Lordi: ‘Screem Writers Guild’
SCREEM WRITERS GUILD
Released on March 31, 2023 (Atomic Fire Records)
Sometimes it just amazes me the amount of quality artistry there is out in the wild in this f’ed up world we reside in. Case in point is the latest release from Lordi, entitled Screem Writers Guild, a band familiar to some, not so much to others and maybe a little slept on because of their imagery. I love it and if you acquaint yourself with the band’s lore, you will fall harder and faster. They are so very creative. Lordi is no new band by any stretch and they have been kicking around (kicking a$$e$) and creating their formidable brand of shock rock for a long long while. Twenty one years ago in fact was the band’s first “official” release, even though Mr. Lordi has been creating for what seems like forever. 1992 it seems is as good as any for an inception date.
As you begin to immerse yourself in the new album Screem Writers Guild, you’ll be kicking yourself a bit, and racing faster than the Quick Rabbit to build up that back catalog, all the while wondering why isn’t this (or hasn’t this) band been showered with accolade after accolade for years and years? Why haven’t they been tattooed into the frontal cortex of every music fan? Maybe it’s just us fickle Americans that have missed the calling of many bands such as Lordi. Based on Lordi’s achievement of winning the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest, with their song “Hard Rock Hallelujah” off the band’s third long play The Arockalypse and their catalog of 13 albums, the 12th Lordiversity, consisting of seven long plays itself (staggering) would seem to say our metal brethren over the pond are superior in their fandom of quality hard rock/heavy metal or at a minimum, they have their finger on the pulse.
As we move into the meat and potatoes of Screem Writers Guild, a tasty play on words for the “Screen Writers Guild”, one sees the wit, wisdom and theatrics that are the cornerstone of all things the band produces. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the completeness of this latest release of which Mr. Lordi proclaims that it isn’t a concept album. However, the movie monster “theme” is consistent throughout and pairs quite well with Lordi’s personas. As I deliberate the band and their new release and ruminate on older albums, the silver screen of universal monster movies fits quite nicely and should with others who enjoy thematic horror rock music.
The record opens with an absolute literal monster of a song in “Dead Again Jayne”, a song which begins with what can only be described as an homage to Danny Elfman and all his magically wonderful musical scores he’s written and produced. Lordi encants Danny’s flair for the whimsical with an ethereal, cinematic, carnival-esque orchestral piece quite suited for say Beetlejuice or any late late night retro drive-in monster movie program. Quite gruesomely creative and oh so catchy. The solo, oh my. Recent addition Kone certainly knows his way around a fret-board and all though Amen was certainly no slash, Kone brings a breath of newness and swagger. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the gang vocals, screams and ridiculously infectious chorus. “Dead Again Jayne” will be tough to top… “SCG XVIII Nosferuiz Horror Show” is an album introduction, which is curious since it is placed after the first song, but the gist is a Svengali like character (it appears Lordi uses a Dracula-esque character named Nosferuiz as the template for this character) discussing the upcoming record.
“Unliving Picture Show” is a keyboard driven arena rocker with a very infectious chorus, again lyrically crafted around horror fueled content and specifically the Universal Monsters of the Golden Age of cinema and having your gal be scared into jumping into your protective arms. With another ripper of a solo, the song is quite centered around a quirky, catchy keyboard riff akin to many period specific new wave numbers and reminds me of the talent show number in Revenge of the Nerds. “Inhumanoid” keeps the tempo with another riff-centric, yet keyboard layered rocker. Once again littered with monster fueled lyrical content, but with a curious twist, one that has the monster protagonist trying to acclimate to these new technologically enhanced times of which he is not familiar with. The musicianship continues to be staggering, and will have many musicians wondering why they bother. The liberal use of cowbell is a nicety that would please the “Bruce Dickinson”. The main riff is reminiscent of something played by Loudness guitar virtuoso, Akira Takasaki, and the pre-solo breakdown is well placed and hits nicely..
“Thing In The Cage” treats the listener to an intriguing aboriginal influences guttural vocal harmonizing where Mr. Lordi (and others?) create an atmosphere that sets up this freak show themed number sung from the perspective of the geek. One can assume the film Nightmare Alley may have inspired this rock in roll song. “Vampyro Fang Club” is another keyboard layered rock n’ roll number, heavily ’80s inspired and quite obviously vampire influenced in its content. Another solid addition into what is shaping up to be a great record. “The Bride” is next and it is an absolute cigarette lighter love song, equipped with slide (or maybe pedal guitar) and swelling keys, sung with incredible emotions and of course not reminiscent of a humorous punchline akin to the mantra of “if I can’t have you no one will”. The whole number screams ’70s radio rock and the effects on the guitar during the solo harken back to those placed on the epic ’50s Santo and Johnny song “Sleepwalk”. Well played Lordi and quite easily an album favorite.
