Few bands are as visually stunning as Finland’s own band of monsters Lordi. As spectacular as the band’s costumes are, somehow they may not even be the most exceptional or attention-grabbing thing about the band’s output anymore. In January of 2020 the increasingly more experimental Lordi released their tenth album “Killection”, which was a so-called fictional compilation album. In short the idea was to faithfully record hit songs of different eras and genres that Lordi might’ve done had they been around since the 70s. When the Corona pandemic halted the band’s tour only a couple of months later, Mr. Lordi knew he had to spend the now free time doing something other than twirling his thumbs. So began a long creative process, the results of which we now get to enjoy a year and a half later. So what could surpass a fictional compilation album? Well, a fictional discography of course!
Lordi‘s latest release “Lordiversity” presents the albums that selected songs from “Killection” are supposedly picked from. Indeed, Lordi is modestly releasing seven new full-length albums all at once. And each of these albums represents a wholly different genre no less. The genres chosen for the release are hard rock, disco, progressive rock, heavy metal, AOR, thrash metal, and industrial metal. If there’s something Lordi isn’t lacking, clearly it’s ambition.
When the band initially announced they had embarked on such a large-scale endeavor, understandably some of their listeners were a tad concerned. Could the band dedicate the time needed to perfect every new song when working on so much material? Lordi’s listeners can however breathe a sigh of relief, as despite its scale “Lordiversity” is still largely rich with ideas. Granted the band’s way of performing doesn’t suit some genres as well as others, but the reasons are rarely aimlessness or sloppy execution. Even when the band fumbles, they’re still guided by a clear vision, and all the very different albums have clearly had a lot of time and effort spent on them.
So where does one begin excavating this treasure trove of new material? Let’s start with one of “Lordiversity’s” most positive surprises, which is the 90s industrial influenced “Spooky Sextravaganza Spectacular”. “Shake the Baby Silent”, which is a song initially released on “Killection”, is a total Rob Zombie pastische, and what you’d expect from Lordi‘s other industrial songs as well. Granted these expectations are definitely met with several of the album’s songs. “Drekavac” for example is safe and familiar industrial metal in the spirit of Rob Zombie and Rammstein that has you nodding your head to its riff. The opening song “Demon Supreme” in turn borrows pretty shamelessly from Rob Zombie’s “Superbeast” for its opening riff.
Lordi however have not taken the easy road with this album, but have instead dared to venture beyond rock and metal influences to draw from genres across the whole 90s industrial scene. For example “Killusion”, which pays tribute to 90s electronic pop, would be perfectly suited for an arcade or a video game soundtrack, whereas “Terror Extra-Terrestrial”, which has an extremely catchy chorus, is dark industrial pop where Mr. Lordi surprisingly sings the verses with clean vocals. Both of these songs are some of the catchiest and best compositions on all of “Lordiversity”.
Whether it be heavy plodding White Zombie style riffs or electronic pop music, all of Lordi‘s industrial album however has an arrestingly deranged mood to it. At times instead of feelgood horror party metal the album brings to mind electronic music in the vein of Aphex Twin who shook up people with his “Come to Daddy” song and video, though not as extreme. “Spooky Sextravaganza Spectacular” sounds like the soundtrack to drug dens in a dystopian sci-fi movie, and it’s one of the most interesting albums on “Lordiversity” that every now and then pulls the rug out from under you in a positive way. Instead of slavishly and predictably paying tribute to Rob Zombie, the band have gone the extra mile to create something with a little more personality.
90s industrial is however a genre that Lordi has proudly drawn from throughout their career. That’s why them succeeding at it isn’t unexpected. Another success however is. Out of all the albums on “Lordiversity”, the best one by far is surprisingly the disco album “Superflytrap”. Earlier this year in a Kaaoszine interview Mr. Lordi claimed that the disco album is the best Lordi album ever. While I wouldn’t go quite as far in praising it, there is a kernel of truth to that statement. That is because “Superflytrap” is easily among the three best albums of Lordi’s entire career. I can’t believe it’s true, but it is.
