[24 July 2002]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
The Pledge of Allegiance Tour CD is one of the worst album releases of 2002, and is one of the worst live albums I have ever heard. As well as being a colossal failure as a live document, it also shows how boring and generic most nu-metal really has become, and even worse, it takes a genuinely talented band and lumps them in among four lunkheaded hack bands. The production is abysmal, the four hack bands sound repetitive, and the cover art is ridiculous. I hate this CD. Hate it.
The good band I’m talking about, of course, is System of a Down. One of the only bands to rise from the sludgy, anti-social nu-metal quagmire with a sound all their own, combining aggro punk with old school metal and the off-kilter sounds of Frank Zappa. The band contributes three songs to this CD, and if it were not for their tight performance, it would have been even more unbearable. As good as they sound, the production is pathetic, sounding like it was recorded in an empty warehouse. In fact, during the quiet choruses in “Chop Suey”, there is no crowd noise whatsoever, as if the idiots in the mosh pit are just standing around bewildered, waiting for their next chance to throw themselves around. System of a Down also perform adequate renditions “Toxicity” and the silly, Zappa-esque “Bounce”, but after 10 much-too-short minutes, that’s all we get.
Next up is Slipknot, a band who once showed great promise, only to become laughable parodies of themselves by the time their second album rolled around. Their Iowa album was one of the best-produced metal albums ever made, but the songs themselves lacked all the fire of the ones heard on their debut album, and Corey Taylor’s lyrics tried to sound angry, but came off as funny (“If you’re 555 / I’m 666” . . . ooooh, scary!). Thankfully, thrash metal masters Slayer released their spectacular God Hates Us All at the same time as Iowa, and blew those miserable Des Moines suburbanites out of the freakin’ water. Slipknot’s three live tracks on The Pledge of Allegiance Tour are boring, sloppy, muddy-sounding, and completely lacking in intensity. “People=Shit”, “The Heretic Anthem”, and “New Abortion” sound as messy as an audience-recorded bootleg. There are nine members in Slipknot, but all you can hear are the vocals, the drums and the two guitars. Something tells me that five members of the band don’t deserve any performance royalties. These three live tracks show how much Slipknot depends on their silly, rubber-masked image; without the oh-so-scary masks, they’re just plain boring, a novelty act who thinks their music means something, when it’s actually inconsequential. A sad thing to say, a mere two years after such a fantastic debut album.
Speaking of bands who depend solely on their image, the cartoonish Mudvayne obviously spend more time putting their make-up on than writing quality music. At times, their songs possess the technical intricacy of a band like Primus, but Mudvayne always devolve into the same, generic dreck, unwilling to use their musical chops to take the genre to freaky new heights. The production quality on their two songs, “Under My Skin”, and “Pharmacopia”, is even worse than Slipknot’s, and the liner notes even admit the recording was taken from a video recording. Ridiculous.
Closing the album are tracks by something called American Head Charge (“from Minneapolis, Minnesota”, they tell us), and the oh-so-aptly-monikered No One. It’s more of the same. Tuneless guitar riffs. Angry, indecipherable, mealy-mouthed vocals. Blah. Blah. And blah again.
I’m not someone who’s completely unfamiliar with nu-metal. When it’s done well, it’s extremely powerful, but few know how to pull it off properly. Great moments in today’s metal include Slipknot’s first album, Soulfly’s great Primitive, and especially System of a Down’s two albums, but 99 percent of this farcical genre all sounds the same, and this stinker of an album is a sad example. The Pledge of Allegiance Tour is nothing more than a money-grab, an attempt to swipe more of the allowances from the kids who attended the shows on the 2001 tour. It’s cheaply-made, cheap-looking, and aside from the brief glimpse of System of a Down’s extraordinary talent, is stark proof that nu-metal has reached its saturation point long ago.