Sound — 6
The jam-packed roster of rockstars that make up the supergroup Teenage Time Killers may read similar to a hyperbolic child pitching a movie idea that has "ALL the bestest superheroes in it," there's some substantial connection to this all-star formation, nicely wrapped in a bow of respect and homage. Founded by My Ruin guitarist Mick Murphy and Corrosion Of Conformity drummer Reed Mullin and exacerbated by the ubiquitous Dave Grohl (who also plays bass for the group in several cases), Mullin revealed in a Rolling Stone interview that he and Grohl had known each other as teenagers, and Mullin was one of Grohl's inspirations as a teenaged aspiring drummer. After Grohl had invited Mullin to his studio to record CoC's 2012 self-titled album, Mullin and Murphy started to work with the studio's engineer on a little project meant to throw back to the heyday of crossover thrash.
The project started to grow bigger as more reconnections happened. Former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra (who had chosen CoC to open for DK decades ago) was called in to contribute, Pete Stahl (frontman of Scream, which Grohl used to be the drummer for) made an appearance, and after Mullin ran into Lamb Of God frontman Randy Blythe (who has listed CoC as one of his seminal inspirations), Blythe would contribute to the project as well. More musicians would snowball into the project - spanning from classic punk names like Lee Ving (of Fear), Brian Baker (of Minor Threat, Bad Religion), and Vic Bondi (of Articles Of Faith), to more contemporary rock names like Slipknot's Corey Taylor, Alkaline Trio's Matt Skiba, and former Queens Of The Stone Age bassist Nick Oliveri.
Though the final lineup of Teenage Time Killers had arguably reached a "clown car" level of absurd ensemble size, everyone involved was on the same page with what the project was intended for - being a big ol' love letter to the '80s crossover scene that the older musicians were a part of and the younger musicians were inspired by. The result, "Greatest Hits Vol. 1," is a big and brash collection of hardcore punk, thrash, sludge and groove metal riffs running at bite-sized lengths (every song clocks in at under three minutes), with a few hardcore covers thrown in as well (see "Big Money," "Ignorant People," "Teenage Time Killer"). With the high quantity of tracks, the group does a decent job of steering clear of sounding homogenous: pure hardcore punk is appealed to in "Exploder," "Time to Die" and "Bleeding To Death" (which has the best guitar solo of the three); sludge is served up in the stoner-bait songs "Crowned by the Light of the Sun" and "Your Empty Soul," as well as the tempo-shifting "Power Outage"; thrash metal comes in the form of "Hung Out to Dry," "The Dead Hand," "Clawhoof," "Say Goodnight to the Acolyte" and the dull "Plank Walk"; groove metal is found in the swingy and twisting "Egobomb," "Devil in His House" and the forgettable "Days of Degradation"; and, most surprisingly, some '90s-style West coast skate punk is heard in the Rancid-esque "Barrio" and "Son of an Immigrant" (which has the most standout bass performance).
The biggest factor responsible for this variance is the carousel of featured vocalists, though this strategy of letting the vocalist be the signature of the song they're on is an ambivalent one. As much as it works in accentuating the essence of songs - Skiba's vocals and Baker's guitar are perfect for "Barrio," and Mike IX Williams (of Eyehategod) is the key ingredient for the relentlessness of "Time to Die" - it also renders songs to come off as little more than an extra single from the band the singer is from. Blythe's throaty growls make "Hung Out to Dry" feel like another Lamb Of God song, Biafra's vocals in the short and sardonic "Ode to Sean Hannity" make it sound like another Dead Kennedys song, Tairrie B.'s rough vocals make "Clawhoof" sound like another My Ruin song (doubly so with Murphy's guitar solo), Aaron Beam's moaning stoner vocals make "Your Empty Soul" sound like another song from his band Red Fang, and so on. The gigantic ensemble may be responsible for the appreciated variance in the album, but the lack of original or unique cohesion is noticeable, making it a double-edged sword.
Lyrics — 8
In the same fashion as the different vocalists being the key factor of the musical essence of the song they're featured on, one can tell that they also wrote their own lyrics for their respective songs in "Greatest Hits Vol. 1." Tairrie B. flaunts her trademark Satanism in the sacrilegious "Clawhoof," Neil Fallon (of Clutch) wields his terse but evocative natural imagery in "Crowned by the Light of the Sun," Aaron Beam juxtaposes Fallon's "happy stoner" demeanor with the doomier-and-gloomier haze of "Your Empty Soul," and Corey Taylor beats his chest in sarcastic bravado in the stupidly catchy "Egobomb."
But despite the hodgepodge of lyrical pens, most of the vocalists opt to write politically-charged lyrics, further appealing to the album's homage to the crossover scene. Both of Reed's contributions are classic-style political numbers (from the ending chant of "We gotta take it back!" in "Exploder," to the detailing of a nuclear wasteland inspired by a USSR contingency plan in "The Dead Hand"), Skiba shines a light on the poor side of Los Angeles in "Barrio" (only making the song feel even more like a Rancid song), Tommy Victor tastefully lectures listeners on being more savvy and free-thinking in today's world in "Days of Degradation," while Blythe takes the contrasting "be cruel to be kind" route in "Hung Out to Dry," where his message of telling the politically-apathetic masses to wake the f--k up is rightfully acerbic.
Overall Impression — 7
More than anything, "Greatest Hits Vol. 1" is a testament to an influential scene by a big group of musicians with mutual respect for one another. But with the bloated lineup forcing Teenage Time Killers to partition its star-power from song to song, the album lacks a strong and unique chemistry that is normally the appeal and goal of a supergroup, and comes off disjointed like a compilation album. Perhaps it's better to compare the album to an appetizer platter - it's enticing for its size and it has a lot of tasty treats, but it isn't exactly a substantial meal.
On the other hand, however, "Greatest Hits Vol. 1" does a good job persuading the listener to further explore the music from the '80s crossover thrash scene that the album was influenced by, and with the album including numerous musicians from bands of that era, it duly serves as a guide of bands to check out from that time. So if the purpose of "Greatest Hits Vol. 1," in the grand scheme of things, is to convince the new generation of listeners to check out this music scene that they weren't around to experience, it does indeed succeed in its goal of paying homage.