Vandermax Music 2022
In an attempt to correct the errors of human ways, intercontinental music mastermind arrives at his impressive streak of murder ballads and assorted assassinous songs.
This artist has been stalking the scenes since the last century – either opting for self-eulogizing on “All-Star Musical Tribute To Max Vanderwolf 1969-1996 Featuring Today’s Hottest Groups” or fronting NAKED SUN and LAST MAN STANDING – yet such a shift of perspective didn’t bring him neither fame not fortune, whereas working as producer and festival programmer didn’t give him creative satisfaction. Cue “12 Little Killers”: the veteran’s first album under his own name – comprised of dozen sharp-as-a-knife pieces which point out many a mistake made by man and offering tuneful ways to right the wrongs – that goes for the jugular in quite an exquisite manner while running through a stunning variety of styles to reflect the numbers’ hard-hitting lyrics. The results of his fresh approach are arresting, though the cuts take some time to get gripping, but when they do the listener might choke.
There’s deceptive superficiality in the simple Americana that starts “I Am Not A Mountain” whose acoustic strum will draw one’s ear into Vanderwolf’s sweet reverie, his voice crawling under the skin, because the song progresses into a church choir before offering a poetic uplift and an accordion-accompanied reality check which linger until the patinated, slowly swirling “Ain’t Gonna Hurt” builds tension to drown its dull, organ-soothed pain in a mellifluous melody, a sharp riff, a passionate scream and a desperate guitar solo. This is why the smile-cracking, handclaps-propelled psychobilly of “Somethin 4 Nuthin” and glam-rock of “If This Is Love (Please Make It Stop)” feel more than welcome as a contrast to what went down earlier and to the vibrant balladry of “Stand By Your Fool” waiting to burst into sparkling gospel, the piano-sprinkled pastiche of “NYC” comes infused with a stadium-swaying panache – as does the comically, cosmically communal “Existential Terrier” calling Max’s parish to the dancefloor.
However, the spacious psychedelia of “Walking Away” is unexpected in this context as the epic’s strings-drenched, countrified seems too gloomy for its own good, but the otherworldly shimmer of “Glisten” corrects the album’s course with a Mellotron pulse and a Milton quote, Vanderwolf’s lysergic vocals carrying his passengers to a different dimension, where the finely orchestrated, multicolored solitude of “Aftermath” reigns supreme and turns into a scintillating slice of gospel, and the bass-driven mantra of “Somebody’s Love Song” unfurls raga-scented mesmerism for all to fall under the spell. And then there’s the tired, albeit optimistic, croon of “Headway” to bring this criminally understated record in front of the audience jury and guarantee a positive verdict – or send the platter for another spin in max security “12 Little Killers” truly deserve.