It’s been 17 years since Lordi won Eurovision, and they’ve still yet to do anything even close to being that impactful. It’s the eternal crutch of being a rock band whose launchpad came from a talent show circuit, where that association will follow them around like a bad smell for the rest of time, regardless of what they do afterwards. That’s likely what we’ve got to look forward to with Måneskin going forward (oh, joy…), but at least that’s still relatively fresh for them; Lordi, meanwhile, have been churning out music at alarming volumes ever since with basically none of it sticking. Sure, that’s par for the course for a gimmick band (and the ‘novelty’ of metal played by people in monster costumes is supposed to sell itself), but it’s the broken sluice that this output has been rocketing out of where things begin to get alarming. Since the Eurovision win in 2006, they’ve released 14 full albums. Seven of them came out just last year. None of them have left a mark in the slightest.
So while, to some extent, it might seem functionally pointless giving Lordi any more of a spotlight, Screem Writers Guild at least feels worth it at a glance, if only because it’s the sort of softball that even they would struggle to miss. After all, framing your album around schlocky, Hammer Horror-esque movie concepts feels like what this band was built for. With the cheapjack horror aesthetic that’s already crammed into Lordi’s makeup, why not just cut out the thematic middleman for something as easy to work around as this? Surely that’s something they can get right, right? Well…
Look, this is a lot better than Lordi albums tend to be. But that isn’t a very high bar to clear, nor does Screem Writers Guild manage to avoid the band’s considerable shortcomings to get there. More often than not, its ‘successes’ are more a result of Lordi being able to assimilate with the horror aesthetic that matches their own—that’s it. And sure, there’s the mask of trying harder that comes with that, but it’s hard to tell whether that’s deliberate or a happy accident. Now that they’re considerably lodged in the aphotic zone of their catalogue, the need for Lordi to ramp up the effort is basically nonexistent, and that can hang heavy over an album like this, even when it’s far from the worst thing ever.
Because, as is the case with plenty other bands like this, showmanship ultimately takes priority. In Lordi’s case, that comes from bombastic, frequently cheesy moments designed to ape the feel of their source material. The cheapness ultimately feels part of the point, and if you try and argue that Vampyro Fang Club or Scarecrow actually sound expensive or opulent, you might just need to relearn everything about money because you couldn’t be more wrong. You can also say it’s part of the appeal, and that would be true to an extent. There’s something quite cute about how doggedly they try and push the squelchy synth tone they have, starting on Unliving Picture Show and then giving it pride of place basically from then on. But that’s often at the expense of any real punch, as the guitars can often sound pretty limp and underpowered, and even in the female backing vocals to emulate some symphonic glam, they don’t really get there.
Now that’s not to say there isn’t a certain amount of fun to be had from what is here. When they’re fully ingratiated in the cheese, Lordi are clearly having the sort of good time they want to inspire elsewhere, with Thing In The Cage and Lycantropical Island even going a bit further for some pretty sticky hooks. That’s kind of entertaining in the way their brand of horror jank often is, right down to the very visible seams courtesy of Mr. Lordi’s notably bad singing (in a charming way, mind).
That should really be where they stay, for the sort of cheap and cheerful listen that takes that element of old horror movies too, rather than bloating itself out to over an hour and making the grind all too real. For starters, Lordi can’t pull off a serious song to save their lives; in this case, there’s the ballad The Bride that’s a jangly, half-country, half-soft-rock snoozer, and End Credits, the wistful reminiscence on Mr. Lordi’s life and childhood that tries to elicit fuzzy feels that this bellowing troll-man simply isn’t equipped to pull off. The skits are even worse, and while there’s only two of them as well, they’re both catastrophic low points, like turds dropped from on high to stink up everything around them. The worst is The SCG Awards, a fucking excruciating bit of ‘comedy’ whose minute-40 runtime feels significantly longer thanks to how many terrible puns and impressions are jammed in, and how amateurishly crafted any of its ‘jokes’ seem to be, to the very bones of the ideas. Easily one of the most painful listening experiences this year, hands down.
At least, for as limp and corny as everything else on Screem Writers Guild is, the veneer of entertainment it bears can be understood. It doesn’t always connect (or it does, on the most shallow level possible), but if you want something to fit a clear niche for Lordi, this is about as close as you’re going to get. Not a glowing appraisal by any means, nor one that really encourage seeking this out or taking it as more than the very obvious bit of creative synergy it is, but it’s harmless, at the end of the day. Clearly Lordi are never going away while their place in the annals of Eurovision history remains intact, so we might as well throw them a bone with this one. For the exact thing it’s trying to do—and basically nothing else outside of that—it’s fine.
For fans of: Powerwolf, Ghost, DragonForce
‘Screem Writers Guild’ by Lordi is released on 31st March on Atomic Fire Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall