“A trap door directly into the psychotic mind of a madwoman,” “brutal riffs and whiplash breakdowns,” and terms like “ferocious” are hardly descriptors that are commonly associated with the country music darling that penned the song “Nine to Five.” But preconceptions are exactly what Dolly Parton has set her sights on to obliterate with her latest self-produced album, “Blood Feast.”
Acting as the ship’s captain, Parton has assembled around her a crew of math, thrash, and death metal old-salts. With Tomas Haake (Meshuggah) on drums, Christopher Arp (Psyopus) on guitar, Liam Wilson (Dillinger Escape Plan) on bass, and Chris Barnes (Cannibal Corpse) on backing vocals, Parton has given the world a peek into the post-apocalyptic future of metal.
Parton’s anthem track, “No Remorse,” details a first person account of a human case of rabies that ends in a cannibalistic rampage claiming the lives of those who “f**cking deserved it.” It is the crazed nature of her banshee screams that actually make the case sound almost rational. If that is not enough, Parton’s second track, “P.U.S. (Pledge Unto Savagery),” leaves little for the wanting for those who have just had enough of “taking poop from the buttholes that surround us.” Her duet with Chris Barnes, “Mask of Murder,” further tar-seals the cracks with a brief reflection into doom metal that explodes into an earnest tirade on the immorality of warfare. With these examples alone, it is clear that Parton has just been playing-it-safe a long time.
I am sure, by now, you are asking yourself questions that truly need to be asked: why metal, why Dolly Parton, and why now? “Honey, heavy metal is always something that I had admired from afar, but never had the courage to dive into,” said Parton, “Well, I just decided to go ahead and do it.” Dive, she did… headfirst and screaming into a world of mayhem.
Now, I am not one to concede that any album can be produced without flaws. Her ballad, “Anal Crepes in the Land of Heartbreak,” drifts a little too close to musical noodling for the ease and comfort of uninitiated ears. One could even describe the track as a short vanity-tangent serving no other purpose aside from showing off the flaming dexterity of Chris Arp’s endless lexicon of talent. Also, “Reign in Crud,” gets a little too lyrically filthy and abstract for even Chris Barnes (possibly why only Dolly does the vocals alone on this one). That said, “Blood Feast,” may not have what it takes to rival the seminal releases of Slayer, Pat Boone, Judas Priest, and a pre-neutered Metallica, but it embodies a true vision of what metal without mimicry might look like. After all, with the genre being actively reduced to a formula of alchemy turning rage into fools gold, Dolly might just have what it takes to steer this ship-o-metal closer to the Iku-Turso that lurk in the edge-waters of the world. Ahoy, Dolly!