The ballad: a slow, heartstring tugging ode to passion, or the aches and pains of one losing somebody that the musician once held dear. Unless the song in question happens to be this album’s titular track and opener ‘The Ballad of the Birds of Satan’, in which case it is no time to cuddle up to a loved one. Ten minutes of brutal, chorus-less hard rock scraps, beginning with a long cacophony of drums and crying babies, and closing the indecipherable rock opera with the frontman quickly gasping “the end”. It was that particular frontman who made this the unpredictable and seemingly aimless jam session that it became, inevitable.
The Birds of Satan is a side-project of Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, which is enough to know to anticipate a rhythm-lead tangle from the first click until the final crash. What else would anybody expect to happen when a hard rock band (with toes dipped in ‘progressive’ waters), hand the baton of control to the drummer? Hawkins doesn’t so much run, but stomp and tap-dance at record speed to the finish, to hold splintered drumsticks aloft atop the podium.
Collaborating with fellow drummer and Foo Fighter, Dave Grohl on several tracks probably didn’t help to create anything more contrived than the resulting allusion to the careless, unusually playful retro feel of Seventies garage metal, akin to Alice Cooper.
While the following six tracks aren’t of such epic proportions, that is not to say that they are much tamer. ‘Thanks for the Line’, featuring another title not hinting a single beat of subtlety, teases a light, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’-inspired piano bridge, only to be dirtied by the buzzing of a discarded guitar rising from the horizon, welcoming yet another percussive drive.
It takes until the final track for Hawkins’ straitjacket to be properly fitted. ‘Too Far Gone to See’ is a temporarily calmer number led by an almost sarcastic sounding harpsichord, leading to the Birds of Satan’s defining minute – a hilariously inappropriate drum solo, just as soon as they finally seem to be getting the hang of that ‘ballad’ thing.
The Birds of Satan is a half-hour crash course in brilliantly rough and fast progressive pop, with percussion chaotic enough that only drumming virtuosos may be able to keep track of.