After beginning with a delightfully funny porn parody intro, the album kicks off with a song called “Macho Freak”. And at this point, with pure disco playing with Mr. Lordi’s slimy and raspy voice on top, the surprise brings a smile to your face. Goddamn, disco Lordi actually sounds good! “Macho Freak” however isn’t among the best songs on the album, and merely prepares the listener to even accept the idea of a Lordi disco album. The band has saved the best for the songs to come. Immediately after the next song, which is the extremely catchy single “Believe Me”, “Superflytrap” becomes a cavalcade of choruses and hooky melodies with seemingly no end in sight. Lordi has pretty much loaded half of the best and catchiest melodies of their entire career into this one album. Every song is so damn catchy, they all deserve to be radio hits. There are no weak moments on the album, which makes choosing highlights difficult.
Even remixed the familiar “Killection” song “Zombimbo” is a clear reimagining of the disco rock of KISS’s “I Was Made for Lovin’ You”. Lordi however takes flirting with disco multiple times further than their idols, and its genuinely baffling just how far the band manages to recreate the 70s disco sound while still sounding good. “Bella from Hell” for example is a disco pastische with an extremely catchy chorus, whereas “City of the Broken Hearted” is keyboard-driven and fiendishly catchy yet lyrically cynical pop. And I’m not talking about pop rock here, but pure monster pop. Sure there are electric guitars and guitar solos every now and then, but that’s the case for many pop artists’s songs as well, and that doesn’t make those rock songs. With “Superflytrap” Lordi proves that if they want to, they can be just as brilliant a pop band as they are a heavy rock band.
With focus shifting from hard rock to pop, that also means other instruments than the electric guitar take responsibility in carrying melodies. This especially means keyboards and bass in the absence of traditional rock guitars. One of the best songs on the album, “Spooky Jive”, for example gets its irresistible groove namely from bassist Hiisi’s bass. “Cast Out from Heaven” in turn replaces a traditional guitar solo with a guitar-accompanied gospel choir. Hard rock hallelujah? Screw that, disco rock hallelujah! The result is one of the best songs of Lordi‘s entire career, and it just might be my favorite on the album. Another contender is the album’s closing piano ballad “Cinder Ghost Choir”, which would fit right in on a late 70s Alice Cooper album. Both songs have some of the best choruses of Lordi’s entire career, as well as inventive and interesting lyrics. Both of these songs are ones I wish would wind up in Lordi‘s live set once the band can tour again. As a matter of fact I wouldn’t complain if some day the band played all of “Superflytrap” from start to finish live.
All of “Lordiversity’s” surprises aren’t as pleasant however. If there’s a genre one would think Lordi knows like the back of their hand, it’s melodic 80s metal. Most of the band’s career has been built on the heavy metal traditions of this particular decade, and I too became aware of the superior awesomeness of 80s metal as a teen through Lordi. That’s why out of all the albums on “Lordiversity”, my expecations were the highest for “Abusement Park”. Especially since I’ve been a massive amusement park enthusiast ever since I was a kid. An amusement park themed Lordi album in the vein of 80s heavy rock like Scorpions and Quiet Riot sounded like it was tailor-made for me.
But what happened in the end? I never would’ve guessed that several of the compositions on “Abusement Park” specifically are some of the most tired Lordi I’ve heard in a long time. The basics of 80s metal should be so self-evident to Lordi at this point that they should come naturally to them. Yet the band at times can’t seem to move much at all past the starting point. It’s as if all their energy went to just learning the basics of the genre, with no time left for coming up with memorable melodies and hooks. A song as primitive as “Ghost Train” would be understandable from an inexperienced metal band working on their debut, but not from veterans with a couple of decades of recording experience.
After repeated listens I have however found myself warming up to “Abusement Park” more and more. At this point I’d dare say I actually straight up like the album. I guess I no longer evaluate it based on whether it met my expectations or not, but whether it actually works as an album period. And yes, it definitely does. Even so, with Mr. Lordi’s genre expertise and song writing talent the album should’ve by all accounts been brilliant and not just adequately good.
