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Southern Lord (2004)
Rating: 7.5/10

I’m not gonna beat around the bush. I can’t stand the Foo Fighters, or Dave Grohl for that matter. But Probot is a different kettle of fish entirely. I just never understood why this metalhead never did more of this stuff, but instead focused on the dull and dreary corporate shit.

Anyhow, Probot, for the moment anyway, seems to be a one-off record, which sees Dave Grohl writing a batch of songs suited to the voices of some of his favourite vocalists from the classic 80s and 90s metal era. 12 songs in total (one of those hidden), everyone an absolute gem.

The album – complete with Voivod-esque artwork by Voivod drummer Michel “Away” Langevin – opens with the rattling ‘Centuries Of Sin’ featuring Venom vocalist Cronos. As expected, the vocal attack is sneering and the molten, bringing to mind a more modern Venom grind. The next track, featuring Max Cavalera, formerly of Sepultura and current Soulfly mainman, is the raging ‘Red War’. Although probably my least favourite track on the album, it still features a killer guitar sound.

One of the album’s hottest moments is ‘Shake Your Blood’, featuring the unmatched vocal growl of Motörhead legend Lemmy, who also plays the bass, turning this into a dose of oily Motörhead. Track four is the rather average ‘Access Babylon’, a hardcore crossover rant featuring Corrosion Of Conformity’s Mike Dean.

But all is forgiven by the time track five bubbles in on a sprightly bass. ‘Silent Spring’ features Kurt Brecht, who fronts one of my favourite crossover acts, D.R.I. It’s a basic track that spits attitude, especially in that vocal department, and hats off to Grohl for originally writing these cuts as instrumentals and then fitting them around the specific vocals he had in mind.

Track six, ‘Ice Cold Man’, is the album’s heaviest track and features Cathedral vocalist Lee Dorrian. As expected it’s a mournful dirge clocking in at almost six minutes. Dorrian’s distinctive drool hearkens back to Cathedral’s work from the early 90s. ‘The Emerald Law’ is equally stirring, another doom-laden featuring the sombre snarl of Wino from Saint Vitus, who also plays guitar on this track.

Mind you, track eight is proof that Grohl went out of his way to gather together metal’s greatest ever frontmen, because the Tom G. Warrior (Celtic Frost) cut ‘Big Sky’ is a magic and macabre journey into metal’s darkest realms. The track creaks and rumbles but it’s that distinctive grunt which takes the song to another level. ‘Dictatorsaurus’ is equally distinctive; featuring Voivod frontman Snake it jars and twists as one would expect from a Voivod track. So once again, hats off to Grohl for getting the music spot on.

Track ten is the monolithic ooze of ‘My Tortured Soul’ featuring Trouble’s king of doom Eric Wagner. This track is probably Grohl’s finest drumming performance on the record. The guitar riff is dirty and Wagner on top form, with his Robert Plant-esque (Led Zeppelin) rasp rising mournfully into the night sky.

Creepiest cut on the opus is ‘Sweet Dreams’ which marries together an unlikely combo, King Diamond on vocals and Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil on guitar. The track works well, a sneering, eerie intro with pensive guitar that leads to a dark, foreboding cackle and crunching grunge-tinged riff. Diamond is his usual banshee self and then we’re lead into silence and then jerked from our nightmare by the hidden track ‘I Am The Warlock’ featuring another of my least favourite people, actor Jack Black who, admittedly, puts in a half-decent performance with his gargoyle vocals. Even so, I’d rather have heard another vocalist in his place.

Probot is a cracking heavy metal album, and while I doubt that many Foo Fighters fans actually understood what it was about, it’s a great lesson in who’s who of 80s metal. Whether another Probot record emerges, we’ll just have to wait and see, but Mr Grohl, if you are reading this, then can I suggest the names of Tom Araya (Slayer) who was originally scheduled to appear, Mike Patton (Faith No More), Joey Belladonna (Anthrax), Glen Danzig (Danzig), Bobby Liebling (Pentagram), David Vincent (Morbid Angel) and Mille Petrozza (Kreator)… thanks!

Neil Arnold

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