After four years away, Dutch heavy metal band, The Charm The Fury return with their new album, The Sick, Dumb & Happy, to be released on March 17th. Most bands struggle to find a USP, some can claim one, however The Charm The Fury appear to have two. The first being a female lead vocalist, Caroline Westendorp, something which is sadly still rare among heavy metal bands. The other is the politically fuelled lyrics expressing discontent at the state of the modern world. Luckily, the past has shown that anger at the world can often lead to fantastic music.
The album opens with the two single releases, Down On The Ropes and Echoes. Down On the Ropes, a groovy heavy metal track, is a real headbanger and the perfect opener. Echoes utilises a lesser used compound time which has a marching feel, somewhat assisted by the chanting in the pre-chorus. This leads into a beautifully spacious chorus, the clean vocals shimmering and cymbals glistening, an exquisite contrast.
I wondered if the reason that so few bands in this genre have female vocalists was because the tone and pitch of the female scream vocal lacked the required punch to fight its way to the front of the mix. Not a chance! Caroline’s vocals have depth and power enough to challenge any man and are more controlled than the majority of metal vocalists. My misconceptions about the vocals were entirely unjustified, especially when the clean vocals appear in the track Echoes. I can’t be the only one who suspects a predominant screamer may have a less adept clean vocal, but once again this is not the case. The clean rock vocal in the eighth track, Silent War, can be legitimately compared to Lzzy Hale. Not an unflattering comparison to make for any female singer.
The band aren’t all about the vocals. The guitar riffs are chunky and driving and in the solos, the guitars have fantastic tone. The drums have regular moments of real complexity, showing great technique and imagination throughout. The downside, though, is that the bass can often be hidden by the kick, toms and guitars so isn’t particularly prominent.
There are just two things I would question in regards to the album. The first is the use and positioning of the short instrumental track, Corner Office Maniacs. At less than a minute long, it struggles to be a track in its own right. Instrumental tracks are often used to link two songs together, however, this track has a definitive start and end so neither flows from the previous track, nor into the following one. The other use is to provide a break between two very contrasting songs, but again this isn’t the case. Perhaps placing it between The Future Need Us Not and Silent War would have been a better option. The other is simply a pet hate of mine, which is ending the album on a fade out. I’m not a fan, but this is purely personal preference.
Overall, though, The Sick, Dumb & Happy is a great, thoroughly-enjoyable listen. Hopefully the day will come when a female heavy metal singer will no longer be noteworthy. The Charm The Fury show how successful a combination it can be and we can only hope this album and their upcoming tour inspire future bands.
Highlights: “Echoes”, “Down On The Ropes”, “Silent War”
The Sick, Dumb & Happy is available to pre-order from Nuclear Blast