The Agit Reader

The Novelty of Metal

June 29th, 2017  |  by Brian O'Neill

Okilly Dokilly

Some metalheads take this shit way too seriously. They look at novelty metal bands and scoff at the concept forgetting that the almighty Venom used Satan as shtick, that many a confused metal fan thought that Spinal Tap was a real band because the riff to “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight” was so sweet, and that Steel Panther is really no more ridiculous than the ‘80s hair metal they obviously really love.

Okilly Dokilly and Beatallica
Kung Fu Necktie, Philadelphia, June 1

The nice thing about mashing up two bands as disparate as Metallica and the Beatles is that it absolves Beatallica the responsibility of looking like either of them. The singer did slightly resemble an older John Lennon if you squinted through a highball glass—or maybe emptied a few. The guitarist looked more like Ronnie Van Zant while the rhythm section were just amiable heshers.

As obvious as the riffs were, listen closely and see how the bassist plays a Cliff Burton wah-wah pedal during “She’s So Heavy” while wearing a Cthulhu mask. Check out how the band already incorporates Hardwired… To Self-Destruct into the set by combining “Here Comes Revenge” with “Here Comes the Sun.” And you don’t need subtlety when you can pull out “For Whom Michelle Tolls,” the novelty metal equivalent of a circus clown getting a pie in the face. There’s definitely talent here.

“While My Guitar Deathly Creeps” was introduced as a song they only play live because someone won’t let them record it, which makes you wonder which lawyers killed the party. Though getting cease and desist letters from bands that sold a combined 360 million records is quite the accomplishment.

The only thing concerning Okilly Dokilly (pictured top) that needed to cease and desist was the 360 million times someone not into metal posted links to the band on the Facebook pages of their metalhead friends and children a few months back.

That’s all it seemed like it would be, an internet meme to get metal fans to shrug at viral videos before Chris Hardwick made fun of it on @midnight. How could a metal band all dressed like Homer Simpson’s God-fearing neighbor exist past a bemused Twitterverse (and not there for very long at that)? I mean, the “Chocolate Rain” kid didn’t tour, I don’t think.

Yet Okilly Dokilly played to an enthusiastic audience of freaks and geeks in just one stop of many on a national tour. The bespectacled singer called them “neighborinos” between songs that were performed by a band who matched him in fury and khaki, sweat and sweaters, muscle and moustaches.

The show didn’t have a typical metal club crowd. Instead, it was mostly made up of college-aged males who enthusiastically – sometimes a little too enthusiastically – screamed things at the band such as “Flanders, you suck,” and “Everyone hates you,” culled from the cartoon. One chap with flippy hair and suspenders started an uproarious solo mosh pit that got so out of hand other attendees had to get him to slow his roll.

You could picture the rebuked hipster glumly considering the evening’s events after the show. “No one understands how metal I am,” the man complained after attending an Okilly Dokilly show.

In a genre overflowing with Black Sabbath bluegrass, string quartets taking on Tool, all-metal Bee Gees cover bands, and AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” performed by a bagpipe ensemble, it’s a little refreshing to hear a set of mostly original tunes. Close your eyes and it’s not half bad. Double-bass fills punctuate moshable riffs while Red Ned drizzles spazzy, squeally synth over the top. No worse than any of the bands you might have seen on the Ozzfest Volcom side stage. “Donut Hell” even sounded a little like Prong, which is never a bad thing.

That said, the best moment was when they turned “Yellow Submarine” into “Yellow Family” in honor of The Simpsons’ infamously jaundiced appearance while Beatallica joined in – not to play with them but just drink onstage. Which is really the best thing to do at a novelty metal show because the more you drink, the better they sound.

Spinal Tap famously said there’s a fine line between clever and stupid. This may be true, but Okilly Dokilly doesn’t care. They’re too busy having a good time, all the time.

Alestorm, No Grave But the SeaAlestorm
No Grave But the Sea

Pirate metal is a thing. And some metalheads have a problem with that, but not for the reason you think. Yes, some critics of Alestorm just think that jokes aren’t metal, but an overwhelming number of erudite headbangers are complaining that the original pirate metal band has been overlooked and they are (wait for it) pirating the originators.

Running Wild, who took its name from a Judas Priest song, released a couple of poorly produced but otherwise solid albums on the hallowed Noise Records label that were indicative of the mid-80s underground scene. Then in 1987, Under Jolly Roger saw the German band adopting pirate themes in their lyrics and album cover art, plus they traded in their chains and leather for breeches and waistcoats. Pirate metal was born!

There have been other bands to proudly wear the label such as Australia’s Lagerstein, Iron SeaWolf from England, and most notably, New Jersey’s Swashbuckle, who released a couple of albums on Nuclear Blast. There was even a “Piratefest” tour, a landlubber Lollapalooza that hit three continents a few years back. But Alestorm is the best known pirate metal band, old salts with half a dozen albums to its credit, seadogs who are constantly at sea – um, on tour – usually paired with folk metal package tours with names such as “Heathenfest” and “Paganfest,” though this summer the Scots will be plundering the United States on the 2017 Warped Tour! Shiver me timbers!

To some being on the punkette junket further delegitimizes the band because it is obvious that Alestorm’s gimmick is the selling point, but No Grave But the Sea (Napalm Records) is a fantastic album that combines power metal at its most anthemic with the instrumentation of folk metal. It’s over the top, unabashedly cheeky, and highly uplifting. Every song on the album makes you want to sway a tankard of mead rhythmically like you’re at a nautical renaissance faire.

It’s unlikely that the Mexican tourism board will use “Mexico” in a commercial; even though Alestorm clearly love to go “far to the south where the cactus grow,” its main attraction is “tequila and a donkey show.” The song’s attraction is the riff, doubled with accordion fills, and a disco-level catchy chorus (not atypical for a band that covered The Village People before). “To the End of the World” has epic brass and a hearty chug, as if Ennio Morricone covered Iron Maiden; “Alestorm” could be typical mook metal, but can’t be with such a catchy chorus describing all that a pirate needs (rum, beer, quests, and mead, if you really had to ask) and so much squeezebox, daddy never sleeps at night.

“Fucked with an Anchor” rhymes anchor and wanker (well, they are Scottish) and “Rage of the Pentahook” is classic thrash with the accent on the downbeat to give it a jaunty, Caribbean feel. Album closer “Treasure Island” is the theme song to the best theme park you would ever want to visit. Pirate treasure is usually gold doubloons, but if at the end of a long voyage you opened up the treasure chest you just appropriated and all it contained was a copy of No Grave But the Sea, that would make a pretty good consolation prize.

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