Friday, May 29, 2015
Cancer Bats - "Beelzebub"
If you've read any of my record reviews, maybe you noticed that I make a lot of film references. Whenever I hear a fantastic song, I start imagining cinematic visuals to accompany it. And, likewise, when I see a great movie, I can't help thinking about the perfect musical accompaniment that might've made it even better. It’s how my brain is wired.
The song “Beelzebub” by Cancer Bats recently filled a void in my life that I didn't even know my life had. In fact, it’s so demolishingly dark, loud, angry, and cathartic that I think it's a candidate to score one of the most fantasized-about yet presently non-existent movie moments in our culture.
Despite never having been onscreen, this is a scene that's been detailed in comics and novels, filibustered by Patton Oswalt, and discussed with desperate anticipation by millions of sci-fi movie buffs (mostly male) for decades. And we'll continue to create indescribably impossible expectations for it, no matter how many other media forms poke around its edges, because none of those counts till we actually see it in a movie.
What generationally momentous though wholly hypothetical film scene am I talking about?
Boba Fett, severely injured but alive, wrenching himself free of the Sarlacc Pit, pissed off and looking for payback.
Like many fans, I knew my life would be incomplete in a small but significant way until a film containing this scene was brought into existence. However, I didn’t realize that my private fanboy world was also missing the perfect song to play behind it, until I heard “Beelzebub.”
I recently read a book that put quantifiable numbers to what we of the Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino generation already qualitatively understood without the need for research to confirm it: Star Wars permeates the hell out of modern culture. And one of the most reviled events in all of Star Wars (and, therefore, all of cinema) was Boba Fett getting bumped off in the ignominious way that he did. It was hollow and unsatisfying when I was a kid, and the years since haven't made it any easier to accept.
Fortunately, it’s a death that was never confirmed. Yes, you can pronounce someone dead without a body, you can even hold their funeral, but there will always be that lingering question... especially if the departed spends the next thirty years becoming one of the most popular characters in the most beloved space-fantasy saga of all time.
I read about Cancer Bats in Magnet Magazine, dog-earing the page and eventually sitting down with headphones to immerse myself in their latest record, Searching for Zero. When I’m listening to a new band for the first time, I tend to put their stuff on while I’m doing something else, just to see if it’s remarkable enough to capture my attention in a positive way. By the end of the four-minute opening track, I couldn’t focus on my work. And by the time I heard the line, “I’ll always be… the jerk that you need,” my brain was reconfiguring my taste parameters to accommodate this meaningful new addition.
This is a band cut from the Every Time I Die cloth, laying down a ripping blend of high-octane rock, throat-scouring hardcore and half-speed stoner metal. A few days after acquiring the album, while listening to its fourth song, I had my epiphany.
Let me quickly set the stage:
You're the baddest bounty hunter in the universe. You’ve finally brought in your prize mark, and are enjoying Jabba the Hutt's hospitality while basking in the satisfaction of a job well done—which, for you, equates to standing around looking menacing while everyone else cavorts (because you don't get to be the baddest bounty hunter out there by letting your guard down).
Next thing you know, lightsabers are humming, blasters are firing, wookies are roaring, and, one lucky shot later, jet packs and grappling guns suddenly feel like the most pointless gadgets you could possibly have armed yourself with, because what you really need is a two-foot syringe of imperial-strength, midi-chlorian-enhanced ipecac.
You with me?
Now, music is (of course) subjective, as is every Star Wars fan’s right to assemble his own mental reel of Fett dragging his splintered armor and battered body out the entrance-only mouth of a killed-to-shit-from-the-inside Sarlacc.
That said, I think we can all agree that it needs to happen. And what I didn’t realize until recently was that what my soul wanted, as much as it wanted the grievous wrong of Boba Fett’s apparent death put right, was a killer heavy rock song blasting along as the soundtrack to this cinematic correcting of universal events. I’m talking about a song so perfectly articulated in its power and energy as to forever be linked to the scene, the way “Misirlou” will forever remain inextricable from Pulp Fiction’s opening salvo.
With that in mind, indulge me and hit play on Cancer Bats’ “Beelzebub.” As you listen, let your internal celluloid start to unspool. Together, we’ll visualize Boba Fett channeling every escape artist, fixer and jury-rigger from Mr. Miracle to MacGuyver as he fights, squirms, and detonates his way out of the most heinous flesh-trap in the system, wrenching himself back from a bottomless well of slow-boiling stomach juices, cracking past thousands of concentric, downward-angled teeth, and negotiation of a few tons of generator-choking Tatooine sand in the process. If “Beelzebub” doesn’t seem like the right music for this moment, turn the volume up and start over. And if you can’t almost feel the acidic stab of ten thousand years of remorseless, alien digestion on your skin when Bats singer Liam Cormier roars, “I'm just as scared of this too, as terrified as you,” maybe you don’t care as much about Boba Fett as we both thought.
The revelation of Boba Fett being alive would be a deeply personal thing for many of us. And so, if I’m being honest, I’ve got to admit that it’s way too ego-centric to suggest that, just because it works for me, there’s no better piece of music than "Beelzebub" to score the hypothetical scene in which this pseudo-resurrection comes to pass. I accept that.
If a few people are exposed to Cancer Bats and their killer new album through my highlighting one of their songs this way, I'm happy. This is a great band who, via a simmering mini-epic of mortal fear and struggle against the darkness, has confirmed for me that a lot more punk-tinged metal bands should slow it down once a while, because they absolutely crush when they do.
And if, for some of you, “Beelzebub” happens to evoke an Industrial Light & Magic-perfect vision of a Mandalorian-gauntleted hand reaching back from the mouth of nigh inescapable doom, all the better.