Type: CD Company: Independent Release: 2016 Genre: Traditional Reviewer: Frank Hill Published: 1/13/2017
Limited exclusive filled with well-known songs and a lot of deep tracks
ASOT has been a fairly prolific U.S. power/traditional heavy metal band with releases in every year of the '10s decade. This Kickstarter-backed release, "Who Do You Think We Are?", is an apt enough title for a collection of cover tunes; a direct question to the listening audience that may know the songs, but not the band.
The title track is a punk-leaning, obscure Alice Cooper track, an upbeat start that's executed with equal amounts of playfulness and snarl. ASOT neuters what might be the most chauvinist metal song ever, Manowar's "Pleasure Slave". It's flipped on its gender-biased head with tongue-in-cheek male moans and vocalist Nina Osegueda screaming commands over its elephantine riff-lumbering. "MAN, be my slave!". Only thing missing is a Conan-esque "What is best in life?" speech to set it even more ridiculously over the top.
Prog/Alt metal is well-represented by Kansas' "Icarus" and the intense build-up of Tool's threshold-crossing epic "Stinkfist". I suspect Wrathchild America was a band enjoyed by at least one of the members during their high school mophead days because "Day of the Thunder" is a powerful thrash cover that gets bonus points for added gang vocals. Dio's mammoth "The Last in Line"--now we're treading into some sacred territory with arguably Ronnie's best song, but it's done justice with the massive lung power of Nina. Best cover version of the song I've heard ever.
Never thought I'd hear Dan Fogelberg dressed up metal but the redo of his song "Ghosts" is the hidden gem of the album. Nina shows her sweet side on the jewelry box intro before it drops into galloping Maiden triplets. This one reminds me of the Euro-power sound from bands like Dark Moor and Kamelot and it made me want to look up the original. Bookending this release, "Death Alley Driver" and "Space Truckin'" are practically musical motor siblings.
Since the song choices vary from different decades, the transitions from track to track play sometimes work and sometimes are a little jarring. But with a cover album the intent isn't to have a narrative flow as much as being able to skip around the singles as you wish.
The production from Kevin "131" Gutierrez at Assembly Line Studios is outstanding. His multi-layered approach gives the guitars a ton of crunch with a chunky bass backbone. Speaking of Nina specifically, she is a standout vocalist with an ability to go from delicate to clean to flat-out wailing, often within the same track. She is extremely versatile and her passionate approach is excellently captured.
The packaging has an old-school fantasy art collage from Dusan Markovic overlaid with a die-cut homage to Black Sabbath's "Sabotage" picture frame cover which is infamously considered to be one of the worst designs ever. That's the kind of insider winks and nods you often get throughout "WDYTWA". Pokers and jokers, but never mediocres. My copy had multiple autographs and I do wonder if there was a comic book influence on the die-cut.
How do you get a copy of "WDYTWA"? It was a limited exclusive that isn't going to the general public--or Amazon, or iTunes, or Spotify (where they'd currently lose money per play because of licensing fees!), so you gotta know somebody willing to share a listen. Go see them live and you might get to hear some of the songs.
"WDYTWA?" is filled with well-known songs and a lot of deep tracks that show the band members' breadth of metal and hard rock enjoyment. It's hard to say who ASOT really is from their interpretation of other band's songs but I can definitely say they are a hard-working, talented group that acknowledges and rewards their "Legion of Thunder" fans.
-- Full album track-listing: 1. WDYTWA (Intro) * 2. Who Do You Think We Are? (Alice Cooper)* 3. Death Alley Driver (Rainbow)(featuring Tony Carey) 4. Gypsy (Mercyful Fate)* 5. Pleasure Slave (Manowar) 6. Stinkfist (Tool) * 7. Icarus - Borne on Wings of Steel (Kansas)** 8. A National Acrobat (Black Sabbath)* 9. Day of the Thunder (Wrathchild America)* 10. The Last in Line (Dio)** 11. Ghosts (Dan Fogelberg)* 12. Space Truckin' (Deep Purple)** 13. Trashed (Black Sabbath) Kickstarter-Exclusive Bonus CD: 1. Island of Domination (Judas Priest)(Kickstarter Exclusive)* 2. Walls 2016 (A Sound of Thunder)(Kickstarter Exclusive)* (* - previously unreleased recording) (** - previously unreleased version)
About this Writer: Frank Hill // Frank Hill has been at this site since its slimy, crying birth in '03. He was born on National Metal Day--11/11 and will turn his hearing aids up to 11 when he's 111. He secretly listens to a lot of old Country and Doo-Wop tunes and wants to start a cyberband with lead vocals by Robot Plant. He is still trying to figure out what Judas Priest meant by "paratamize you". If you read this, then he salutes you.
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