Album Review: LOST SOCIETY Braindead
To these ears, and maybe to yours as well, when Finland’s Lost Society drunkenly stumbled their way onto the international scene with 2013's Fast Loud Death, the Jyväskyla-based youngsters exhaled a breath of fresh, if not heavily Lakka-scented, air into a thrash scene that was finding itself the victim of declining popularity. The bands doing the thrash thing the second time around weren’t really all that different than those from the first time around, and aside from the improvements in terms of production and gear, very few were approximating the standard of quality of the 80s and early 90s. Lost Society combined bonhomie, conflagrant energy and balls-just-dropped swagger with their prodigious talent. The result was two albums that brimmed with sly and shuffling riffs played at elevated tempos, gang vocals that teetered on the edge of drunken brawls and fiery solos that twisted fingers, blew minds and managed to inject a violent playfulness into what others were making out to be pale reruns of days past.
Along comes album number three and, well, the Lost Society we knew, loved and described above has almost vanished into the ether. Seriously kids – and I say kids because the oldest member was born in 1993 – what the hell happened?! The first two things that’ll jump out at anyone who’s remotely familiar with Fast Loud Death or its follow-up, Terror Hungry, is firstly, their easing up on the speed factor, and secondly, the surprising and disheartening way the overall energy tank has been drained. Braindead kicks off with the plodding chug of “I Am the Antidote”s rote power chord sequence and is lacking in all of the elements the band built its reputation on: speed, intensity, combustibly exciting riffing and an engaging shimmy. All of it. Gone. Like the bladder control of a taser victim. Like decorum at a political debate. Like the income of weed dealers in Colorado, Oregon and Washington.
Unfortunately, the song sounds like a tired facsimile of past glories (and by “past” we’re dismayed to report we’re referring to a mere two to three years ago) that doesn’t bolt out of the starting block so much as it uses gravity and body weight to push its wheezing, gelatinous self out of a rocking chair. “Riot” continues along the same slovenly, non-riotous path sounding like a big, dumb, second-rate Pantera serving as background music to a dude in a 4XL Machine Head shirt caressing his Schlitz while the Steelers take on the Raiders on the idiot box down at the local dive bar. There are brief flourishes of the high energy scamps who delivered an adrenaline-coursing beating with “Game Over” on Terror Hungry and “Bitch, Out My Way” from Fast Loud Death, but they mostly come in the widdly, yet still highly entertaining solo trade offs. The fact of the matter, however, is that those leads are being showcased over a series of tepid riffs that appear lost and lazy.
What’s probably most discouraging is that the band demonstrate that they do still have that swing, teasing listeners with “Mad Torture,” “Rage Me Up” and “Hangover Activator.” But even in those cases, only halves of songs bring the hustle with any amount of muscle as too much of them are not only being performed with a lack of intensity, but appear to be inexplicably dumbed down. Strangely, as I was listening and lamenting, thinking about Braindead being Lost Society’s equivalent to Metallica’s Black Album and Megadeth’s Cryptic Writings (not in terms of impact or sales potential, obviously, but more about the dearth of old-school energy and power), it struck me that, at the time, those bands had already broken barriers pertaining to popularity and self-sufficiency as they stood atop the scene they once called home.
Lost Society probably do very well on some tour stops, not so well in others, and just well enough in others. They definitely aren’t anywhere in the realms of where those bands were at in terms of cultural significance, despite the top notch material of their first two albums, and making drastic changes in their approach at this point of the game seems misguided, especially when the result is as boilerplate as Braindead. Then again, maybe it’s the young quartet spreading their wings, doing what they want, progressing the way they feel they should be and who the fuck are any of us to demand the change in the directions we think logical? Hell, Megadeth survived the small scale shit show that was So Far, So Good, So What… to write the million times better Rust in Peace. That’s the funny thing about progression and making changes; you can feel free to go off in whatever direction and experiment all you want, but there’s no guarantee that when you deviate away from your proven strengths, the result is going to be a positive one. Here’s a glowing case in point.