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Grumpynators – Still Alive

Still Alive
by Dan O'Connor at 31 July 2020, 1:30 AM

Danish heavy metallers GRUMPYNATORS might just possess one of the most misleading band names in metal today.

Founded in 2011, this rockabilly infused four-piece’s third studio album ‘Still Alive’ may possess all the necessary basic components of a no-nonsense, adrenaline-fuelled hard rock/heavy metal LP, but it’s the joyous delivery found in a track listing filled with sing-along anthems which leave a smile on your face that is its best quality. There’s nothing ‘grumpy’ or even remotely glum about GRUMPYNATORS.

The ‘rockabilly’ tag could be the first thing that raises your eyebrow, but this influence is only implemented subtly for the most part except for the occasional, clean guitar passage and the use of a double bass guitar from Jakob Øelund. While you may fail to notice anything out of the ordinary without listening intently, this unique selling point does a good job in complimenting the band’s sound while sitting comfortably in the mix.

The excellent production is immediately on display in the opening track ‘Still Alive,’ A thundering kick-snare combo from drummer Per Fisker begins proceedings before crashing guitars come in to kickstart this party. The drumming is certainly a highpoint of the entire record; Fisker’s accomplished performance shows plenty of character without resorting to unnecessary extravagance throughout all ten tracks, and is very much the driving force behind all of the energy that is exuded. While it may feel like a relatively tame pick in as an album opener, especially in comparison to subsequent songs, one can’t help but begin to fall in love with the certain charm it possesses in its delivery. It’s something that is very much emblematic of this album as a whole.

Momentum begins to build with ‘Going Away For Good," a mix of pleasant, clean guitar verses and head-bopping choruses (which include a vocal melody that draws faint similarities to BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN) that is perhaps the best representation of the group’s rockabilly influences. Those looking for more aggression though will find in the album’s lead single ‘Blood And Bones.’

If there was any doubt of the album’s ‘metal’ credentials, this track’s intro begins to put it to rest as crunching riffs, a squealing lead guitar, and flourishes of double bass drumming take things into top gear. All of this, along with possibly the best guitar solo on display throughout the record, makes this track a standout moment.

Deeper into the album, ‘Yesterday’ presents the same strong attributes with an opening lick reminiscent of the days where SCORPIONS, MOTLEY CRUE and POISON ruled supreme. In both of these songs, while the choruses may resort to valuing melody over intensity, this isn’t necessarily a drawback. GRUMPYNATORS seems to value having fun and making you sing along over aggression or technicality and for the most part, there’s not a thing wrong with that.

All of this melody would be wasted filler without an excellent vocal performance but vocalist/guitarist Emil Øelund is well equipped to prevent this. While at times it feels like he might benefit from widening his vocal range slightly to strengthen the emotional punch of certain tracks, he sings with a balanced mix of grit and passion. The addition some superb harmonies and backing vocals layered give these choruses the power they need.

The best example of this is found in, ‘Dream Girl.’ The delicate, lo-fi crackle of the brief, clean intro lulls you into a false sense of serenity before bursting into a golden chunk of punk-tinged rock and roll. The passionate cry of the track’s title carries a chorus that could rival arena-rock staples like BON JOVI, or the punk rock gang vocals of DROPKICK MURPHYS (if you moved the Bostonians a few hundred miles south)

If the term ‘simple’ is used to describe aspects of this album, it isn’t necessarily meant as a criticism. One of the great joys of life is to take enjoyment from the simple things, and ‘Still Alive’ excels at evoking joy in the listener if nothing else. Not every song packs the same emotional punching power, unfortunately.

If this record can be compared to one big party, tracks in the second half of the album such as ‘Monster Girl’ and the underwhelming closer ‘Back On The Road’ represent the point of the night where most of the guests have started to leave, and you’ve forgotten that you’ve told the same old story to your friend several times by now. Even the strong guitar work and darker riffs found in ‘All I Want’ are dampened slightly by an uninspiring chorus. In isolation, these tracks are perfectly competent tunes to bang your head along to but as part of an overall package, they can’t help but sound a little familiar and less explosive when you compare them to what has come before.

Overall though, anyone looking for heart-warming heavy metal will find it difficult to not admire what GRUMPYNATORS achieve with their latest release. Its lack of originality is apparent and prevents ‘Still Alive’ from being considered a truly great record, but it’s clear they never set out to reinvent the wheel. Instead, they rev four of them against the concrete and set out on a road trip full of fun. Sit back and enjoy the drive.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 6
Memorability: 7
Production: 8

3 Star Rating

1. Still Alive
2. Going Away For Good
3. Blood And Bones
4. Feel The Same
5. Dream Girl
6. Yesterday
7. Sweet Psycho Sister
8. All I Want
9. Monster Girl
10. Back On The Road
Christian Nørgaard - Guitar
Jakob Øelund - Double Bass
Emil Øelund - Guitar & Vocals
Per Fisker - Drums
Record Label: Mighty Music


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