You Asked For It: St. Madness

StMadness.jpg

St. Madness
Saintanic
(Evil Me Music)

Putting a cover song as the second track on your CD is ballsy. Either you've got 'em right there, or you've lost 'em forever. For a metal act to put a cover of an Ozzy/Black Sabbath song second on their record? Well, that's pretty much suicidal. Sure, Sabbath can be covered. The Cardigans' cutesy version of "Iron Man" was the cherry on top of First Band on the Moon. But if you're a metal band, you better be able to bring something extra, extra special to "Crazy Train," or you're just going to leave listeners needing a real Ozzy fix.

Sorry to say the gambit does not pay off for St. Madness, a Scottsdale metal band who's album Saintanic struck me as shockingly amateurish given that it was produced by the Valley's closest approximation of Mutt Lange, Larry Elyea, and that the band is 16 years and seven albums deep in to their career. Saintanic is an ambitious effort, but falls short in ways so many younger Phoenix metal bands succeed.

If you're new to the world of St. Madness -- I was -- you'll be interested to know they're doing the Kiss makeup thing, blended with a bit of the Mushroomhead aesthetic. Unfortunately, they're not as fun as Kiss or as badass as Mushroomhead. They also love (ostensibly) them some Satan, as demonstrated in "Don't Piss of Satan," "Demons in my Nutsack" and the title track. I'm not really in to that scene unless it's really spooky (see: Iwatchedherdie.) and I found their efforts to summon the powers of the Black Prince pretty unappealing. Toss is some overdubbed spoken word bits by former president Bush, and an interlude that's supposed to sound like someone being mutilated by a power tool ("More Blood") and we're in full on Insane Clown Posse territory. Eek.

Paradoxically, the most enjoyable track on the record, "BBQ-U" is straight-up satire, a funny little bluegrass number about cannibalism and backyard barbecues. Turns out, when they're not trying to do the Satan thing, St. Madness is pretty funny. Also, the sing-along vocals really work. I could see Dr. Demento spinning this song, and that's a compliment I've not given to any other local band. Unfortunately, "BBQ-U" is followed by a monologue where Satan says, in part, "I'm so pissed off I could grab a jogger in Scottsdale and ass fuck her... ass fuck that fucking whore!" Oof.

The band is hit and miss musically, too. The riffs are solid (the opener, "The Art of Terror" has a nice crunchy one and "Death Drives A Buick" is a hell of a headbanger) but the vocalist, who answers to Prophet, never managed to impress me. And, honestly, if there was any way he could, I think Elyea would get it there. Judging by their live photos, Prophet is probably quite the showman, but that doesn't do any good on an album review.

Toward the end of the record, their cover of J.J. Cale's "Heroin" really sums up what it is to be a face-painted metal act from Scottsdale, but by the 30-second "Demons in My Nutsack" I was pretty sick of the shtick. The following song, the title track, addresses the question the band says they're often asked: Do you really worship Satan? Honestly, I was beyond caring. Regardless of their personal beliefs, I'm pretty sure they're going to hell for that "Crazy Train" cover.

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