Johnny B Morbid – “Fall of the Cicada” Album Review
If there’s one thing I learned about Johnny B Morbid from his 2013 release, “Welcome to Die”, it’s that he’ll be blurring the lines between genres left and right. You won’t know what you’re in store for next. This remains true on his latest release, “Fall of the Cicada” (out February 2015, we’re a little late to the party, but that won’t stop us from reviewing it).
As a little background to Johnny B Morbid, basically, it’s a one man project for the recording process. For live shows, a group of (what I can only assume are phenomenal) musicians are enlisted. The whole thing started in 2005 and it grew into a band that gained a big following and earned opening spots for bands like The Misfits, Gwar, The Offspring, Bad Religion and more. There was even a point when Johnny, himself, stepped in to play bass with former Misfits frontman, Michale Graves.
Sadly, Johnny tells me he intends on this being the last JBM album. Luckily, that lit a fire in him to pull out all the stops. He pumped out the highest quality record he possibly could. Trust me, that’s a very good thing for us listeners.
When you start this album, one thing is immediately clear: the production quality on this one is big step up. This is top notch. A lot of bands are putting together records in their bedrooms, garages and living rooms (and, many times, it sounds like it). If that’s the case here, he did an amazing job. I’d assume, wherever he recorded this, that he used a producer/engineer that knew what they were doing (something more bands should try doing). Again, if he did the recording process himself, he needs to pat himself on the back.
The album starts off very pop punk-sounding, but with a lot of metal riffing. My initial thought to the opening two tracks, was that this was really good, but it was so poppy; almost to the point that I wasn’t sure I was “supposed” to like it. I still did and the album really opens up from here. Keeping a poppy edge on such killer riffs and intense lyrics sets JBM apart from so many others.
We get a complete 180 from the opening tracks on songs like “Exile”, which is a standout track to me. Its brutal, almost black metal assault from the beginning grabs you and doesn’t let go. The vocals are a little grittier on this song than most of the others, too. It’s just got that certain something that feels extra intense.
Throughout “Fall of the Cicada”, we’re being woven through genres, mostly punk and metal, and getting all the rules thrown out the window. It makes for a fresh feeling. We’re used to metal bands with brutal, unintelligible verses that lead to singy, catchy (usually wussy-sounding) choruses. What JBM does on this album is a mixture we don’t hear too often. Clean, sleek, harmonizing metal riffs with clean, well-sung, poppy-yet-thought-provoking vocals that have the harshness they need, when it’s needed.
A little warning for any of you religious types: if you’re one of those “I like horror but I also live to serve the lord” people, you’re going to want to stay away. It’s unapologetic in its onslaught against organized religion and the theme comes back several times throughout this album. Songs like “True Believer” and “Crucifiction” really hammer it in.
I have a minor issue with this album in comparison to “Welcome to Die” and it’s that “Fall of the Cicada”, as a whole, just isn’t as catchy. I’m in no way slamming this fact, because it’s easier to listen to, overall. Plus, the songs are still pretty damn catchy. I just wonder if I’ll listen to this as much, regardless of the technical improvements. That said, it’s a pretty small thing, really, but this review can’t be all good, right? I had to find SOMETHING almost negative to say.
I should mention, though, that the more listens I give this album, the more it takes hold of me. I think “Welcome to Die” grew on me more and more with each listen. It’s still in my regular rotation and, while I can’t remember my score for that album when I reviewed it, I’d probably rank it higher now than I did then. This could very well be the same type of thing with “Fall of the Cicada”.
On the other side of things, something on the Johnny B Morbid’s previous album that was a little hard for me to get past was that it seemed there could have been more emphasis on taking more time with the vocal takes. Some of it just sounded a little off. This is not the case with “Fall of the Cicada”, at all. The vocals are spot-on throughout the entire record. It really does sound great.
As a little incentive to those who like digital downloads and are unsure about getting that format versus a CD copy of this album, the CD version comes with a cover of Faith No More’s “As the Worm Turns”. JBM expands the sound even more than what we’ve come to expect with this cover. Lots of synths and heavy riffing make this a very worthy inclusion. Plus, it’s never a bad thing to have a little something familiar thrown in there. That’s always a good way to bring in potential new fans.
If this is, indeed, the swan song of Johnny B Morbid, it’s a great way to go out. Crushing power metal, black metal and poppy punk all thrown together into one outstanding production of extremely listenable horror/dark themed music. Grab it from johnnybmorbid.bandcamp.com/.
8 out of 10
As a side bar, check out the official music video for “True Believer” (below) , the first single off of this album. Much like the album, itself, the video production quality is amazing and has a special guest star. UKHS readers and cult movie fans from all over the world will be thrilled at the inclusion of Troma head honcho, Lloyd Kaufman.