There are numerous things to like about AMEN cornerstone Casey Chaos, who has become something of a flawed icon on European shores. For those not so familiar with the Furby-like Californian punk rocker, everything from his astute anti-authoritarian lyrics (a la Jello Biafra) to the fact that he was prepared to max out his credit cards to fund the various sessions that make up "Death Before Musick" demonstrate the man's ethics, determination and staying power. Now you wish that he would for once add to the positives by coming up with a decent album at the end of it all.
This is the first release on Daron "System of A Down" Malakian's new EatURmusic imprint, and if Malakian truly believes, as he says, that these fifteen tracks of metal-tinged punk are the most important songs he's heard in the last ten years, you'd have to wonder what below-par curiosities we can expect from his own band in the future.
Modeling his aloof vocal sneer/pout primarily on the likes of Iggy Pop, Chaos yowls and spits his way through the whole affair with the required cockiness, but what's going on behind him just leaves you feeling unsatisfied and, well, just a bit flat.
Whilst you should be feeling like going outside and abusing a policeman after hearing the marching rhythm of opener "Liberation For…", the punch and the power just isn't there to kick-start your ire. Immediately following that, "Hello (One Chord Lovers)" attempts to rattle cages with a wacky DEAD KENNEDYS-type outburst of skewed melody, but again nothing doing in terms of you raising a defiant fist and yodeling along in appreciation.
And so it goes on. At a push, there are usually one or two standout moments to be picked out from albums far worse than this in a general musical sense, but "Death Before Musick" is just content to be so annoyingly workmanlike as it sits in its stinky old musical clothes that nothing really stands up for extra praise. You try and will "Oblivion Stereo" to explode into life following a dirty grinding intro, but it just goes on to ape Irish punk oldsters THE UNDERTONES without turning up the heat for the ears of today. "EXTERMINATE!" may announce harmful intentions in big capital letters, but it's about as fraught with danger in its mid-pace, punk-lite delivery as a newborn baby's fart. Even when Chaos boxes a bit clever with his "Bring me the head of Roman Polanski, bring me the legs of Fred Astaire" lyric on "Bring Me The Heads", any profundity in the moment is short-lived as we head back down into musical Dullsville.
Having witnessed AMEN in concert, and Chaos especially jumping off stacks and literally carving himself up, they're a far more incendiary proposition who stand up to the old "band you have to see live" edict. But in the telling mini-grooves of the compact disc, the supposedly visceral (!), unpredictable (!!) and brutal (!!!) "Death Before Musick" simply dies on its arse.