There are great moments on this album too however. Originally from “Killection”, the denim vest metal of “Up to No Good” still rocks, and the catchy power ballad “Carousel” just gets better with every listen. The hooky “Grrr!” also brings a smile to my face even just on the basis of it being a Star Wars themed Lordi song. The best song on the album however is “Nasty, Wild & Naughty” where cowbells and piano echo, and the mood is like straight out of an 80s Ratt or Danger Danger single. The album closer is also surprisingly Lordi‘s first Christmas song “Merry Blah Blah Blah” which is everything I could’ve ever hoped for in a Lordi Christmas song. This is a song I will be listening to every Christmas Eve from now until the day I die.
On the other 80s themed album of “Lordiversity” the band seems to be significantly more in their comfort zone at least as far as the quality of the material is concerned. Indeed the second best album on “Lordiversity” is clearly the AOR album “Humanimals”. This album is what happens when you remove the last shreds of self-control out of past melodic Lordi albums like “Get Heavy” and “Babez for Brekfast”, and the band surrenders completely to the onslaught of 80s influences. All traces of heavier modern metal are stripped away, and what is left is the cheesiest core of huge choruses and deafening keyboard melodies on top of hair metal riffs. Now more than ever Lordi sounds like they belong in the same club as bands like Reckless Love and Crazy Lixx, except even more over-the-top and with even better songs. “Supernatural” for example would fit right in on a Reckless Love album if you just changed singers. The arrangements or sound you might not even have to touch at all.
The most eighties of eighties songs on the album is probably “Heart of a Lion”, which is one of the clear highlights of the album. Imagine what it would sound like if Lordi started writing a theme for Back to the Future with “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis & The News as the blueprint. That should give you a pretty good idea of what “Heart of a Lion” sounds like. It’s like all 80s cliches crammed into one single song and would fit like a charm at the end of an 80s teen movie. The gang high-fives each other, they jump up, freeze frame and “Heart of a Lion” plays. Roll credits.
Another highlight of “Humanimals” is the party song “Rucking Up the Party” whose slightly off-key sounding keyboard sound creates a brilliant contrast with its traditional melodic hair metal riffs. The pop metal single “Borderline” in turn is easily one of Lordi‘s all-time greatest songs. The highlight of both “Humanimals” and all of “Lordiversity” however is the unreal-levels of catchy that is “Be My Maniac”. At this stage in his career Mr. Lordi has managed to write a song that puts classics like “Hard Rock Hallelujah” and “Would You Love a Monsterman” to shame. The song is not just the best song by far on “Lordiversity”, but one of the best songs of Lordi‘s entire career. It’s close to being Lordi’s best song ever. Not quite, but almost. If there’s any song that should become a permanent part of Lordi’s setlist, it’s this. I know I’d be jumping to that chorus like a drunk teenager at his first house party.
On the other end of the “Lordiversity” spectrum is the thrash metal album “Abracadaver”, which is less to my tastes. Credit where credit is due though, Lordi has to be commended for what chameleons they have proven themselves to be. Without Mr. Lordi’s vocals you could easily mistake “Abracadaver” for a lost Testament or Anthrax album. So well have Lordi managed to replicate that thrash sound as both players and song writers. Even in one of the more melodic songs “Raging at Tomorrow” the melodies have been streamlined to fit the genre without the band’s typical hair metal melodies ever bleeding through. There are barely any keyboards on the album either, or then they’re very well hidden in the mix.
I could easily imagine “Abracadaver” sounding damn good even to metalheads for whom Lordi’s typical output is too pop or playful. I’ve certainly heard weaker recordings from actual full-time thrash bands. Though I must also add that I’ve also heard much better. Even though Lordi has now proved they can make completely belivable thrash metal, they can’t yet write a new genre classic to go alongside the works of giants like Slayer and Metallica. In the field of melodic pop metal however they are far superior to even their best competitors. Lordi is far too good of a melodic hard rock band to settle for being just one adequate thrash band in a sea of others.
