While there are hardly any genuine artists who are extreme right-wingers, a few styles of music have always had an authoritarian streak. Hardcore punk is one; heavy metal is another. But Finnish band Shiraz Lane are different. When’s the last time you heard a metal band taking a stand for racial equality, or screaming truth to power about economic injustice – without being annoyingly p.c. about it? Their album For Crying Out Loud, a mix of crunchy three-and-four-minute 70s heavy rock songs, is streaming at youtube. Is this a sign of things to come, a paradigm shift? Let’s hope so.
“Fight the power!” frontwoman Hannes Kett wails as the guitars of lead player Jani Lane and rhythm player Miki Kalske come together out of a shrieking intro in the album’s first big punkish anthem, Wake Up. “We’re blinded by black and we’re blinded by white…wake up!”
An evil pickslide kicks off Momma’s Boy, a funny, strutting 70s style riff-rock kiss-off tune: “Go home, momma’s boy!” is the chorus. Here and there, a hip-hop influence rises to the surface: the early part of the catchy, slow-burning House of Cards reflects that. Kett’s unearthly wail gets unleashed pretty much everywhere as well.
Begging for Mercy is the really heavy hit Pat Benatar only wishes she could have written. The album’s title track and Same Old Blues are a pop ballads in disguise. The snide riffage of Mental Slavery is less cock-rock strut than sarcastic cautionary tale: “Still you keep on laughing when the joke’s on you,” Kett sneers at people who just don’t get it.
Behind the 8-Ball rises and falls in waves of heavy blues, with some of the album’s most focused, dynamic guitar work: “You’ll die behind the 8-ball!” is the warning. Bleeding is slow and sarcastic:the chorus is “Shoot me down, can’t you see that I’m bleeding.” The band wind down the album with M.L.N.W. (i.e. make love not war), an unexpectedly successful attempt to really rock out over an rapidfire, echoey U2 repeater-pedal riff.
Some peoople will hear this record and laugh that this is Aerosmith with decent lyrics and vocals that don’t suck, and sometimes that’s true. But Shiraz Lane bring a message of resistance to an audience that punk and hip-hop might not reach. There’s strength in numbers, and all those numbers count.