A trip into metal’s ‘Underworld’

by Alex Larson, ArtsEtc. Writer

Very rarely does one of the most-anticipated hard-rock albums of the year come in the form of a movie soundtrack. While the majority of today’s action-film discs are poorly constructed, non-cohesive collections of singles from one-hit-wonder metal bands of the quarter-hour, up-and-coming producer Danny Lohner and a few of his select friends obviously decided to ignore this trend when creating the soundtrack for the new Brit-vampire flick “Underworld.”

Fans of Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle, Tool, pre-Results May Vary Limp Bizkit and Filter have been impatiently awaiting this album ever since news of its inception was leaked to the metal community.

Recorded and produced in secrecy to avoid record companies screaming “breech of contract,” Nine Inch Nails remix producer and stage bassist Danny Lohner first collected the talents of Wes Borland (ex-Limp Bizkit guitarist), Richard Patrick (ex-NIN guitarist and current vocalist for Filter), Josh Freese (APC drummer) and Maynard James Keenan (Tool and APC lyricist).

He also threw into the mix David Bowie, John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist), Milla Jovovich (fashion model and action star of “Resident Evil”) and a handful of newcomer hard-rock bands to create probably the most diverse metal disc ever.

To immediately familiarize the audience with the dark essence of the vampire-slayer-meets-Matrix atmosphere of its film counterpart, Lohner and company waste no time slamming the listener in the temporal lobe with the initial track “Awakening” by the über-group The Damning Well.

After months of speculation, this talented collection of unadulterated metal emotion finally rears its head with the finalized line-up of Borland, Patrick, Freese and Lohner. With Lohner’s rattling bass and Borland’s Bizkit-era guitar twinkling laying the ground work for the song, post-rehab Patrick delivers a solid, multi-dynamic, lyrically emotional pile-driver of a performance that goes to prove rock stars really can sound better after sobering up.

Continuing along this tread of multi-guest-artist tracks, the biblically-inspired second track “REV 22:20” follows up by demonstrating the talented results of the much-anticipated artistic collaboration of Keenan and Lohner, complete with the surprise angelic cooing of Jovovich.

In her touching solo track “Rocket Collecting,” Jovovich is given her chance to demonstrate her wispy and elegantly flowing soprano voice that is simultaneously driven by the backing orchestral arrangement and juxtaposed by Lohner’s harsh, industrial dance beat.

After the slightly disappointing accompanying work of Keenan and Frusciante in David Bowie’s “Bring Me the Disco King,” the listener is then refunded 110 percent with a new track of industrial-dance mayhem from the Vancouver industrial-music forefather militia Skinny Puppy and a subsequent brilliant remix of APC’s “Judith,” courtesy of Lohner’s highly intelligent production skills.

Leading up to and following the second APC remix of the current single “Weak and Powerless,” the album takes a serious hit in the talent department, starting with the Dillinger Escape Plan’s impression of a landing 747 with engine trouble, followed by Finch’s unimpressive “Worms of the Earth.” The artistic drag continues with the numerous sleep-inducing tracks featuring female singers and solo piano, such as Lisa Germano’s “From a Shell.” Nonetheless, the strong first half of this album more than makes up for this seven-tracks-out-of-19 flaw.

The success of this album, though, is not the final products of the star-studded tracks, but instead in the easily imaginable behind-the-scenes headaches more than likely faced by Lohner in the making of this album.

Anytime prima-donna rock stars of this caliber are crammed into a studio together, egos will clash, which can lead to poor products or improperly mixed tracks if the producer does not apply patience, maintain control and keep the tension of competition at a minimum.

Even if this album turned into a complete failure, the fact that Lohner would even consider entering the studio with two of rock’s most notorious frontmen, an aging and androgynous art rocker, a guitarist who essentially fired his last band and a Revlon cover-girl proves that either Danny has what it takes to become one of rock’s greatest producers or else is still suffering from brain trauma caused by one of Trent Reznor’s notorious flying mic stands.

The track-by-track flowing cohesiveness of this album, fueled in part by the dark instrumental intermissions of Renholder (an anagram for RE: D. Lohner), only further demonstrates that Danny Lohner possesses the production intelligence and skills needed to achieve his epic artistic visions and survive on his own in the current realm of hard rock.

Although he has no intentions of surpassing his NIN mentor quite yet, Lohner and the rest of The Damning Well know they are onto something. What it is, only time will tell.

Until then, this album stands as a testament that hard rock is far from dead, and innovative creativity is again on the horizon for metal — even if it does come in the form of a soundtrack.

Grade: B