Johnny B Morbid – Fall of The Cicada album review

jbm1Johnny 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.

jbm2We 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.

jbm3As 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.

Chris Cavoretto

Johnny B. Morbid “Welcome to Die” (2013) Review

jbm2Johnny B. Morbid
“Welcome to Die”

If there is one thing Johnny B. Morbid from New Jersey can do, it’s write a catchy song.  The second time I gave this album a listen, I was singing along.  These guys play horror themed poppy punk.  It’s not pop punk by any means, but punk rock with a poppy twist.  There are so many metal genres these guys thouch on as well.  It’s obvious they like their metal.
Much like Bad Religion, their recording is very clean and polished.  It sounds sort of non-threatening, not in a bad way, just non-threatening.  Unlike Bad Religion, the passion for what they are doing shows through and it’s actually pretty good.  Yes, that’s a jab at Bad Religion.
After giving this album several listens and making up my mind on what I thought, I checked into the band a little more.  Johnny B. Morbid started at a one man band, releasing albums and playing everything on his own for two years.  After growing in popularity and trying out a few sets of musicians for live shows, the band expanded little by little.  I have not listened to any of his/their other efforts, but I can say, the musicians on this album are great.
The opening/title track kicks in hard.  This is my favorite track on the album.  It’s the catchy, poppy punk with a metal flavor that these guys are good at and this track shows every positive and no negative of what this band is capable of.
jbm3  In the second track, “Population: 0”, I noticed something.  The clean recording is sort of a double-edged sword for this band.  It’s so clean that every piece of vocal that is a little off, is very noticeable.  The rest of the album is this way.  I’m not saying it’s bad.  If the recording were grittier, it would fit better.  If there were maybe a few more takes to really hit each note, it would fit better with the clean recording.  Aside from this, the music is superb and, again, it’s catchy as hell.
“Delusions” is a solid track, musically.  I think this song is the one where the vocals sound most “off” pitch-wise though.  The catchiness carries it through without letting that make a mess of the entire track.
“Forever” is next.  Not quite as catchy as “Welcome to Die” but one of the top tracks on the album.  There are some great vocal harmonies towards the end that expand their sound a bit.  Again, every note the band plays is heard with this crisp recording.  Even if it’s not your style, it’s catchy enough that you’d probably find yourself singing along anyway.
On “Last Day Alive” the band slows it down and the first thing that comes to mind is, “every bad boy’s got a soft side.”  Here in the US, there was a hair metal power ballads album advertised on television with that catch phrase so please excuse me if it didn’t make complete sense to you readers on the other side of the Atlantic.  This song is a bit reminiscent of the late 90’s-early 2000’s pop punk bands who put ballads on their albums.  While those songs usually consisted of whining about their fathers, this one is about the fact that tomorrow might never get here.  It’s a good, catchy acoustic song that still keeps that horror theme going.
jbm4When “Enough” comes in, it’s a good kickstart after the ballad.  Quick poppy punk and super catchy.  “Dying’s not enough to make me happy” will be rolling off your tongue in no time when listening to this one.
On “Drinking About You”, I noticed that these guys could transition nicely into a new country band.  They use lots of plays on words, much like newer pop country artists.  This is evident again on “Sincerely, Gabriel” with the line “kill me now or forever hold your peace”.  On a side note, “Sincerely, Gabriel”  also has a killer blast beat, total metal annihilation section in it.
“Stockholm” is another of my favorite cuts on this album.  Still strong, catchy sections all over this one.  A great melodic hardcore type breakdown at the end ties it all together.
“Death Undefeated” hits us like a ton of bricks and sounds like we’re getting a thrash masterpiece.  It immediately kicks into more catchy poppy punk but has some great double bass and metal sections in it.  It’s sort of reminiscent of newer Propagandhi stuff.  Blending so many elements of poppy punk and metal really works great here.
There’s a great black metal sounding opening on “Erebus”.  It transitions into a killer thrash/power metal song.  Unfortunately, the vocal style doesn’t fit here for me at all and leaves me feeling that the song fell short of what could’ve been great.  Don’t discard the song altogether from my point of view on the vocals though.  Every riff in this song is awesome and the drums hit hard.  So much potential for a kick ass thrash song here.
To end this album, the band kicks into a metalled-up version of Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll, Pt. 2” and then transitions into a full-force rock out version of Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild”.  Great way to close the album strong.
jbm1 Each song on this album (after “Welcome to Die”) seems to have two issues.  One, it seems to be missing something.  I can’t put my finger on it.  I think the album may just be a little too polished and loses a little edginess in that aspect.  Two, the vocals are a little flat here and there.  The upside is that the songs are played so well by the band and it’s just all written so well, that it evens itself out.
Fans of Bad Religion, Good Riddance, Propagandhi and Calabrese should find elements in Johnny B. Morbid’s “Welcome to Die” that they enjoy.  Check it out and see what you think for yourself.

7/10

Chris Cavoretto

Visit Johnny B Morbid’s facebook page – HERE

And you can purchase the album (or songs) on Itunes – HERE

Also you can visit their website at www.johnnybmorbid.com