Sound — 6
Whether you're a die-hard horror fan by birth or converted into one the first time you watch a George Romero film, those that don that label have a burning passion for any and all things regarding horror. That passion has well carried over into rock throughout the decades, from punk acts that first established the horror-centric niche rock like Misfits and The Cramps to musicians still carrying that torch today like Rob Zombie and Joseph Poole, better known by his stage name, Wednesday 13.
Always showing an inclination to making horror-punk, Poole first came to prominence with his group Frankenstein Drag Queens From Planet 13. After the band broke up in 2001, he united with Slipknot's famed drummer Joey Jordison to make the horror-punk supergroup Murderdolls, which further escalated his fame, but due to Jordison's commitment to Slipknot, Murderdolls wasn't viable to be a permanent endeavor. In light of this, Poole decided to create his solo band, Wednesday 13, to be his primary music project fueled by his obsession with horror.
Having released the most music under that project in its ten-year lifespan, Wednesday 13's discography hasn't necessarily been a strict appeal to the orthodox horror-punk sound (with the exception of 2011's "Calling All Corpses," by far their most campy and horror-punky album), but more of a hodgepodge of that, glam rock and contemporary metal. With the release of their sixth album, "Monsters of the Universe: Come Out and Plague," the most notable difference is the band's venture into a more serious and intense metal. The introductory track, "The Fall of All," opens the album with tremolo guitars evoking gothy despair, and though this is merely a taste, Wednesday 13 take a full step into death metal territory with "Planet Eater: Interstellar 187," further utilizing stampedes of tremolo and double-bass, as well as backup death growls. The synths also make better contributions on this album, taking spotlight roles in the interstitial tracks "Bloodline 666" and "The Arrival," and adding gritty analog energy to tracks like "Planet Eater: Interstellar 187" and "Into the Crop Circle." They even add a curveball '80s flavor to "I Love Watching You Die," though that doesn't save the song from being a drag on the album.
Though the new sonic efforts can be warmly welcomed on the album, and the album's first stretch has Wednesday 13 playing to its strengths with proper variance: "Astro Psycho - Galactic Blood Drive" is the band's thrash metal effort of the album, "Come Out and Plague" is the strongest groove metal cut, and "I Ain't Got Time to Bleed" pairs their more conventional metal style with a hair-metaly chorus melody - the latter half of the album starts losing its grip of interest. Songs either meander too much with little to no progression (like "I Love Watching You Die," "Into the Crop Circle" and "Monsters of the Universe") or fall into the "been there, heard that" bin (like the wah-pedal guitar solo in "Bombs, Guns & Gods (This Is a War)" that was banked on too much in the band's third album, "Skeletons," as well as being a near-uncanny imitation of Godsmack).
Lyrics — 5
Poole has stated that "Monsters of the Universe: Come Out and Plague" is the first concept album he's written, and based on how story-rich horror-punk lyrics can be, it's quite surprising that it took ten years for the first bona fide Wednesday 13 concept album. Unfortunately, this effort doesn't succeed with flying colors. Instead of establishing a linear canon and cohesion in his lyrics, Poole seems to just hammer on subjects and tropes with repetition - from otherworldly beings coming to destroy the world in "Astro Psycho - Galactic Blood Drive," "Planet Eater: Interstellar 187" and "Monsters of the Universe," and tyrannical government screwing people over in "Keep Watching the Skies," "Serpent Society" and "Bombs, Guns & Gods (This Is a War)," to denouncing any and all hope for divine salvation in "Keep Watching the Skies," "Into the Crop Circle," and "Monsters of the Universe." These topics clutter with each other without much reason but to articulate a general message of utter hopelessness. And if you were to take a shot every time Poole mentioned total annihilation and everyone dying, you'd get alcohol poisoning before finishing the album.
With this attempt at a concept, Poole also shows to get more serious in his lyrics, which proves to be a double-edged sword. While some seriousness is needed to help structure a story concept, that's a very tough tightrope to balance with Poole's usual writing style. With the over-the-top violent and gory demeanor of horror-punk and shock-rock lyrics, they also contain a self-awareness of being a parody of itself. But when the tone of those lyrics is stone cold serious, it comes off very angsty, poorly developed, and overall ridiculous - case in point, the sadistic emo metal ballad (and canonically ambiguous) "I Love Watching You Die." At best, the horror-laden lyrics are exactly what to expect from Poole, but at worst, the lackluster outcome and impact of the concept in "Monsters of the Universe: Come Out and Plague" noticeably flounders.
Overall Impression — 6
The seed of creativity that "Monsters of the Universe: Come Out and Plague" grew from was no doubt chock full of aspirations. Seeing Wednesday 13 try out some new things here, from the new ventures towards extreme metal to attempting a concept, is admirable, and more or less necessary for a band that's been around the block more than a few times. But the end result does not reach the stars it intended to shoot for, overall landing the album in an "average-at-best" mark.