Living the Dream
posted on 8/2005 By:
As a metal reviewer, it is part of my job to reward quality and creativity in metal with positive reviews while punishing sloppiness and redundancy with negative reviews. With this in mind, I should be totally excoriating Rictus Grin for this album. Living the Dream is death metal at its most insipid; generically chainsawing riffs, character-free growled vocals, imprecise musicianship, and a crunchy but hardly crushing production. Stylistically, this sounds like what would happen if Entombed got falling-down blasted on Jagermeister and recorded all of their worst vaguely-thrash-tinted B-sides at once. You will notice, however, that the numerical scores do not reflect the complete verbal decapitation that this band theoretically deserves. What gives?
The short answer is that it’s sorta hard to hate a band that so clearly loves and enjoys what they’re doing. These metal foot soldiers are blatantly more concerned with having fun than they are with forging new musical paths, and in a lot of ways, that sets them in line with death metal’s bread and butter. Rictus Grin is one of those bands that seems to have been around forever and played with everyone without ever achieving any sort of acclaim; according to their website, they have five studio releases, have shared the stage with the likes of Morbid Angel, Suffocation, and Meshuggah, and have even organized an annual music festival in their home town of Milwaukee. Listening to their music, it’s not a huge wonder that they’re unsigned and more or less unknown to the wider metal community. The music is uptempo and heavy but totally uninspired; if you’ve heard an average thrash-influenced death metal band you’ve heard something that’s likely a few notches above this in terms of tightness and creativity. At the same time though, there’s a very endearing sense of energy and goofy fun to be found all over Living the Dream. This is a band who names songs after video game characters (“Alucard”) and broken-down bandmember cars (“Keystone Buick”). They write lyrics like “I like you better now this way/the undead make the perfect friends/and maybe over time/you’ll be my undead champion.” Bassist Dave Moran plays without distortion and occasionally drops humorously incongruous but still entertaining solos from time to time, as on “Death Dance.” The overall effect is of music being held together by enthusiasm and dedication alone; in a lot of ways it’s a situation that would be more familiar to a punk rocker than to a technique-obsessed metalhead.
I personally am of the opinion that every local metal scene needs a band like this. Rictus Grin, while perhaps not destined for great things, are wholly dedicated to rocking out and having a blast. They’re older, more experienced, and probably a ton of fun to see live by virtue of energy alone. They may never make it themselves, but they’ll play mentor and friend to the younger, more daring bands from their area. So, while I cannot really recommend Rictus Grin’s music, I wholeheartedly salute the role they play in metal as a whole. Hats off to you, boys; you’ll never be rock stars, but our esteemed genre wouldn’t exist without the likes of you.
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