In a previous review, I spoke about the effect of the WWE SmackDown! Vs. RAW video game soundtracks on my love of music. Among the artists I was introduced to by way of those soundtracks was Powerman 5000, who had “When Worlds Collide,” “Riot Time,” and “Last Night on Earth” featured in the original game in 2004. Since hearing those tracks all the way back in grade school, I’ve loved the band led by Spider, the younger brother of Rob Zombie, and their sci-fi kitsch blended with punk, industrial, and hard rock music.
For their tenth and newest studio album The Noble Rot, PM5K lightens up a hair on their punk influences, at least in comparison to their previous effort New Wave. This doesn’t mean there’s any less of a sharpness or urgency to it, and fans of older Powerman 5000 will feel right at home with this one. Playing around with goth motifs and electronic elements helps to bring this one up a notch, and a cover of an old New Wave classic doesn’t hurt the finished product, either.
“Cannibal Killers That Kill Everyone” sounds like classic Powerman, with a hard rock backbone and a bit of camp. Spider switches between a low singing voice for the verses and his commanding yell for the chorus. “Brave New World” has a bit of a nu metal feel to it, a swagger that is an odd choice to follow up the previous track, but it’s still effective. The guitar line is a hummable one, and Spider’s delivery in the bridge is solid. “Play God or Play Dead” is a mid-tempo rocker with more electronic and industrial flavor to it, though the guitars are a bit more out front.
“Black Lipstick” is a neo-goth anthem, a nod to post-punk with just enough bite to break up the goth two-step. It is satire, yes, but it does so with enough love in its heart that it’s sincere rather than scathing. The pace quickens with “Special Effects,” showing off more of Powerman’s punk roots, before going back to more alternative and industrial tastes with “Let The Insects Rule.” The doubled-up voices of “Movie Blood” bring things back to familiar territory, a dark punk track with a good alternative edge.
“Strange People Doing Strange Things” feels like another post-punk nod, though it doesn’t come to the level of tongue-in-cheek of “Black Lipstick.” For the penultimate track we get a cover of “We Got the Beat,” and while the track gets the expected edge from Spider’s foreboding vocal delivery, the hard rock tinges don’t come through till the very end. To that effect, we get the electro-heavy “VHS.” It’s a bit out of left field for this group, but it’s a solid closing track, all told.
Considering the problems I had with PM5K’s last album New Wave, The Noble Rot was a breath of fresh air. It’s enough of what we expect from the band to hook the long-time listeners like myself in, with a couple of twists and turns added in to help it feel like something different, instead of being more of the same. After New Wave, I would have been OK never hearing a Powerman 5000 record again, but this album redeemed the band in my estimation, and handily too.
The Noble Rot is available now via Cleopatra Records.