music, even metal, is certainly an art form) is subjective, to say the least. I believe that great art makes the listener feel something. Whether it's joy or anger, fear or jubilation, great music taps into the listener's soul and make him feel. And I have been FEELING this new album from Andi Deris.
The album is "Million Dollar Haircuts on Ten Cent Heads". If the name Andi Deris sounds familiar, it's because he has been the lead singer for German thrashers Helloween since he replaced Michael Kiske in 1993. I was only casually familiar with the work of Helloween post the "Keeper of the Seven Keys" era and was essentially hearing Deris for the first time on this record. As far as "Million Dollar Haircuts... " goes, all I can say is "holy crap, this is awesome".
The title, "Million Dollar Haircuts on Ten Cent Heads", is a shot at bankers and those Deris feels are responsible for the global financial meltdown over the last few years. As Andi Deris puts it, “Obviously we despise everything around banks, managers and bankers who are clearly responsible for the shit that goes on nowadays -- and most certainly in our future -- so it felt very good to vocally tell them what we think about them". And tell them, they have.
The album alternates between aggressive rockers and mid-tempo monsters. The whole album was written and composed by Deris himself and his backing group, "The Bad Bankers" (notice a theme forming?), is freaking fantastic! The Bad Bankers are Deris on vocals and guitars, Nico Martin - guitars, Jezoar Marrero on bass and Nasim Lopez-Palacios on the drums.
With all due respect to Messrs. Martin and Marrero, who's work on this record is outstanding, one of the things that stood out throughout the album was the machine-gun, kick style of Lopez-Palacios. Who is this guy and where did he come from? His is not an in-your-face, "look how fast I can play the double bass" drumming style. It's more of a series of well placed accents and very creative use of the double kick technique. Well done, sir.
Some standouts on "Million Dollar Haircuts..." are the heavier cuts which include the opening track "Cock" as well as "Banker's Delight", "Blind" and "Don't Listen To the Radio (TWOTW 1938)" which is a reference to the infamous broadcast of "The War of the Worlds" that had the whole country freaking out thinking New Jersey was under attack by Martians.
The album is loaded with quality, heavy, mid-tempo songs too including "Will We Ever Change", "Must Be Dreaming" and the last track on the record "I Sing Myself Away" which is a very well done acoustic number and a perfect way to end the album.
Deris doesn't have the four octave vocal range that Helloween's former singer had but what he does have he utilizes to the fullest. He chooses his points carefully and hits all the right notes exactly where they should be. Songs like "Cock" and "Blind" are sung with appropriate aggression while "Must Be Dreaming" and "The Last Days of Rain" are sung with clarity and passion. His phrasing and vocal interpretation, especially on the slower numbers, are almost Beatle-esque, if you'll allow me to make that comparison. The melody of the vocals is occasionally in opposition to the music which makes for a refreshing arrangement especially in the world of metal which all too often eschews phrasing and style for grunts and grit, using the voice more as a percussion instrument instead of the melody maker it could be.
It may only be March but I'd like to make my recommendation for album of the year and it's "Million Dollar Haircuts on Ten Cent Heads". I just can't stop listening to this album. It's that good. And, for my money, "Cock" is the feel good hit of the Summer. It's difficult for me to express exactly why this album struck me the way it did. I won't go so far as to say this is a future classic but it is certainly one of the best records I've heard in quite some time. I've heard it said, "If it looks good, you'll see it. If it sounds good, you'll hear it. If it's marketed right, you'll buy it. But, if its real, you'll feel it". I encourage you to go out and feel this one for yourself.