As an interlude, let’s take a brief intermission to touch on the powerful performance Mr. Lordi, Kone, Hiisi, Hella and Mana have generated here. There is not one instance of a missed opportunity for a fill, trill, lick or harmony. The skill set of these musicians is a master class in how to generate infectious, thought provoking radio friendly rock n roll music. Sure, the band has a large stigma, but that only accentuates the obvious. And Mr. Lordi’s production is on the same level of say Butch Walker or Rick Rubin, another master class in what to do and how to do it. Moving on!
“Lucyfer Prime Evil” begins with a theatrical piece littered with demonic warbling’s and keyboards setting up the soaring guitar that slams you out of your revelry. “LPE” is a rocker telling a tale similar to the Exorcist. I know I have been fanboying over Kone’s guitar playing and “LPE” solo and outro bridge are nothing but stunning. The production is ridiculous. “Scarecrow” is simply another rock song, very ’80s, replicent with “Ooh oohs’” and a very nice chorus and call back harmonizing vocals. This number could have easily been performed by say Hall & Oates. “Lycontropical Island” quite simply is a werewolf arena rock song with an incredibly infectious chorus and a similar strong writing value stemming from the ’70s-’80s hard rock school of thought. And again the solo, good grief, this time as epic as anything Vai did for Wyld Stallions. The outro is a nice touch as well.
“In The Castle of Dracoolove” maintains that guitar and keyboard driven mid ’80s radio friendly hard rock template that has been a very common theme throughout Screem Writers Guild. “Dracoolove” is layered with harmonies and guitar and keyboard fills and the tastefully styled solo just caps off another well played, written, produced song. “The SCG Awards” is just that, a highly comedic skit parodying many blockbuster films and the award shows that fawn over these celebrities. The skit is overflowing with film, actor, director, writer nods, comedic of course, and adds a nice break to the record, while still showcasing Mr. Lordi’s creativity all the while maintaining the Screem Writers Guild‘s thematic elements. “Heavengeance” rolls right back into where we left off, another guitar and keyboard rock song, with soaring leads and catchy vocal harmonies all wrapped up in a tidy horror fueled package that asks the question “What if all the years of praise and worship of an almighty sentient being?” Maybe that individual isn’t forgiving like we are all programmed to think and maybe, just maybe “vengeance” is the flavor of the week?
“End Credits” is brilliant. Yep, I said it, and yep the song is aptly titled as it rounds out this very strong rock record. “End Credits” is the culmination of Mr. Lordi’s life works. A baring of his soul, showcasing his memories of growing up, what he saw, endured and the “man” he eventually became. The song, as I mentioned, is an absolute homage to theatrical rock n roll numbers, sparking an immediate comparison to Guns N’ Roses‘ “November Rain” and Elton John’s “Daniel” to name a few powerful and influential heart string plucking songs that “End Credits” will saddle right up with. The last two verses alone are worthy of your price of admission, and are quite simply stunning, as Mr. Lordi sings about how KISS and horror movies influenced the ‘monster he became’ and how he is grateful for his upbringing, the childhood memories, his career and the people he has met. How when the final curtain eventually closes (as it does for everyone), he, courtesy of his persona and the musical legacy he created, ‘will be right here waiting for you’. Wow. Simply wow. I can’t listen to “End Credits” enough.
Now I know Screem Writers Guild resonated with me and my praise is painfully obvious. The horror theme is a trope I love and Lordi delivers it in spades on this iconic rock n’ roll record, but even though the record in its entirety is fabulous, “End Credits” is a gut punch. Sure, a beautiful, toe tapping, sing along, nostalgic trip down memory lane for many listeners, but with that insightful spin at the end. Well done Sir Lordi and thank you and your cast, your menagerie of merry menaces, for a record that will quite easily slip into my top 10, hell top five more likely for 2023. I know you have been kicking around for a long long while, creating some memorable music, but for some reason Screem Writers Guild (for me anyway) has captured everything that has made Lordi notable to date, capturing that lightning in a bottle and summarizing it in these 13 songs.
01. Dead Again Jayne
02. SCG XVIII: Nosferuiz Horror Show
03. Unliving Picture Show
05. Thing In The Cage
06. Vampyro Fang Club
07. The Bride
08. Lucyfer Prime Evil
10. Lycantropical Island
11. In The Castle Of Dracoolove
12. The SCG Awards
14. End Credits
Mr. Lordi – vocals
Kone – guitars
Hiisi – bass
Hella – keyboards
Mana – drums
Mixed by Ilkka Herkman
Mastered by Pauli Saastamoinen
Reviewed by Terry Martinson for Sleaze Roxx, April 2023
Lordi‘s “Dead Again Jayne” video:
Lordi‘s “Lucyfer Prime Evil” lyric video: