Full Metal Jackson’s first single “Dangerous” introduces the world to a novel variation on the tribute band formula – a four piece metal band plundering Michael Jackson’s discography and performing the King of Pop’s songs as bruising all-out metal assaults. “Dangerous” is the title track from Jackson’s 1991 album and, in this form, all but unrecognizable. Band founder and lead singer Quinton Gardner’s voice is anything but soulful. Strain a little and you can perhaps point to Motorhead’s late lamented leader Lemmy as a vocal influence but a cement mixer seems to be the chief reference point for Gardner’s vocal style.
The band is musically tight and obviously well rehearsed. Their cover of “Dangerous” is a draining workout for the four musicians involved as they adopt a blistering pace for the recording. They pepper their straight-ahead two guitar strike with occasional vamps and peaks and demonstrate an ability to shift gears in an eye blink. You might expect a tribute band of this ilk to make an obvious play for comedy, but there’s nothing overtly funny about their approach. To be blunt, they play this track stone-faced like they mean every note.
There is, though, obvious humor in the completely incongruous pairing of the King of Pop’s unmitigated commercialism and sappiness colliding headlong with an unforgiving metal musical attack. The band’s video for the song plays up the comedy inherent in the pairing far more than the song, as a standalone experience, ever does. Even then, however, it’s never in your face hilarity but, instead, humor of a winking variety, entertaining beyond measure, but never proclaiming itself as a parody with banners and bold neon signs.
As I alluded to earlier, the musicians are top notch. Gardner’s rhythm guitar playing is spot on and Ryan Stabach’s drumming sets a furious yet unwavering pace. Lead guitarist Colby Neal adds fiery soloing to the track that’s buried a little too much in the mix but makes an impact regardless. They evidence a clear love for playing metal that comes through even stronger than any admiration they might harbor for Jackson’s music.
The track runs a little long at over five minutes – it isn’t nearly as long as the original version, but I think it might have served them better to abbreviate the performance. “Dangerous”, nevertheless, never taxes your patience. It isn’t difficult to finish listening to this track and wonder what Jackson cut they might turn their attention to next and if they will vary their style for re-envisioning these songs or stick with the same bulldozer approach for further recordings.
Portland, Oregon’s Full Metal Jackson are going to attract attention – that much is for sure. How far they can take this act, in the end, hinges on two factors – the public’s fickle taste for novelty wearing thin and what sort of imaginative powers they can bring to bear on further selections from Jackson’s back catalog. They are off to a torrid start, however, with “Dangerous”, perhaps not the most obvious place to start with his songs, but nonetheless successful.
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