Homefront: Songs for the Resistance – Music Review
By Eric Stuckart
I know I’m a little late to the party on this one, as the limited release of 25,000 downloads through songsfortheresist ance.com have been used up for awhile now, but as I’m gearing up for the playing the game — with my thoughts on that coming as soon as I finish, I promise — I figured this would be a good way to attempt to get into the mindset of that. So with that being said, let’s have at it!
I sometimes wonder what goes on in those shadiest of places in the entertainment industry — the marketing offices, and — how the hell some of these guys come up with ideas to drum up publicity for their properties. I mean, who comes up with an idea like this? Eleven bands from the hardcore/metal scene covering wartime songs from the 60s, 70s and 80s to get attention for an alternate reality first person shooter set some fifteen years in the future about the US being taken over by North Korea?
I can only assume that one of the guys in the think tank probably assumed that since shooters are violent games, that gamers interested in this title would be interested in violent music as well, amirite? And that being said, to hammer home the whole ‘war is bad’ point, these bands — some more obscure than others — need to record songs that they’d never even come close to besting, in my honest opinion. Some of the versions found on the compilation are certainly interesting and creative reworkings of a bunch of songs that I’m pretty familiar with, but none of them go so far as to become the go-to version.
The entire affair is a pretty mixed bag, ranging from great to mediocre, to just plain weird. For instance, The Dillinger Escape Plan covers Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.” They even managed to get Chuck D in the studio to record the song with them, which is pretty awesome in and of itself, but the song fails to really do anything for me. This is interesting, because their Plagiarism EP had proven them to be quite adept at molding other peoples’ songs into their style, sometimes completely changing their entire musical approach to do so, but Public Enemy seems a little too far out of their reach. It’s not a bad song, it’s just missing something.
On the other hand, As I Lay Dying give a pretty pitch-perfect version of Slayer’s “War Ensemble.” The song fits their style perfectly, and the only real change is in Tim Lambesis’ vocals, which consist of screaming and gutturals rather than Tom Araya’s original, more understandable style. However, depending on your particular tastes, this is probably the only track on the album that I don’t really have any complaints with, but it’s also the one that’s the closest to the original.
A handful of the songs pretty much change the original versions into by-the-numbers metalcore songs, such as The Ghost Inside’s take on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son;” The Acacia Strain’s forgettable (and at times laughable) cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs;” and Winds of Plague’s version of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What it’s Worth.”
Periphery’s competent revision of Metallica’s “One” is one of the songs that I was most looking forward to, as I’m quite fond of their style, but Spencer Sotelo’s clean vocals for the first half of the song just sound phoned in and slightly processed to make up for that. The element of hopelessness and desperation that James Hetfield had conveyed in the original was completely lost in this version, despite Periphery’s ability to more than ably recreate the musical aspect of this song. I think that my favorite track off of the comp, next to “War Ensemble,” would probably be Misery Signal’s cover of Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them.” While it doesn’t even hold a candle to Between the Buried and Me’s far superior version of the same song, let alone the original, they have always been great at creating moody and atmospheric metal at times, and that really shines through in this song. Even though much of the chorus is performed with screamed vocals, it just makes works with a band like this.
The two biggest wildcards come courtesy of iwrestledabearonce and Arsonists Get All the Girls. Both songs are very similar in the sense that they do a fantastic job of providing a healthy bait-and-switch tactic to their performances. IWABO covers Muse’s “Uprising” and AGATG does their worst to Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War,” and they’re very weird performances. IWABO plays it straight for about three minutes and fifteen seconds, pretty much sounding exactly like the original except with female vocals, and then all hell breaks loose. Blast beats and screechy vocals pretty much ride out the end of the song, which fits their kitchen sink style unexpectedly, but well. As for Arsonists, they start the song off sounding like they’re going the folky route, only to pull a similar stunt, albeit only waiting a little over a minute before they go all metal on us.
The compilation closes out on a rather weak note, with two of the worst songs at the very end. Chicago deathcore group Oceano try on Edwin Starr’s “War” for size, and it’s probably one of the worst covers I’ve heard in awhile. Frankly, I’m surprised that metal bands are still doing the whole pig squeal vocal style — which kind of sounds like a sewer drain in my opinion — and it doesn’t help the song at all. Veil of Maya continue to mercilessly beat the collection into unconsciousness with their contribution, a butchering of U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” I’ve heard this song covered numerous times as well, and this isn’t one of the good ones. The song sounds like many of the noisy metalcore bands that were really popular when everyone was aping Converge and Cave In, but it doesn’t do much to recall the original. I suppose that credit is due for trying something different, but that doesn’t really account for much when half the song is a shitty breakdown.
Part of Songs for the Resistance reminds me of the glut of angsty movie soundtracks that were released when nü metal was still kind of a big deal — End of Days, Valentine and Scream 3, I’m looking at you. Does anyone else remember those? It was like the labels were at a loss how to get all these stupid bands that they signed any mainstream exposure, so they’d slap a bunch of them on an album with Slipknot or Korn and the 86th remix of Rob Zombie’s “Dragula” and they were ready to go. Even if most of the songs had absolutely nothing to do with the movie, there they were, for your listening displeasure.
It’s funny looking back, because I have some of these soundtracks, and I’m pretty sure that for the most part, I had never seen about 90% of the movies that they were even made for. And listening to this, that’s all I can think of, with the sole exception being that this style of music doesn’t have nearly the amount of momentum that the alt-metal bands did ten years ago. There’s a theme here, with all the war related songs, but considering the fact that said theme is pretty general, not to mention the definite range in quality of songs here, I don’t really get the point. But for a free release, it was worth it for the handful of decent and/or interesting tracks, so who am I to complain?
As I Lay Dying photo by Cindy Frey, from myspace.com/asilaydying, iwrestledabearonce photo by Jeremy Saffer, from facebook.com/iwrestledabearonce.