As a longtime Cooper fan, I'll admit that I was a bit concerned about last years release Brutal Planet. When you've been in the shock-rock biz for thirty years, you run the very real risk of becoming a caricature, a self-conscious and sad joke of what you once were. While Brutal Planet attempted to incorporate Rob Zombie-type elements of industrial music, it sounded forced and thus the album never fully clicked with me. With Dragontown, the final album in the trilogy started with The Last Temptation, I am relieved to announce that Alice is back in fine, frightening form.
An easy successor to Constrictor and Raise Your Fist And Yell, Dragontown marries the melodic metal edge of these middle-period albums with industrial elements, creating a more organic yet modern release. As in the last album and the classic From The Inside, Dragontown is a series of character sketches from Dragontown, the darkest corner of Brutal Planet. There's the faceless fury of "Triggerman", the fallen nun in "Sister Sara" and the angry megalomaniac in "I Just Wanna Be God." The title song is powerful and eerie with middle-eastern sounds offset by heavy bass and crushing guitar tones. "Sex, Death and Money", a neo-"Generation Landslide", has a unique, highly compressed guitar rhythm that caught my ear on the first spin and has continued to capture my attention. As with most Cooper albums (and slasher films), the horror is balanced with humor. "Disgraceland" takes a swipe at Elvis with a rockabilly beat, Alice doing a convincing Elvis imitation, and lines such as "He ate his weight in country ham/ Killed on pills and woke in Disgraceland." There's also the wimpy goody toe-shoes character on "It's Much Too Late" which humorously ties the album together before the final track "The Sentinel", a demented watcher over the grotesque inhabitants of Dragontown. The only ballad is "Every Woman Has A Name". By itself, this is a good song, but he's already written this ode to women twice and this third version seems superfluous. The most amazing part of the album is the amount of creativity still present in this artist, not to mention the strength and versatility in his voice. While other artists are trying to creak out bad covers of hits from their youth or wondering how they can use opaque contact lenses to shock the impressionable youth of America, Alice exhibits that he's still a player in this young man's game. If you bailed on Alice during his Trash/Poison era (guilty), this vaudevillian horror show is the perfect nightmare to lure you back into the dark and murky waters inhabited by the king of shock.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, November 2001.