Though "Burn Piano Island, Burn," the third album by Seattle's Blood Brothers, has been hailed by headbangers as the first hard rock record in a while that will actually scare parents to death, its real value is in the way it reconfigures hardcore for fans who've become bored with hardcore's predictability. Boasting two screamers in front of a power trio, the group seems to have as much fun challenging the extremism of standard thrash metal as they do exploiting it.
Produced by Ross Robinson, who catapulted Korn, Limp Bizkit and Slipknot to fame, "Burn" has a slicker sound than the band's outsider sensibility would seem to warrant. Then again, without the slickness, it might be difficult to make much sense of the complex vocal interplay between Jordan Blillie and Johnny Whitney, who leap through hoops of fire while guitarist Cody Votolato slashes his fingers to ribbons.
Most of the gold is in the contrasting vocal attacks. It's often impossible to tell which singer is which without a scorecard, not because they sound alike, but because each has mastered a wide range of weird styles. While one sets off a standard carcinogenic death-metal wail in "Ambulance vs. Ambulance," the other almost sweetly intones an accelerating bubblegum riff. Invariably high-pitched and inherently sardonic, the vocals have an eerie familiarity: the classic rock sneer commandeered by a group of Chuck Jones' cartoon creations. It takes a few listens to absorb the '70s soul theme that anchors the title track, since every other sound swirls around it in a centrifugal frenzy. On "Piano Song" and the head-spinningly complex "USA Nails," the band approaches steam-hammer tempos, but the singers still outpace them. They even pull off harmonies. Redundant it ain't, but it is relentless, and the faint-of-heart are cautioned: Blood Brothers provide no down time. Once you plug into "Burn Piano Island, Burn," you're in for 47 minutes of nonstop musical mayhem. Prepare to go up in flames.