Sound — 8
I had always thought that Tenacious D was born as an extravagance of Jack Black as a celebrity though I greatly enjoyed the band and only recently discovered that Tenacious D was active before Jack Black's acting career took off. Jack Black and Kyle Gass met in 1989 and formed Tenacious D in 1994. They completed a demo in 1997 and soon after had a short-lived TV series on HBO. At this time they began to make some cameo appearances in music videos for other artists. In 2001, Tenacious D released their self-titled debut album and released "The Pick Of Destiny" in 2006 as the soundtrack to their film of the same name. "The Pick Of Destiny" was commercially a flop. While the initial income from the movie and album were sub-par, over time they are still being bought in DVD, CD and MP3 formats by a cult following of fans. The release of "Rize Of The Fenix", which is their third album, continues to have Dave Grohl playing drums the same as their previous albums.
Work for "Rize Of The Fenix" began in 2010, and after a lot of bumps in the road we finally are getting the finished product. Initially Kyle Gass was opposed to releasing another album as he wanted to go out on what he considered the current high note of their career, but the album materialized regardless. While the self-titled Tenacious D album was considered a more straight forward "mock rock" album, and "The Pick Of Destiny" was considered a soundtrack, "Rize Of The Fenix" comes across somewhere in between. There are still skits and a loose rock opera style storyline to the album, but the songs aren't so tightly connected to a storyline that they can't survive individually. While Jack, Kyle and David Grohl recorded on the album there were other musicians in the studio for various parts of the album. Listening to the album without paying attention to the lyrics it comes across as a very straight forward rock album with a lot of punch and reminiscent of the heavy rock of yesteryears.
Lyrics — 7
Jack Black's vocals are unmistakable opera-like and very theatrical. If Jack Black's vocals could be compared to anyone it would be Dio though Jack definitely has his own character in his voice. It is very fitting for their style of classic hard rock comedy aside. Jack seems to have 3 modes of vocals clear soaring operatic vocals, gritty blues vocals and spoken word. All three are spot on and serve the music well.
There are two skits on the album, "Classical Teacher" and "Flutes & Trombones". "Classical Teacher" is about Jack hiring a "classical guitar teacher" to give Kyle lessons so they can raise their game and the lessons take a weird turn fast. "Flutes & Trombones" is about Jack coming to the studio in the middle of the night only to discover Kyle laying down flute tracks in the studio. After berating Kyle, Jack is called out for coming to the studio with a trombone to secretly record himself. The situation quickly turns to a brawl with the requisite flute and trombone sounds.
The lyrics are mostly hilarious on the rest of the album. On the track "The Ballad Of Hollywood Jack And Rage Kage" begins: "This is the ballad of Hollywood Jack and the Rage Kage/ nothing could stop them when Jables and Rage hit the stage/ and Hollywood Jack hit the big time and went to make movies/ Rage Kage was left far behind in the dust of his dreams/ and he grumbled and growled and watched Hollywood Jack on Jay Leno/ he bellowed and said he would be nothing without help from Kage/ he burnt up the photos of Jables and Kage doing mushrooms/ f*ck him I don't need no Hollywood Jack anyway/ so Hollywood Jack lived up high on a hill in a bubble/ and Rage Kage lived deep in the broiling valley below/ yes the Rage Kage bubbled with rage/ he looked at the ground and he looked on the stage/ the lava was flowing and broiling inside the old Kage/ as Hollywood Jack climbed the ladder of stardom before him/ he watched as his indie credentials flew right out the door/ he'd make millions then he'd go out and make even more millions/ he'd screen Kage's calls and snort coke off the a-s of a whore".
Overall Impression — 9
If I started naming my favorite songs on the album, it is more than half of the album. The ones I don't especially care for are "Low Hangin Fruit" and "39". Sometimes the humor gets too vulgar for me to listen to other than with earbuds and that is really the biggest negative of the whole album. From beginning to end the album is entertaining with a few really high points. There are a few low points but they aren't very low. The one song I haven't been able to make my mind up about is the song "Senorita". The music is very Spanish with the lyrics about going to jump a guy at a bar who beat up a senorita, which turns into a convoluted adventure with the senorita going back and getting back together with her abuser who it seems from the lyrics is named Larry.
The thing about Tenacious D is that while some of their lyrics are cheesy and none of their songs are completely serious lyrically, they are still solid songs. Everyone wants to discount them because they get categorized as comedy. I think it is like fresh air it is a rock band that doesn't take themselves too seriously, they just love to make music and that is what they do. The standout tracks from the album would have to be "Deth Starr" and the title track "Rize Of The Fenix" (which from what I've read is supposed to be Tenacious D's version of "Eye Of The Tiger"). Bottom line, the album is better than "The Pick Of Destiny" and at least as good as their self-titled debut. It is worth checking out, and I hope they continue to make music in the future.