Whether or not London/Naples based trio Driving Mrs Satan took their name as inspiration from Jessica Tandy’s landmark 1989 film is unclear – though it’s just an amusing afterthought – given their music invokes much more topical discussion. Popscotch, the trio’s debut album, is a covers album. That much is true. But its formula is to acoustically cover heavy metal artists – among them Faith No More, Metallica and Slayer – with clear female vocals.
Indeed, anyone familiar with Metallica’s acoustic renditions of their own heavier work at the Bridge Street Benefits in 2007 or Kate Bush’s rather unusual cover of Slayer’s ‘Raining Blood’ should be open to this kind of experimentation as its hardly the first time its ever happened. What does make this project slightly more unique however is the female vocals and double bass sound applied to songs that have simply projected – until now anyway – a masculine approach?
If we consider in more detail the bands rendition of ‘Battery’ by Metallica, a song featured on the latter’s Master of Puppets album, known throughout the metal community as a bold statement of its genre. A recent cover of this track was done by Machine Head, remaining relatively faithful and true to the original, but in doing so there were no chances taken and no stones overturned. What DMS have managed to achieve here is the ultimate kind of cover version, where you can take the original song, redesign and restructure it to suit your own music and present its words and lyrics in a new light.
When I first heard about this “acoustic heavy metal” I thought that I would have a laugh in reviewing it. If nothing else, parodies akin to Spinal Tap and Tenacious D came to mind, but this band embodies neither of those and to compare them to either would be an insult. I’ve done this group a disservice which I hope to rectify by explaining to you all that this is a record of pure scope and genius which has been well conceived, perfectly detailed and expertly delivered.
Another fine example would be their cover of Slayer’s ‘South of Heaven’ – anyone familiar with the Richard Cheese cover of Slayer’s ‘War Ensemble’ would, I’m sure, agree that it presents the song in a very unfamiliar light and allows the listener to understand every vocal without once consulting the lyric sheet.
Driving Mrs Satan achieve similar with their work, allowing an almost completely different rendition of the song, in some cases actually improving upon the compositions of their creators. Now that might seem like a bold statement to make – especially from me, a lifetime Slayer fan – but when you strip the music down to its elements you find a root melody and lyricism inherent to that genre which more “casual” metal fans would simply dismiss. By covering their idols, or protégées in this way, the band has exposed the genius and elemental musicianship of the original tracks to people who might not otherwise notice it. And for that, they’re certainly getting my vote.
For some reason I can only find mention of a single UK date in their current touring cycle – Bolton, on July 18th – and if it wasn’t for financial limitations I would be encouraged to make the journey, so strong is my belief in this act. All I can say is that a band like this are sorely needed in the North East.
Reviewer: Wayne Madden