The Charm The Fury - The Sick, Dumb & Happy - (1/10)
Published on March 17, 2017
The Charm The Fury [sic.] are the latest band to be put forth by Nuclear Blast as flag-bearers of the modern metal scene. Hailing from Holland,1 the band originally hit the scene with The Social Meltdown EP back in 2012, which was quickly followed up by their debut long-player, A Shade of My Former Self in 2013. Now, the outfit are back with their second offering, in an effort (according to the album’s press release) to “resurrect … a return to thrash roots, headbanging anthems, and [the] tried-and-tested songwriting that made metal so great back in the ’80s and ’90s.” Despite my own penchant for modern metal, a return to the genre’s glory years is noble cause to be sure. However, if what’s served up on The Sick Dumb & Happy represents the pinnacle of what the genre has to offer, I’d happily never listen to heavy metal ever again.
Having gone back and listened to their previous offerings, it’s safe to say The Charm The Fury were never the most ground-breaking act out there. The Social Meltdown apes the likes of Every Time I Die and their mathcore-adjacent ilk, while their debut professes a tired mix of c-grade metalcore clichés—rife with electronic and nu-metal influences. However, it would also be unfair to say that The Charm The Fury were, in the past, particularly bad at what they were doing. The level of execution displayed on these records is beyond proficient, and the degree of variation and grasp of song writing shown on A Shade of My Former Self goes so far as to be impressive. What we have, on the other hand, with the The Sick Dumb & Happy is a record so regressive and banal so as to be completely irredeemable.
In an effort to revive the supposed heyday of the ‘90s, The Charm The Fury have turned to the decade’s biggest metal export for inspiration. We’re talking about Pantera here, in case you were wondering. That band undeniably deserve a spot among the genre’s greatest, and there are far worse ways to go about things than to imitate a great band. However, the imitation offered on The Sick Dumb & Happy manages to capitalize on absolutely none of the elements that made that band so great, to the point that the end result is not just a pale imitation, but entirely without merit.
Consider the drop in quality between the output of Pantera and that of perhaps their most successful modern imitators in Five Finger Death Punch. Now, take that watered down, shamelessly commercialized take on Pantera’s once-ground-breaking and continually confronting sound,3 and apply the same degree of detriment to this new benchmark, and you’re beginning to approach the quality displayed on The Sick Dumb & Happy. Just listen to the first thirty seconds of the record’s lead single and title track, “Down On The Ropes” (above), to see what I’m talking about—the ultra-scooped guitar tone; the two-note, bend-laden riff that goes nowhere; the strained Anselmo-esque “-oah” suffixes.
This isn’t anything a thousand bands haven’t done in the past, but the level of quality here is so sub-par that it becomes almost a parody of itself. The vocals are fucking horrible—far beyond strained and never above croaky—and the guitars never vary beyond the same three-or four recycled riffs offered on the opening tracks. If you need further (101) proof, then you can go ahead and listen to the record’s second track/single “Echoes”, which literally opens with the lyrics “Step down, show respect, for the folly of ma-ahn; some things are better left unsai-ai-aid,” and which might even be all the more offensive due to it’s clean vocal content, which, while hardly redeeming, only goes to show that there was an at least competent option on the table—an option that was seemingly consciously ignored. Oh and there’s some nu metal and an acoustic “the struggle is real by-way-of war imagery” ballad in there as well.
Perhaps the most offensive thing about The Sick Dumb & Happy is how utterly soulless and contrived it is. 2017 has already delivered one of the biggest metal stinkers in years. However, at least with Suicide Silence you could claim artistic integrity in its nonsensical experimentation. Here, there is absolutely nothing that hasn’t been bafflingly calculated to appeal to white-trash and frat-house America. Take, for instance, the fact that frontwoman Caroline Westendorp is wearing an American flag bikini in the “Down on the Ropes”—keeping in mind band are from the Netherlands, or the fact that the zaney artwork is done by a guy who actually did “key artwork” for Battlefield 1, and who was legitimately “discovered” by the band while using “an app.”
Call it lost in translation if you like, but to my ears, The Sick Dumb & Happy is as insipid and vapid a modern metal record as you could conceivable imagine. If this is what the band legitimately want to be doing with their lives then all the power to them and I wish them all the best. Yet, even that positive outlook itself begs the question: as a listener, why would you ever listen to this record when you could be listening to literally anything else? Including the new Suicide Silence record.
1 Isn’t that weird?
3 Yeah, yeah, I know, they ripped off Exhorder or whatever. Deal with it already.