Sunday, 10 June 2007

Mordred - Fool's Game (1989)

When Mordred burst onto the scene, via Noise Records, with their debut record 'Fool’s Game', many people in the underground scene, whether press or fans, probably expected just another Bay Area ‘thrash’ record. This wouldn’t have been a bad thing, as during the late 1980’s, the San Francisco thrash scene was blossoming. Bands from New York to L.A. such as Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, Testament and Exodus had already broken the heavy metal rules by playing a fast-paced, aggressive style of ‘metal’ that opposed all the ‘poser’ disguises, and relied on a furious, raw barrage of crunchy riffs, growled, seething vocals and vigorous drum blasts. To be a ‘thrasher’ was cool, during a time when metal was either sleazy, ‘glammy’ and leathery, or ‘devil’-induced but almost as corny as many artists waffled on about the dark side, drinking beer and girls, all the while being backed up by a plodding sound that was made world famous by artists such as Ozzy Ozbourne, Motley Crue and Kiss. Thrash was different. But so were Mordred.
The Mordred sound was fresh and exciting, despite lacking the true originality of their next effort, 1991’s In This Life. This defining quality was mostly down to the soulful, clear vocal delivery of Scott Holderby, and as time went by he would be put within a bracket of metal singers which ‘cool’ as a description, would be an understatement. Fool’s Game had the vital ingredient for the time; crunch. Riffs supplied by Danny White and Jim Taffer, skin-pounding from Gannon Hall and a grooved bass bellow from Art Liboon, and it certainly was an album of grooves despite having the usual thrash relation, which other bands such as Forbidden, Violence and Defiance took on board. And then there was the DJ! Aaron ‘Pause’ Vaughn who was to eventually become a full-time member of the band when they realised his street-wise scratchings were vital to their downtown atmospheres and industrial raps. On 'Fool’s Game' it was the cover of Rick James’ 'Super Freak' and the colourful 'Everyday’s A Holiday' that set the standard for something very different. At the time ‘funkier’ rock acts such as Fishbone and Red Hot Chili Peppers were only just beginning to get noticed, their ‘sound’ perceived as far too different to melt into the world of heavy metal, so at the time this showed an almost ignorance within the scene and the press who said that ‘crossover’ was a risky business, because at the time, ‘metallers’ didn’t want any kind of rap, funk or soulful influence, but just straight down the line head-melting metal. Mordred suggested otherwise, despite the album’s classic moments coming from the thrash groove of 'State Of Mind' and typical thrash chant of 'Shatter'.Lyrically here was a band shifting from political topics to random fun, all given that extra bite from the surging crunch sound, and Scott’s effortless, soulful croons which could at one moment become spiteful spits and the next, soothing, elasticated funky drools. 'Fool’s Game' wasn’t really a hint as to what was to come, but Mordred had obviously found their niche early simply by risking the inclusion of a DJ, and giving their thrash crunch an interesting groove. It was now a matter of time before the crunch of 'Spellbound', or the pounding of 'Reckless Abandon' would be tweaked into a cutting edge, self-styled groove way ahead of its time. But would the world be ready for Mordred ? Would metal be too restricted, too stale even for a band clearly light years ahead, yet risking being left behind due to lack of conformity ? No-one quite knew, but Fool’s Game was certainly one of the records that began a trend, that made ‘metal’ what it is today.

1 comment:

El Puli said...

I really loved this record years ago. I have to take a listen to it soon.