Let’s face it – 2020 has pretty much sucked so far. And for the music we love, we have gigs on ice for who knows for however long and even some choice releases are being held back. So when a pearl of an album comes around and it adds a big juicy cherry of fun right on the top of a musical cake then you can say that we’re in.
First though, some introductions may be necessary. Who are BPMD? New and hottest band on the scene? From out of nowhere and snuck up on us unawares? No, no, no…ladies and gentleman, please welcome luminaries of our glorious music scene that seem to have been in our lives forever and from far and wide, too. The B is Mr Bobby Blitz of US East Coast thrash icons Overkill; the P is Mr Portnoy – as in Mike of Dream Theater/Sons Of Apollo fame; the M is Mr Mark Menghi, founder of super-group Metal Allegiance and D is for Demmel – as in Phil and formally of Oakland bruisers Machine Head.
So called “super groups” can be an odd proposition and no doubt that there will be some questions. After nigh on four decades fronting one of the best in the thrash-biz will that unique voice make it sound like Overkill? Coupled with undeniably one of the leading lights of the drumming world and that of progressive metal in Portnoy; a bassist that seems to have the Midas touch in putting super groups together and a full on shred monster in Phil Demmel.
Then there is the material itself and the fact that the songs are all covers of 1970s tunes. Are covers not low hanging fruit? Professional bands will be knocking these out in the jam room as practice. To that end, with American Made, there is that sense of the band putting their feelers out and seeing what the reaction is but where this album stands tall is that it is not just throwing out a bunch of practice room covers. The songs could be note for note the originals which would have been boring, glib and as cynical as it gets but instead, BPMD has made these songs as much their own and with the stylistics of their individual parts giving it added spit and heavy metal shine – and this is what makes American Made so much damn fun. Even the song choice itself, a combination of the well known to deep cuts and with the air of homage and respect paid to the tunes as ones that influenced the people before us that are now performing them.
The introduction to the album is absolute genius with Blitz giving his all as a shouty roll call to what is expected of the record “We’re going to fill your hole with some rock ‘n’ roll’, it’s going to be 1970s, spin your wheels that’s how it feels….” and like a ringmaster introducing his troupe at double the speed and then “if you wanna get metal get the fuck out” – this is a celebration of an era and make no mistake, and all this before the opening salvo Ted Nugent’s Wang Dang Sweet Pootang- surely on the 1970s naughty list and followed with a punked up version of Aersomith’s Toys In The Attic. It is impossible to knock BPMD’s version of Howlin’ Wolf’s Evil (covered in the ’70s by Cactus) and when Blitz cries the chorus “eeeeeeeeeevil…..evil is going on” and surely Wolf himself would have approved. Standout cut has to be Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Saturday Night Special and as much as the Armored Saint cover from 1987’s Raising Fear became the go-to cover for that song, BPMD make an excellent job of really edging out the groove and making it their own as well as adding a dark shade to it. With other covers of ZZ Top’s Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers; Blue Oyster Cult’s Tattoo Vampire; Bloodrock’s D.O.A; The James Gang’s Walk Away; Mountain’s Never In My Life and closing out with Grand Funk Railroad’s We’re An American Band, BPMD are not short on a variety of material but one other outstanding aspect of this album is the clarity of the instruments, crystal clear bass lines, terrific drumming and solid leads care of Phil Demmel, absolutely nothing is lost.
American Made may have a pretty brisk running time of just over half an hour but the amount of smiles that it manages to raise in that time is worth every single minute. Super groups can come with some baggage and an ego fest that is battled out in the final product but BPMD has what it takes, major talent and a great sounding album that has a band of brothers getting together for a good time and playing tunes that inspired them – and it shows. Whether this is a one off or whether there will be more – who knows? For now, enjoy a blast from the past brought right into the present.