ALBUM REVIEW: ChuggaBoom – ‘Death Pledge’

A couple standing in front of a burning house

Ready to laugh? Well, maybe listen to something else, because you won’t be doing much of that here.

It’s really only presumption that ChuggaBoom are supposed to be a comedy band anyway. They certainly carry themselves like one, with the masks and coordinated look, and songs that either fit among one-note braggadocio or addressing mundanities that a ‘normal’ metal band wouldn’t even bother with. But in either case, there’s no joke there. If it’s supposed to be funny, the humour is barely there outside of ‘things metal bands don’t tend to sing about’; if it’s all straight, then it’s a wonder they’ve lasted as long as they have.

It’s not like metal couldn’t or shouldn’t be ridiculous or over-the-top either, especially given how much of its earliest incarnations have founded the basis for power-metal or other adjacent subgenres willing to embrace that more. But there also needs to be a knowledge present of how that can work, and in ChuggaBoom’s hammering together of bog-standard metalcore with nothing-standard lyrics, that’s simply not there. There’s broad relatability to a number of these scenarios, but they aren’t funny outside of maybe a half-second chuckle at the overall concept. When ChuggaBoom will address endlessly scrolling through streaming services on Simpler Times, or getting cut off by reckless drivers on The Game We Play, or even the temptation when walking past KFC while trying to go vegan, they’re everyday situations, but are they really worth writing entire songs about?

Of course, there’s also the angle in which ChuggaBoom frame it all from, in a usual self-serious metalcore manner that can catch you off guard somewhat when it swerves to make its true intentions known. That’s undoubtedly the best thing about Death Pledge, and something that many similar bands wouldn’t put the time in to get right. ChuggaBoom do feel as though they’re trying to do something worthwhile on this album, and that’s commendable when it’s approached with the usual budget and means that one would expect from something much more straight-laced in this vein. (Side note: Kellin Quinn shows up on here, which should tell you enough about where Sleeping With Sirens are right now after their new album.)

But even then, is it worth it when there’s so little of note to this album? Maybe it’s not as drowned by its production as a lot of metalcore in the same vein is, but its creative impulses aren’t that far removed. It’s supposed to sound big and imposing and epic, as well heavy in its low end, but ChuggaBoom achieve none of those things when their music is as pedestrian as their writing. Again, it feels built to facilitate the gulf created by the lyrics; that’s what ChuggaBoom’s entire existence revolves around, not any need to show off new ideas or, y’know, do anything a reputable band would to stand out.

Instead, Death Pledge has little of worth to feel distinct. The binary chugs and generally passé attempts at foreboding atmosphere are present as expected, as are the touches of synth and samples that are just as much a part of the norm now. Even in the vocals, you’re pairing passable screams with a clean register lacking so much weight and stable presence, arguably having more in common with the most sterile waves of British post-hardcore throughout the 2010s. As such, ChuggaBoom are rarely even that compelling to listen to, let alone pay attention to, sonically producing even less to talk about overall. They quite clearly believe themselves to be more interesting than they actually are; in reality, they’re a band stringing out the most threadbare and undeveloped of ideas of something that, naturally, can’t support their intentions.

And at the end of the day, that’s where ChuggaBoom’s downfall is rooted. At least with other comedy-metal bands like Nekrogoblikon or Okilly Dokilly, they have a regular theme they’ll abide by; they aren’t good either, but at least it’s the most basic form of stabilisation for them. With ChuggaBoom, they’re scrambling around to find whatever can pass off as being ‘funny’, like a bad comedian with the germ of an idea in their head that’ll probably connect, but just ends up rambling on about the most uninteresting thing that no one cares about. Maybe that’s a controversial take—apparently more people like these bands than you’d probably want or expect—but it’s the only one that feels right in this case. When ChuggaBoom are routinely tripping over their own inch-high barrier to entry, how could it not be?

For fans of: Nekrogoblikon, Attila, late-season Family Guy

‘Death Pledge’ by ChuggaBoom is released on 4th November on Dead Serious Records.

Words by Luke Nuttall

2 thoughts

  1. Well, it looks like someone had a funnectomy. Comedy metal must first and foremost be funny, and that means singing about normal stuff to an abnormal style, it works all the time with punk.
    Also, you need to make the music “safe”. That means play tunes in a generic way that will instantly click. The gag is more important than the music and you need the listener to know exactly where you’re coming from sonically. Look at Alestorm, Psychostick, lawnmower Deth, Raised By Owls, Party Cannon, etc. All are bog standard in their fields but for the lyrics.
    It’s music, not a penis. You don’t have to take it so hard.

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