CKY – ‘The Phoenix’ (Album Review)
In recent years, it’s been fashionable to slag off turn-of-the-millennium alt-metal – but the trend-pandering critics of the music world tend to overlook one simple thing. At that point, metal grooved. Bands like CKY made people want to move – and for a short time alt-metal even managed to impact the mainstream, before it all went downhill and morphed into the mainly stagnant pool of same-old-same-old we see around us today.
CKY have not forgotten the importance of The Groove in the eight years since Carver City came out – and thanks to a massively upgraded production job, The Phoenix bursts straight out of the gates with Replaceable’s unstoppable Rob Zombie vibe and just keeps on rolling into the muddier but undeniable Days Of Self-Destruction. Beyond thick, swampy guitars and heavily effected vocal hooks, the first of many gloriously OTT shred guitar solos rears it head before the whole thing fades out. You can easily visualise someone sneaking into the studio late at night to pull the master fader down, musical-Jackass-prank-style.
Running at 8 songs and 31 minutes, on paper The Phoenix looks more like a mini-album than a fully-qualified long-player. But those numbers are also the reason it works so perfectly. It’s all killer, no filler – the way albums should be, and the way albums should really be made in an age where we can all cherry-pick a favourite or two from however many releases we please.
My easy single-selection favourite has to be Wiping Off The Dead. A mind-wrenchingly hench riff alternating between 5/4 and 11/8? Count me in. Jesus.
If you prefer more straight-ahead fare, the likes of Lies From You will sort you out. The Phoenix’s penultimate track boasts obvious skate-video-soundtrack potential, and while it felt relatively weak following Wiping Off The Dead, you have to ask: What wouldn’t? For something more Jackass-evoking, head back a few tracks and stop by Unknown Enemy, where things get so funky it hurts (in a good way).
Trying to get a pop-rock-enamoured friend into CKY? Try Head For A Breakdown, and see if its combination of mountainous reverbed drums and acoustic rhythm guitars convert him or her. If they think it’s shit, fuck them – at least there’s another wah-laden guitar hero moment to look forward to.
As for those other two tracks – namely The Other Ones and closing offering Better Than Get Even – they also fall into the “Killer” category. They’re not quite as sick as the others, but that’s just because CKY have maintained an impressive and respectable level of quality control here. More stomping grooves, sleazy six-string work, and funky spots reside within.
Overall, The Phoenix looks, feels, and sounds like the definitive CKY album. So fuck it – that’s what it is.
97% (Essential Listening!)
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The Phoenix drops June 16; preorder it on iTunes here.
Also published on Medium.