Full Metal Jackson performs a classic King of Pop remake
Toss your copies of Thriller, Bad, and Dangerous into the trash; Full Metal Jackson performs the King of Pop’s music the way G-d intended it to be but Jackson never heeded. The Portland, Oregon band’s first single takes the title song from Michael Jackson’s 1991 album Dangerous, crosses it with prime Motorhead, and releases something that’s glorious fun. You are forgiven if the potential of mixing hard metal with Jackson’s music didn’t seem obvious to you from the get-go, but Quinton Gardner’s inspired melding of these wholly disparate styles is something close to genius. Not everyone will agree, naturally, and a few may end up deeming it sacrilege by the time they get around to covering seminal Jackson songs like “Billie Jean” or “Man in the Mirror”. I can’t wait to hear them try their hand at the latter,
The four-piece (three in the accompanying music video) adopts a take no prisoners approach to covering this track that dispenses with niceties like remaining faithful to the original’s sonic architecture. Gardner does a good job approximating Lemmy’s nicotine and bourbon ravaged growl throughout the course of the track. The band plays like a musical unit who has worked together for some time; their chops are real and they attack their instruments with the physicality this style demands. The unbridled intensity of the performance bodes well for their live shows. If they can bring this much energy to the fore on a studio recording, venues need to be sure they have fire extinguishers on standby lest the club or bar go up in flames.
The track runs a little long and the production is muddier than I’d like, but these aren’t fatal flaws in the single’s execution. Guitarist Colby Neal rips off blazing lead work in the second half of the recording but the aforementioned production issues dilute its potential impact. The overall experience, however, is a exciting trip – the arrangement they adopt for this cover makes great use of each peak moment in the performance and they vary their musical attack enough to never sound one note. There’s no questioning their musical skill.
Their humor is apparent as well, if understated. The music video for the song is largely a performance clip, but the footage does a superb job showcasing the energy they bring to their stage performances and the obvious fun they are having giving these songs a different light than anyone imagined possible. In an odd way, it’s more of a loving tribute to Jackson’s music than far straighter adaptations might be – it proves the durability of the songwriting that a band as different as this can refurbish the track in such a radical way and it stand every bit as strong as it does in its initial version. Gardner founded the band in 2015 and there are reputedly more songs in the pipeline. It’s anyone’s guess what might be coming next, but I feel confident that they will retain their capacity to surprise and entertain no matter where they go from here.