27 May 2022
Until recently, I thought a Belushi Speed Ball was just something that killed one of the greatest actors of our generation, but it turns out it is actually something that has the potential to kill many more people before it is brought under control.
Sonically that is.
Belushi Speed Ball is actually a band out of Louisville, Kentucky who like to play music as fast as a motherfucker and value humour over truth every second of any day of the week.
I must admit when the album advance landed on my desk the only reason I gave it more than a casual glance was the title of the single, Ripping Off Municipal Waste, so it appears the boys and their marketing team have done their due diligence there!
That person would be Beau – or “Senor Diablo” as the band calls him – and before we get into the actual music, I feel it important to introduce this fine gentleman, if only just to give you a semblance of an insight into what goes on in the minds of this eclectic group of individuals.
Beau performs many roles in the band, ranging from management to props to planning to skits and voice-overs, and is such an integral part of the inner workings of Belushi Speed Ball that he braved the conditions in a recent interview and sat in ice-cold water for twenty minutes while the five of us got acquainted.
While he doesn’t play an instrument (but that’s not uncommon in modern music anyway) he is every bit part of the band and once you can wrap your head around this sense of belonging you will gradually start to understand Belushi Speed Ball.
You might not understand the music, but at least you will better understand the people who created it…
So let’s get into the nitty-gritty shall we?
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the arena, What, Us Worry? (which, to those who love their comic books, is derived from the popular MAD comic book series).
First track is the aforementioned rip-off track, which also features guest guitars from Tony Barhoum (CONDITION CRITICAL), and judging from the opening riff this song is more than about ripping off Municipal Waste, I think this might actually be them!
It powers in with a wall of sonic intensity that near on knocked me on my ass. Definitely time to turn it up more…
This is a catchy as fuck number, and, strangely enough, an apparent tribute/rip-off of every song Municipal Waste may or may not have done.
Vocalist Vinny spits and barks like his nuts are in a blender, while the band around him seem to get faster and play with more intensity with each passing note.
Then, at precisely the two-minute mark, the song stops abruptly, and we are plunged into a conversation that sounds like it may have been recorded in a primary school tuckshop.
It’s an unexpected twist that is actually a welcome relief once the shock of having the music stolen from your earholes allows you to appreciate it.
As quickly as the verbal barrage cut in, it finishes as The Tattletale Strangler, featuring Jamison Land (former GWAR BEEFCAKE THE MIGHTY, THE BURIAL), once again decimates your earholes with a swirling mass of guitar that sounds like it is played in open E as fast as the man with the fingers can get them moving.
That is, however, after a tidy drum roll from the quiet one of the group, Daniel Neel kickstarts the onslaught.
This is brutal and intense, a spit in the face to those who like their music to be structured and predictable, but a most welcome shot in the arm for those of us who just like fast and hard.
The sound reminds me a touch of Stormtroopers Of Death, in that it is a mess of orchestrated chaos that somehow manages to sound cohesive.
Timing and tempo changes abound, and it seems like each band member is just playing to the beat of their own demons, which in turn locks these guys in tighter than the Nun’s proverbial.
The track comes in and out, each time threatening to finish before coming back fiercer than before with twice as much venomous intent. As the song fades out I prepare for the next track to re-assault my senses, but again it’s those droning voices that interrupted my first helping, once again booming from the speakers, seemingly unaware of the madness that preceded them.
While they blabber on about a magic conch and start asking random questions to an unseen gypsy it becomes evident this is something of a comic interlude, and once you grasp that notion things become much clearer.
I have always wanted to put on a metal show with either strippers or a comedian, and it seems Belushi Speed Ball have actually had the Kahoona’s to try.
It turns out this is a feature of the band’s music, and comes across as an ad-libbed piece of comic genius that would lose impact had it been scripted.
Magic Conch eases in as more of a punk tune, still top-heavy on fast as fuck guitar play, but still as fresh and crushing as the two heavier songs that started the album. These guys have serious musical ability and I find myself wondering if I am actually doing my job correctly here, having managed to be oblivious to the band up until recently.
Strangely enough, I find myself looking forward to the end of the song, so I can listen to what comic spin the guys can add to this number, and they don’t disappoint, coming in mid-argument about what song to play next. It sounds more like a lovers tiff between Chase and Vinny, and it sounds to me like Vinny wouldn’t lose too many arguments.
The fucker just keeps talking faster and faster until the other person gives up, but whatever works.
Someone gets fired, re-hired and fired again but before the waterworks start the band kicks into Glass Bones And Paper Skin 2 and as it starts it seems Vinny is rubbing in the fact he got his way. He barks (literally) before launching into the song, a mixture of punk and metal that is face-meltingly awesome.
Drums and guitar vie for supremacy – with drums winning by the way – as a musical breakdown partway through seems to be the only thing that can keep Vinny quiet. He impressively calls in a four-count china strike that leads into a mass of kicks before the arguing starts again, but is short-lived before Butter And Pretty Dresses breaks the silence like a baseball bat striking a marshmallow and the carnage once more dominates.
I’m actually finding it hard to stay seated at this point but know if I do stand and give in to the metal bangings of my head the fucker would likely fall off, so I remain seated. The vocals have more than a hint of Tom Araya in parts, but maintain enough of their own transparency to make Belushi Speed Ball a beast of their own volition.
I find my mind wandering as to how or why you would bother putting a pretty dress on something that is going to melt anyway, but that’s a question for another time… The guitar play of guest axeman Nicholas Burks (SAVAGE MASTER, WARCLOUD) is impressive as fuck, which isn’t meant to take away from the work done by Chase when left to his own devices.
As the narrative kicks back in it becomes obvious that this must be a life preservation tactic employed by the band to save litigation because if these songs were played back to back I doubt some people would survive.
Despite the title, Dog Birthday Is Dead rolls out of the speakers as easily the most accessible song on the album, with more of a punk-edged rock vibe going on rather than the killcuntsnow effect employed on all others.
This is almost a ballad when stacked up against the rest of the album, and as the gang vocals soothe you into a welcome comfort zone, I find myself actually feeling sorry for whichever dog died on his birthday.
After another round of general chit-chat, the music returns with a bang on the oddly named track Super Saiyan Vegeta Is A Good Dad. Thankfully the music makes more sense than the name and after a brief assault the narrative comes in with what seems like a final round of bickering to lead us in to the final track which is named after the band themselves.
It fires into gear with… a narrative, completely throwing me off guard before a guttural death growl sets things right, and I think someone may have just swallowed their tongue. Neel performs quadruple kicks of his pedals as the rest of the band dies slowly around him, spluttering back to life at irregular intervals, just like the mother-in-law that just won’t fucken die!
By this stage, and as much as I loved every second of What, Us Worry? I am kind of glad my senses are within sight of the finish line, so I book myself into a holiday resort before writing this to hopefully regain some sanity.
I may not have known who or what Belushi Speed Ball were until this album changed my life, but you can be damn sure I will be subscribing to whatever fantasy concoction they come up with next.
Big props to bass player Jazzy as well, who I just realised I failed to mention here. Maybe next time you will turn up to the pool party and I might remember you…