Back in the early 2000s there’s no denying that Slipknot were leading a charge for a new kind of heavy metal that took elements of the much maligned nu-metal (thankfully not so much of the white boys rapping) and added in a healthy dose of extremity to create something that made a surprisingly large impact on the mainstream that is still being felt today.
At the height of their powers a couple of members of Slipknot took the opportunity to launch side projects, most notably Corey Taylor with Stone Sour and Joey Jordison with Murderdolls.
As I write this it’s less than 24 hours since the news broke of the untimely death of Jordison, aged only 46, so it’s fair to say this is going to come from a certain angle.
I think it’s a similar angle as I’d have had writing this at anytime though as, while I’ve always appreciated Slipknot and certainly enjoy their first few albums, the band that grabbed me most of Jordison’s work was Murderdolls.
Formed by Jordison, guitarist Tripp Eisen and Frankenstein Drag Queens From The Planet 13 frontman, Wednesday 13, Murderdolls released an EP and two albums, though there was a gap of eight years between albums while 13 pursued a solo career and Jordison went back to Slipknot (and Eisen returned to Static X and spent time behind bars and emphatically wasn’t involved in the band after 2002) but here I’m looking at the first album, Beyond The Valley Of The Murderdolls.
From the opening moments of the less than subtly titled Slit My Wrist, where a piece of classical music quickly gets scratched out to replaced by spiky guitars, the scene is set for 15 tracks (and a few bonus ones on later editions) of snotty and obnoxious horror punk, featuring probably as many uses of the f-word as any album I own.
From there pretty much any taboo you can think of is broken as the band steer a course through a world of musical schlock that takes in murder, grave robbing, necrophilia and more in a way rarely seen outside a Troma movie.
Of course this is all proudly not big and not clever, and likely not for the easily offended or faint of heart, but it is, in its way, terrific fun (if you like that sort of thing), and it clearly knows what it’s doing at the same time.
While the live band was a five-piece, in the studio a majority of the music was played by Jordison with 13 providing vocals and Eisen guitar solos on some tracks and it comes out sounding like a three way pile up between The Misfits, Motley Crue and late-90s Marilyn Manson – influences the band embraced in their image and visual style too.
While most of the tracks were originally recorded by 13’s original band the reworking and rearranging done to them here adds something extra that elevates, with lead single Dead In Hollywood being a prime example of this having been previously released as the far less catchy Hooray For Horrorwood by the Frankenstein Drag Queens.
Jordison’s playing here is remarkable and, while not as technical or intense as his drum work with Slipknot, the breadth of what he does shows a far deeper level of talent across a range of instruments that he’d go to develop in later projects.
Added to that are 13’s vocals, which sound like someone’s dragging a chainsaw through his throat with every utterance, completing a package that is a combination of 50s monster movies, slashers and video nasties in musical form.
While there’s not a lot of variety in the sounds on the album (and in this case that’s a plus) a few tracks stand out, along with Dead In Hollywood, People Hate Me, Slit My Wrist and Love At First Fright are particular standouts (along with their cover of Billy Idol’s White Wedding on the later editions) but across the record there is a a feeling of the chaotic energy the band could have live, which is no mean feat for what was, at least in the recording phase, something that feels very much like a studio project.
While I’ll admit there might be an element of nostalgia that carries the record through for me now, Beyond The Valley Of The Murderdolls is a great fun, schlocky listen and acts as a great antidote to the more intense and serious music of Slipknot (I listened to both their self-titled album and Iowa on the same day as this one) and, for me at least, probably remains the highlight of Jordison’s work in terms of pure enjoyment.