MAD LAUGHTER – The Shined
There is very real talent in this band, from the searing lead guitar of Matt Gyarmaty to the slick, fast fills of drummer Tony Brandt to the very solid and effective bass performance of Lee Groth. The band is tight, with every musician showing off his performing prowess. If only that talent extended beyond the performance and into the songwriting. On Mad Laughter’s newest disc, The Shined, the performances, as capable as they are, are often overshadowed by poor song construction, hollow production and marginal vocal performances.
Thankfully, unlike so many in the metal vein, Mad Laughter avoids taking themselves too seriously and their humor is very welcome. From old TV show samples to fingertapping insanity with the classic Will Farrell cowbell rant from SNL, this band shows how much fun they have playing together. That is by far the most endearing aspect of this band.
However, Gyarmaty’s classic speed-metal solos come in a close second. With the tone and speed of King Diamond’s Andy LaRocque, Gyarmaty is both talented and funny. His blazing lead lines are stunningly executed and fucking hilarious all at the same time. When fingers move that fast while sounding like they were recorded a couple of decades ago by Steve Vai’s little brother, you have to be both a little impressed and a little embarrassed at the same time. His sound is not new or groundbreaking, but it does simultaneously reveal an aptitude for speed and a sense of humor.
But while the members of this band obviously know their instruments, the songs are virtually all written with a sophomoric vocal presence and weak riffs. From the opening line of the first track, “Hush Money,” with harmonic hits filling in the riff and shot-gun samples, the album continues to pummel your ears with extraordinarily unimaginative progressions. The band is better when they get faster in songs like “A Little Rough” and “Master of Deception,” though the two songs both revolve around virtually the same riff. But with song titles like “S.O.S. (same old shit)” and “Alien Sex Crimes,” the playfulness that gives this band their personality is more apparent.
But as entertaining as the band is, as good as their performances and as amusing as they are, the lack of quality songs just makes it a chore to listen to a second time. And the cover art, from the vampire pictures to an inset of fuzzy photos, again places this album a step behind the masses. However, if you are a guitar fiend, if you love the speed of 80’s hair metal and don’t mind bad vocals, poor lyrics, mundane production and riffs you’ve heard a thousand times before, the scorching solos may be worth the hassle of choking down the whole album. It isn’t a bad album. But it is a lot of the “same old shit.” How’s that for a self-fulfilling prophecy?