Professional Murder Music: self-titled

Patrick Schabe

Professional Murder Music

Professional Murder Music

Label: Geffen
US Release Date: 2001-05-22

Professional Murder Music is yet another band that will be competing for the top slots of metal playlists over the next year. With some support from Geffen and the exposure gained from their recent supporting tour with Monster Magnet and their upcoming our with Staind, you'll probably be hearing a lot more from this band in the months to come. And their self-titled debut makes a strong case for the band being able to play in the major leagues.

Coming in somewhere between Static-X, Orgy, and Godsmack, with a Pitchshifter twist, Professional Murder Music might only be weighted down by the silly name they've chosen for themselves. Then again, angry teenagers will probably enjoy sporting a black T-shirt with the word "murder" on it, so hopefully that won't be a negative for the band. Like their contemporary brethren, Professional Murder Music enjoys the successful formula of merging metal power chords and industrial keyboard effects into a seething, churning mass of spooky screeches, meaty vocals, and crunching guitars. With producer Josh Abraham (Orgy, Powerman 5000) and uber-mixer Tom Lord-Alge behind the dials, this album is a slick number that sounds as good as any other band enjoying commercial success in the metal genre.

Of course, that doesn't mean that PMM is entirely distinctive. If there's one thing about the album itself that stands out, it's the odd arrangement of tracks. "Slow" and "Fall" again start the album off on the Orgy side of things, even sounding a bit like Stabbing Westward at moments, with the guitars playing equal billing to the programming. Then one of the album's highlights, "Of Unknown Origin", kicks in to take things a little heavier. While the song has some of the best contrasts and changes on the disc, the vocals have now moved from the straightly sung to the growled. And this trend continues for the rest of the disc. By the time we reach the second to last track, "Your World", most of the poppier elements have been washed away by raging vocals and hammering guitars. It's difficult to tell if the album is meant to show a descent into darker and darker spaces, or if they simply packed all the radio singles at the front of the album. Or it could have something to do with Skinny Puppy's Dave Ogilvie having his fingers in a couple of the later tracks.

Oddly incongruous with the rest of the album are the two tracks that break ranks and the standard form. Just like a dozen other metal bands now sporting mansions and fat paychecks, Professional Murder Music includes the obligatory cover tune, in this case choosing the Cure's "A Night Like This". Why there seems to be a fascination for metal acts to cover old goth-pop tunes is beyond me, but the most interesting thing about PMM's cover is that Roman Marisak trades in his gruff, angry voice for vocals that sound almost exactly like Robert Smith. It's eerie, in fact, to know that it isn't Smith singing, since the song sounds more like a remix than a cover. The album's final track is a little taste of something different as well. Mysteriously titled "Painkiller Introduction" (remember, it's the last track), the song is an instrumental that highlights the band's programming interests and features some turntable work by guest artist DJ Lethal. It's actually a great, dark sci-fi soundtrack tune, but as a closer it seems to veer the album off in a different direction at the last minute, only to stop abruptly and leave the listener confused, if not waiting for more.

But disaffecting album arrangement will probably have little impact on the band's success. Despite feeling out of place on the disc, PMM's version of "A Night Like This" could make a gold-selling single. The band itself has benefited from associations with some huge names in the rock/metal world, including the aforementioned Ogilvie, but also A Perfect Circle's Troy Van Leeuwen, who plays lead guitar on "Fall Again", and working as opening act for a dozen or so of the scene's leading stars. Professional Murder Music may not be a perfect album, and it certainly isn't going to change metal in any significant way, but as an introduction to the band, it will probably help make them stars in the not too distant future.

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