'Charlatan' tries to turn the pop madness around
In a time when bands like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga are basically ruling the airwaves, rock and metal bands these days are finding it difficult to try and keep up with the dance/pop rage. Morbid Angel tried and sadly failed miserably with their latest album, and Panic at the Disco only dipped their toes in the water. However, it seems like another band has dared to take that fateful leap of merging hard rock with infectious dance pop. After a successful EP, Chicago's Victorian Halls prepare their first full length debut 'Charlatan' for release. The album merges sounds like Jane's Addictions, Fall Out Boy, and even touches of The Killers. It's slick and it's catchy when it comes to tracks like "Glass Depth Mood" with the heavy electronic beats and vocoder layered vocals, but also can tend to turn around and just tear into listeners with "Burn Me Up Like A Wax-Kissed Letter". Tracks like these start out jazzy with piano and heavy electronica effects mixed with guitar and then suddenly feature gritty bass with angry, emo-tinged screams. Unfortunately the screaming bits can be a bit difficult to get into because it sounds like an eleven year old girl having a tantrum (a lot of the singing on here sounds like it was done by a girl, but it's all done by a guy). Compared to maybe something like death metal, this isn't going to have too much of an impact of being heavy. But, it's still psychotic and draws attention, even if it isn't the most pleasant. It is mostly through this dichotomy how Victorian Halls try to forge their sound.
Fortunately, fans won't have to deal with too much screaming throughout 'Charlatan'. "Black Maria" switches between electronic and vocal duet verses with power chord choruses that tend to stick in the head while trying to follow a style similar to Nine Inch Nails' later works, but even some of those pop industrial tracks delivered an angrier approach than Victorian Halls could. They just seem on the verge of trying to become a raging machine and then take that step back and go back to being more like pop rock/punk rather than go all out. Sure it's playing the field safe, but this tactic also limits them to how much of an audience they'll impress. For those who are seeking heavy guitar tracks they might have to settle for "La Di Da", which loosens a bit of the electronic grip on the tracks and replaces it with some more rock oriented riffs in between backing beats and vocoder based vocals. Victorian Halls even try to go a bit for the psychotic with their jazz influences such as on "Lucky 16" which is just piano and vocals and sounds like a brief joke track that fuses dark humor with classical music and poetics, but it probably won't resound as well with fans because they'll be so used to the more dance oriented tunes. The following track, "Dear, This Is Desperate", does a much better job at creating an all around sound that makes Victorian Halls much more solid.
'Charlatan' is close to being somewhat revolutionary. It's dance, pop, rock, and punk all put together which doesn't always mix well, but for those who like dance and pop will most likely fun. The rock elements are there, but it's just not as solid or hard hitting as might be expecting. Fans of Iwrestledabearonce might find this fun to hear, but minus any sort of decent screaming/snarling and technical guitar parts. Fall Out Boy fans will probably use Victorian Halls to replace their retired idols, but it may be an unfortunate possible future that this band may go the same way. For now, one can easily sit back and enjoy the beats of this heavy hybrid.
(Victory Records/Riot! Entertainment)