An album that is more pleasing to my ears but where Lordi clearly stumbles more is “Skelectric Dinosaur” – a record that draws from 70s rock and roll. This album reveals both Mr. Lordi’s strengths and weaknesses as a songwriter. The choruses are definitely catchy, but the riffs don’t have the right swing, nor do the band have the soulfulness required for this kind of classic rock. Lordi works best when performing either poppy and melodic music or straightforward muscle rock. The mellow in-between clearly isn’t their ballpark.
It’s therefor not surprising that the album’s second half is clearly better than the first, because that’s where the songs that play to the band’s strengths are. “Carnivore” and “Blow My Fuse”, which were released on different editions of “Killection”, are high-energy, riff-driven heavy rock in the vein of classic KISS, whereas the melodic “Phantom Lady” mirrors more melodic early KISS like “Anything for My Baby”. The best song on the album might be “The Tragedy of Annie Mae”, which with different arrangements would fit right in on a regular Lordi album. Some of the riffs in the song have a bit of the same Thin Lizzy touch that for example Iron Maiden’s riffs had especially on their first albums.
Then finally we have Lordi’s concept album “The Masterbeast from the Moon”. Laced with orchestral arrangements, this album is titled progressive rock, but to my ears sounds at times more like a bad community college theater musical. When in the closing track of “Superflytrap” piano accompaniment sounded really good, on the song “Hurricane of the Slain” on this album it sounds helplessly embarrassing as Mr. Lordi growls over a lone piano. The contrast is even more amusing with the song’s chorus, which is actually really epic and stupendous. The two legitimately good songs on the album are “Spear of the Romans” and “Bells of the Netherworld” in which Lordi manages to conjure up an appropriately epic and dreamlike atmosphere with great choruses and melodies. It’s a shame this doesn’t happen with the other songs. For example, I have nothing to say about the 12-minute juggernaut that is “Church of Succubus” than that it’s the longest song of Lordi’s career. There’s not much else to tell.
In a concept album the music should support the storytelling and suck the listener into the world of the lyrics, but Lordi can’t seem to bridge the gap between the emotional charge of their music and lyrics. “The Masterbeast from the Moon” is therefor not only the weakest album on “Lordiversity” by far, but the first legitimately mediocre piece of work in Lordi’s entire catalogue. This time the train has gone way off the rails. I’m glad if Mr. Lordi and the band had fun on that little detour, but that same experience doesn’t come across to me at least as a listener. At least there are no bad or outright annoying songs on the album, and it’s not as cringy as, say, Dream Theater’s “The Astonishing” from a few years back. It’s passable as background music, and it is kind of interesting in a perverse sort of way to hear Lordi try out this kind of Styx style soft rock.
All in all, “Lordiversity” is a very interesting package full of surprises. With such a wide array of genres it’s not surprising that there are some inconsistencies. What is most surprising about the whole package in the end is which albums have the biggest successes and which have failures. I would’ve never believed the 80s metal album isn’t among the best albums but the disco album is. Interesting times we’re living in. All in all though Lordi does pull off more than they don’t. Two of the albums are brilliant and some of the best work of Lordi’s entire career. One of the albums in turn is very good and enjoyable. Three of the albums despite their flaws are successful wholes with some really great songs on them. In the end only one of the albums is a misstep that as far as I’m concerned could’ve stayed unmade. Even though every genre experimentation is not at all suited for Lordi, the band does succeed in expanding their sound a lot futher than probably even their biggest fans could’ve predicted just a few years ago. After a project like this I can only imagine where Mr. Lordi will guide his gang of monsters next.
Skelectric Dinosaur (7+/10)
The Masterbeast from the Moon (6+/10)
Abusement Park (8-/10)
Spooky Sextravaganza Spectacular (8+/10)