Wednesday 13 – Calling All Corpses (2011)

Posted: September 23, 2011 in Music

As one of horror punk’s elder statesmen, Wednesday 13 has been keeping himself busy of late. In the last year alone, The Murderdolls – his collaboration with Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison – released Women and Children Last, and while the subsequent tour was shortened due to family issues in the band, 13 hit the studio immediately to work on his latest solo album Calling All Corpses.

In fact, even before the Murderdolls release, 13 was busy fronting two ‘lesser-known’ projects, Bourbon Crow and Gunfire 76 through 2008 and 2009, making it almost impossible for him to work on another solo album. Calling All Corpses is the first album to wear the ‘Wednesday 13’ moniker since early-2008’s Skeletons, and it’s a long-overdue return.

Side projects aside, Wednesday 13 has always been at his best as a solo artist (or with the now defunct Frankenstein Drag Queens from Planet 13), simply due to the fact that he can let his evil side really creep up to the surface. With Murderdolls, the ‘horror punk’ aspect was there, but so was the need to sell records. At times, that project tended to soften themselves up a bit for radio-play and mainstream success. But on his own, 13 really gets the chance to break free from those chains and serve up his own brand of sometimes-comical, often-vulgar, mostly-morbid punk rock.

Anyone that has the slightest clue as to who this guy is knows what they are in for, but for those of you that don’t, beware. The lyrical content of this album – like all Wednesday 13 albums – centralizes around corpses, death, zombies, murder and the occasional vampire or two. But don’t let that scare you off just yet. Most of the songs, while mildly offensive, are written very tongue-in-cheek and carry a degree of pop-punk peppiness to them. It’s like the campy horror movies we all have come to love – it delivers a certain fear from time to time, but ends up being an enjoyable experience by the time it’s all over.

Calling All Corpses starts off (un)innocently enough with a quick intro that leads in to “I Wanna Be Cremated.” The crackle of 13’s voice is as rough and scratchy as ever, and adds a toughness to the album immediately. The song is relatively uncomplicated, with a Misfits-meets-Motorhead beat and structure, and this simplicity carries over into the next track “Ghoul Of My Dreams” which is the most danceable song you’ll ever hear about dating a chick that rose from the dead. It’s fun and twisted, and shows how easily 13 can get you trapped into his web.

The guitar work was better than normal on the first two tracks, and that trend continues with “One Knife Stand.” If the radio gods were to ever allow a song about dismemberment and torture to top the charts, this would be a good candidate. Musically, it carries a ‘doo-wop’ vibe that will remind you of Grease, but once you process the lyrics you realize you are in John Travolta’s blood soaked basement with poor Olivia Newton-John chopped to pieces. Not a bad visual actually…

The title track – “Calling All Corpses” – gallops in with heavy drums and an eerie keyboard that quickly shifts into one of the faster songs on the disk. The topic this time around? The usual ‘drinking blood from corpses’ fare, only this time it’s delivered with a more ‘serious’ tone. Not that anyone really believes in vampires or anything, right?

“Miss Morgue” – winner of our ‘best track’ award – shows a ton more complexity than the previous four tracks, and has 13 stretching his range a bit vocally. The raspy high notes are balanced nicely with, well, raspy low parts. The song again focuses on being in love with a member of the undead, and has a light, comical feel to it. Making the morose sound so appealing is a magic-trick not many can pull off, and 13 is David Copperfield when it comes to selling the illusion.

As one of the more ‘punk’ heavy tunes, “Silver Bullets” is filled with guitar and bass rhythms, and a less-humorous approach. The song is still infectious, and the lyrics tell a great tale of turning into a werewolf. 13’s gravel-mixer vocals ring out “I promise not to hurt to hurt you, but baby please come prepared – with silver bullets,” adding an extra visual of horror to the track. Brilliant.

“Bad At Being Human” extends the ‘serious’ nature the disc has shifted into, and takes a bit of a break from the movie-monster, graveyard schtick, instead opting to revel about normal – albeit sinister – behaviors like punching babies and burning churches. Pretty tame by 13 standards. The bass cuts a deep groove into this one, and you’ll be reminded of Wednesday 13’s idol, Alice Cooper with the ‘rock n’ roll’ approach.

What’s been missing so far is the sleazy, glam metal song 13 usually loves to perform, and “London After Midnight” finally puts on the black mascara and lip gloss and parades around. When Wednesday gets thrashy and loose, he sounds the best, and while I can’t say this is the best song here, it definitely packs plenty of punch.

“Candle For The Devil” is as close to true ‘heavy-metal’ as I’ve ever heard from 13. I don’t think it was intentionally written to pay homage to anyone (except Satan himself), but I have a sneaking suspicion SOMEONE was listening to some Iron Maiden before penning this one. It’s a bit of a stretch – and the lower-toned backing vocals were a bit too much to take seriously.

Thankfully, the horror-punk returns with the upbeat “We All Die.” What didn’t return – and has been missing the last few tracks – was any type of joke or silliness. I’m not sure why 13 opted for so much ‘intent’ with the back half of this record, but it’s obvious. It is not making the songs necessarily ‘bad,’ but I always felt a little better about myself listening to his works knowing it was all kinda ‘fun and games.’ Even the album’s closer “Something Wicked This Comes” – as good as it is – lacks the humor that often lightens up 13’s lyrics.

Maybe we are seeing a more mature version of Wednesday. The first half of the album had enough smiles to put a little sunshine on his dark, fucked-up world, but the back half felt like something altogether different. Not bad – but detached enough that I felt compelled to point it out. I wouldn’t let it distract you from picking this album up, though. As a whole, it’s probably the most cohesive solo record he has released, and musically you can’t go wrong with most of what’s served up here.

Whether you are looking for a decent Hallowe’en party soundtrack or, like me, just enjoy this kind of stuff, you won’t be disappointed with Calling All Corpses. Let your fangs hang out and give it a howl. Vampire tested, zombie approved…

7.5/10

Tracklist:
01. Blood Fades To Black
02. I Wanna Be Cremated
03. Ghoul Of My Dreams
04. One Knife Stand
05. Calling All Corpses
06. Miss Morgue
07. Silver Bullets
08. Bad At Being Human
09. London After Midnight
10. Candle For The Devil
11. We All Die
12. Something Wicked This Way Comes
13. Blood Fades To Black (Reprise)

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