Viva Las Vegas – Op-Ed Music Reviews Reviews
Brutally Honest Album & Artist Reviews by
T Ray Verteramo
Let’s make this clear, up front: These guys aren’t pretty.
Now, I’m not talking about their mugs, I’m talking about what they deliver. And the beauty of this ugliness is not only do they make a point to let the listener know that it’s ugly, they do it with such style that, whether they mean to or not, they can’t hide their grace.
Though there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of originality, as their obvious influences are collaged throughout the project (even down to the mascot that looks dangerously close to Motorhead’s “Snaggletooth”), but there’s some serious skill in this outfit and that’s the ink in their signature.
Donahue and Tong are solid, titanic shredders. The blend, compliment, and compound as a single unit, which is a skill most dual-axed acts don’t follow. They’re able to pull off innovative, driving chord progressions and riffs as if it were no different than lifting a beer. The solos, for the most part, sing with distinction and unpretentious flair. (At least to say, if they’re sweating, you can’t smell it).
Skimmerhorn, of course, most notably recognized as the bass ace of 1990’s, and newly sorta-kinda-not-really reformed, Chastain not only lets his fingers do the flying, but takes the helm as frontman, as well. Now, though his vocal “hit or miss” abilities range anywhere from gruff to tough, sweet and sour, and sounds like Hetfield to something unrecognizably kind of special, there is no doubt his 4-string skills easily rank in the top 5 with the best of them – and I mean that.
Harris, Lee, Burton, Blasko, Skimmerhorn, seriously.
However, no doubt it’s a little difficult to shine on that dirty diamond when the Godmother of Metal, Leather Leone, is rolling in the thunder and David T. Chastain is calling out for lightning. But, Skimmerhorn weathers the storm, nonetheless, with great strength. Though The Mighty Swine aren’t porkin’ around (yes, with a name like that, they deserve to be pun-ished), his part is undercooked, which I blame on the production. However, the few times he pulls through (yup, that’s another pun), most notably in the deviantly introspective, “Tomorrow,” and the punch in the throat, old-school “Empty Shell,” it’s like a tap on the vein.
Regardless of how the immensely tuxedo talented the outfit tries to hide under their old leather, the crown of glory on this project belongs to Rory Faciane. His “tap-dancing demon” style is a vicious onslaught throughout. Tribal and daring, hard and evil, this man can play to splinter your ribcage. There are moments when he overpowers, (which again, I blame on production), but the boys still hold their own. He’s a force to be reckoned with, pushing the pounding with a resounding, “I’m sorry, did that hurt? Good!!”
Yet all of this poetry is downplayed through composition. They make no pretensions here. There are no crafty over-zealous time changes or transitions – just a few here and there to keep things interesting, and some nice structuring demonstrated in “All That Is Evil,” and the well-crafted, “Thick as Thieves,” even with some deep harmonies appropriately scattered throughout. But for the most part, it’s straight “driving on black sunshine” cuts performed by over-qualified musicians. Good stuff! “Last Man Standing,” the first release and title track is clearly the “fuck you” of the project, very befitting to the album’s arsenic milkshake demeanor.
Regarding Skimmerhorn’s vocals in the mix, on the credit side, his malleable approach seem to fit the tone of each song appropriately, even demonstrating vibrato on occasion, so you know the abilities are there. He was even able to pull off the Judas Priest classic, “Hell Bent For Leather,” a nice treat included on the songlist, and take it for his own, very wisely not even trying to sound like the Metal God, which would probably implode a lung.
On the debit side, sometimes there’s no distinction between him and James Hetfield or no distinction at all. Yet, being that as it may, if Swine was going for a Grammy, then this would be a problem. “Last Man” is very clearly is going for itself, which makes it a welcome novelty among cover, tributes, and copycat bands. “Pool of Emptiness,” and “Two Graves” stand out as some of the better quality productions, even though there is a very distinctive touch of Black Sabbath in the mix, whereas “Rite of Passage” is very distinctive with a whole fistful of Sabbath.
Overall, it’s a nice job here and well worth a place in your collection. They show just enough elegance to prove themselves, but it’s pretty clear that The Mighty Swine are not the “other white meat.”