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Friday, September 02, 2011

Album Review: Hank III's Attention Deficit Domination - s/t

Hank III's Attention Deficit Domination - s/t
2011 Hank 3 Records/Megaforce Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



You have to wonder if papa Bocephus is rubbing his chin wistfully or just shaking his head at his son Hank III's doings in the music biz. Not that the two men are on reported speaking terms, but you have to think by now part of what drives Hank III as an artist is grounded in anger. A part of that anger must assuredly stem from his strained relations with his dad, while Hank III himself has a little buckeroo out there for he whom recorded Three Hanks back in 1996 just to keep up the child support.

Keeping these things in mind, plus Hank III's disgruntlement with various record labels and his ongoing rumble with the Grand Ole Opry to reinstate his grandfather into their hypocritical hall of fame, it's no wonder the Hank the Youngest has recorded some pretty damned livid material in his energetic career.

When in a settled frame of mind, Hank III is a near doppelganger vocally of his gramps. III replicates Hank Williams' high end tenor twang and in the past he's been known to play his country albums in the old school Depression-era fashion--only with more risque lyrics. There's a gift in that, considering how commercialized, conservative and un-urgent today's country music is. George Jones might've been the genre's last true rebel until Hank III came along.

Brian Setzer, Southern Culture on the Skids and Reverend Horton Heat's advent of a country, bop and swing revival later evovled what's become known as psychobilly. The Koffin Kats, REO Speedealer, Tiger Army and Nekromantix gave soundtrack to a subculture based on Bettie sculpts and whiffleheads along with wallet chains and Catholic school skirts, all brought current with tattoos and piercings. A mutated underworld based on retro and a pliable market for the broad-minded Hank III to cater to.

Not that Hank III caters to anyone. If you don't understand this guy writes his own rules musically, then you're in for a big-time wakeup when his three new albums all launch together next week: the double album Ghost to a Ghost/Guttertown (which is country for awhile but unlike any Hank III album you're accustomed to), his outlandish metal-meets-auctioneering yapping on Cattle Callin' (attributed to his 3 Bar Ranch moniker) and Attention Deficit Domination.

The latter ends up being Hank III's hillbilly ode to doom metal. Slow, grinding chords, laborious beat structures and mondo distortion, this is the disarming world of Attention Deficit Domination. As with 3 Bar Ranch, Hank III fields all of the instruments. While this plays foil against him to certain latitudes, Attention Deficit Domination is some really brutal stuff nonetheless.

Not quite as dense as Saint Vitus, Candlemass or the mighty Black Sabbath, Hank III does create an effective enough soundscape of death dirge without a heavier fill of bass. Doom metal is largely hoisted on the bass position in creating the dank plunge into Hell sensation the low end provides. While Attention Deficit Domination is guided by Hank III's guitars, bass and drums, you're getting more of a shrill cadence, particularly when Hank turns on the sequencers and voice scramblers after the album establishes itself.

"In the Camouflage" and "I Feel Sacrificed" are both creepy and subliminally cheeky. You know Hank III is taking this project rather serious since doom purists will be quick to hypothetically impale imposters. Still, his backwoods wallowing on "I Feel Sacrificed" carries a chuckle-inducement we can only hope is intentional. The fact he seems to be roasting the entire pagan ethos on this album with the artwork, which includes comical placements of goat heads and even a whopping pair of breasts attributed to a faceless mamacita, you know there's a planted kitsch at work here. Hank III wants to be accepted by the metal community, but he also seems to want to point out how silly the genre can be. Not since the Dan Aykroyd/Tom Hanks film version of Dragnet has paganism been mocked in such riotous fashion.

As with 3 Bar Ranch, Hank III makes his point on the opening numbers, then begins to pelt his listeners with oddities and nerve-scraping soundwaves that tests them almost with deliberation. To roll with Hank, you're going to have to earn it. Even with Assjack, which is a mind-blowing sojourn into cowpunk-industrial catatonia, you have to bend a little when Hank III seeks to blast out your ear canals with sublet flotsam.

"Livin' Beyond Doom" might best make Attention Deficit Domination's case, in title and of course, in its impulsive thrust to enforce submission. Most doom bands allow their haunted grooves and their thundering drop-tuned bars to impose their will upon their audience. Hank III is a little more pissed off than simply forlorn and aggrieved. Hence, he employs the Jello Biafra, Al Jourgensen and Gibby Haynes method of voice filtering to the point Attention Deficit Domination does irk at times. In other words, Hank III is none too happy to share his love, take that as you will.

Still, the deal is not to take Attention Deficit Domination too seriously at all. We should applaud Hank III for his testicular fortitude to do whatever the frick he wants as an artist, even to the point of starting his own label in alliance with Megaforce and letting the cow chips fall where they may. We should also commend Hank for knowing his subject matter intimately. The guy plays death metal and punk with the same transitional effortlessness as Corrosion of Conformity. Nobody is going to gave Toby Keith a chance in hell at peeling off tremolos with the horns sign in the air. The horns coming from Hank III, however, we buy that without hesitation. Strange cosmos...

Rating: ***

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