Hardly short of a social conscience or politically incisive lyrics, thrash metal is known for being serious business. Back in its 1980s heyday, the world was in the throes of the Cold War and nuclear annihilation always seemed to be a button press away – there was plenty to be angry about. Laughs were available though, and along with generous helpings of the surreal and nonsensical, one UK act managed the tricky combination of mixing quality thrash with comedy. Enter Lawnmower Deth.
It is impossible to report on a new album after nearly 30 years without a snippet of the rise and fall (and rise again) of Nottinghamshire’s Lawnmower Deth. The beginning was not even a band as such, it was a one man operation by Chris Flint who played all of the instruments on a demo called Less Bover With a Hover under the moniker “Mr Flymo” and produced by “Mr Qualcast” (also Flint). Passing the demo to the music press with an address where to purchase the demo and along with fake gig listings, Flint then saw sense and fearing retribution from people turning up to hoax gigs sent in a retraction and offered the reason that there were no suitable musicians to play with. This letter was spotted by Pete Lee, Steve Nesfield and Chris Parkes who contacted Flint to form what became Lawnmower Deth. With the band members dubbing themselves with ridiculous nicknames such as “Qualcast Muilator”, “Mightymow Destructimow” and “Concorde Face Ripper” – later adding Gavin O’Malley – also known as ‘Schitzo Rotary Sprintmaster.’ It was this line up that recorded the Mowdeer demo with fledgling producer Andy Sneap (ubiquitous metal producer but at the time also guitarist with also local and revered thrashers Sabbat) at the helm. The success of split LP Mower Liberation Front with Metal Duck led to Lawnmower Deth signing to Earache Records and the debut album Oooh Crikey…It’s Lawnmower Deth was released in 1990. It was easy to see songs with bonkers titles such as Satan’s Trampoline and Flying Killer Cobs From The Planet Bob as being nothing other that a joke but Ooh Crikey… had serious chops – punk and hardcore infused thrash with a slice of grindcore – and the album was well received. A year later, Lawnmower Deth recorded a cover of Kids in America – a 1981 hit for UK pop icon Kim Wilde. In 1992, Lawnmower Deth released a follow up, the equally well received The Return Of The Fabulous Bozo Clowns. The band’s final album Billy saw the light of day in 1993 but the album was met with a lukewarm reaction. Thrash had already caught the last train home anyway but neither the fans nor press were sold on the more hardcore punk sound of Billy and the band split following the tour to promote the album.
Lawnmower Deth reformed in 2008 on the back of a former member being a guitar tech for Bullet For My Valentine and it was the band themselves who suggested that it would fun for Lawnmower Deth to support them at Alexandra Palace. Since then, the band has appeared at premier UK metal festivals Download and Bloodstock several times – the former being memorable when in 2016 Kim Wilde joined the band on stage for a demented rendition of her Kids in America hit.
Returning with an album after 28 years is in itself a tricky prospect but clearly and on the back of the festival appearances and Christmas shows, there is an appetite for Lawnmower Deth. Anyone witnessing those festival appearances will have noted packed audiences and parents with kids who would have not missed the joke in dodging flying bread rolls, walking out with stories of those early days gigs and the joy of their utter chaos and how much fun they were. There really is a whole new audience out there to discover the lunacy but can a new album stack up?
The short answer is that Blunt Cutters is like Lawnmower Deth never left us and is utterly brilliant in every way. Is it puerile? Most certainly. Is it funny? Oh yes. Does it rock like a motherfucker? You bet. The immediate contrast is just how well played it is and how incredible and modern it sounds. As great as albums such as Ooh Crikey…. and Bozo Clowns are, the production values were of their time and fit with the thrash sound but Blunt Cutters sounds absolutely immense hitting harder and more direct. Opening with the perfect rabid cruncher Into The Pit, the riffs and drums are sharp with the lyrics reflecting on the oldies in the pit, there is punk a-plenty with the snotty I Don’t Want To. Botheration is bass pummel which props up the hooligan shout out on the vocals. The surreal does not take long to show its face with the 25 second Swarfega and who could argue with the lyrical advert of “It stinks, it’s green, it gets you really clean. Swarfega”? The instantly catchy and chuggy riff of Now He’s A Priest sounds so metal that it could be the other Priest – as in Judas – but the lyrics are just so relentlessly hilarious that no way would Mr Halford and Co. be using lines such as “Denounced by the Vatican so off you fuck”. The album takes a further surreal turn with a 45 second story about a car sale going awry called Good Morning, Phil where the outward chorus is “you’re a fucking conman, he’s a fucking pirate.” Bobblehead is a smash and grab punk and roll insanity that has some seriously nifty riffing while the opening lyric leaves nothing to the imagination “He’s a dancer, he’s a God, I like his head when he starts to bob.” Raise Your Snails sees some inner Lemmy on the vocals but there is more lyrical hilarity “You’ll hear them coming, they rise at dawn, army of gastropods, across the lawn.” It is amazing how much is actually packed into a near 4 minute song from Lawnmower Deth, that bass, another chuggy riff, a gnarly thrash breakdown and a divebomb into slow and heavy. The real surprise is album closer Agency Of C.O.B., which goes against everything else on the record. A full on 4 minute sinister opus that tells of a dystopian future which is for the most part is spoken word and like a news report set to a a musical background, the two entwine and is somewhat mesmerising in its orchestration. It is only when the mid section and that huge riff kicks in that the realisation of the strings in the background that have been there throughout. It is a startling and eye opening end to what is an incredible album.
There is no doubt that the uninitiated are wondering what the fuck is going on and surely this cannot be real? Well, it is and it is not even that you had to be around at the time to get the joke, this is modern day punk infused thrash designed to induce more than a grin. The lyrics are one of the stars of the show, some are just pure genius in their simplicity but getting their point across is so instant that it just makes it even more funny.
Lawnmower Deth have truly out done themselves. Blunt Cutters is an absolute laugh riot and there is no faulting the performance or any of the music, every song is perfectly placed to create an album that delivers on all counts. Get out of the garden shed, there is some Deth to do…
Blunt Cutters is out now on Cherry Red Records