Funk Metal

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Funk Metal is a sub-genre of metal that came to be in the mid-late 80's with bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Faith No More, Living Colour, and Electric Boys. The genre reached its peak of popularity in the early 90's, after Faith No More’s hit single Epic from the album The Real Thing. Primus, Fishbone, 24-7 Spyz, Infectious Grooves, and Extreme were among the best well-known players of the genre, but funk metal included many short lived bands which remained underground.

Funk metal is a genre often characterised by slap bass and funky syncopation blended with various types of metal, as well as a sense of humour. One of the first bands to mix funk and metal, along with many other genres, was Washington DC hardcore/fusion band Bad Brains, although Red Hot Chili Peppers' self-titled debut was perhaps the biggest influence on the genre, with the track "Green Heaven" the earliest combination of funk and metal riffs.

Bands mixed funk with many different metal genres. Living Colour and Mindfunk focused primarily on combining funk with heavy metal, while Extreme and Electric Boys combined it with glam metal. The heavier end of the spectrum saw Mordred, Scatterbrain and Suicidal Tendencies side-project Infectious Grooves mix funk with thrash. Many more thrash metal bands incorporated funk metal elements in some of their 90's albums without becoming primarily funk metal. Death Angel included influences of funk metal on their 1990 album Act III and Suicidal Tendencies began incorporating the style on their Lights... Camera... Revolution! album of the same year.

A sense of humour can be seen throughout the entire genre, in various forms. Often the lyrics are comedic or surreal, Primus and Scatterbrain being two prominent examples, with song titles like “My Name is Mud” and “Don't Call Me Dude”. Faith No More sometimes included mini skits, such as in “Death March” from 1987's Introduce Yourself. Some bands like Extreme and Living Colour often had a more socio-political focus to their lyrics.

The genre had lost much of its popularity by the late 90's, as other trends in the metal scene, such as Nu Metal, were reaching their height. Some Nu-Metal bands made use of funk metal elements in their earlier material such as Powerman 5000, Sugar Ray and Sick Puppies. Incubus kept the funk metal genre alive during this time with their S.C.I.E.N.C.E. album (1997), although they switched to a more heavy alternative rock style by the end of the decade.

While few bands play funk metal anymore, bands like comedy metal band Psychostick incorporate elements of it, along with many other genres.

-Written by Unitron, 2017

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LIVING COLOUR Stain Album Cover Stain
LIVING COLOUR
4.48 | 12 ratings
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FAITH NO MORE The Real Thing Album Cover The Real Thing
FAITH NO MORE
4.08 | 74 ratings
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INCUBUS (CA) S.C.I.E.N.C.E. Album Cover S.C.I.E.N.C.E.
INCUBUS (CA)
4.26 | 8 ratings
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EXTREME Extreme II: Pornograffitti Album Cover Extreme II: Pornograffitti
EXTREME
3.96 | 34 ratings
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PRIMUS The Brown Album Album Cover The Brown Album
PRIMUS
3.98 | 13 ratings
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INFECTIOUS GROOVES The Plague That Makes Your Booty Move... It's the Infectious Grooves Album Cover The Plague That Makes Your Booty Move... It's the Infectious Grooves
INFECTIOUS GROOVES
4.03 | 7 ratings
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LIVING COLOUR Time's Up Album Cover Time's Up
LIVING COLOUR
3.93 | 13 ratings
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PRIMUS Frizzle Fry Album Cover Frizzle Fry
PRIMUS
3.90 | 28 ratings
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PRIMUS Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People Album Cover Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People
PRIMUS
3.92 | 9 ratings
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LIVING COLOUR Vivid Album Cover Vivid
LIVING COLOUR
3.87 | 13 ratings
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PRIMUS Tales From the Punchbowl Album Cover Tales From the Punchbowl
PRIMUS
3.79 | 21 ratings
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PRIMUS Sailing the Seas of Cheese Album Cover Sailing the Seas of Cheese
PRIMUS
3.76 | 29 ratings
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FAITH NO MORE We Care A Lot

Album · 1985 · Funk Metal
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martindavey87
What can truly be said to accurately sum up Faith No More’s 1985 debut, ‘We Care a Lot’? It’s a complete smorgasbord of styles and influences, all mashed up together in a brief 34-minute flurry of experimentation.

And yet, while it’s a little rough around the edges (okay, maybe more than a little), there’s an interesting charm about it that shows a band who, underneath all the random madness, knows what they’re doing. The low-budget production gives the album a very rough sound, at times making certain instruments indistinguishable, and sometimes the vocals can be a bit jarring, but overall, there’s a lot of potential here for what the band can achieve.

Songs like ‘We Care a Lot’ (which will be re-recorded on the bands next release), ‘The Jungle’, ‘Arabian Disco’, and the hidden gem, ‘As the Worm Turns’, are all decent tracks that, while inferior to the bands later output and somewhat hindered by vocalist Chuck Mosley’s repetitive style, show a band that are not following any particular blueprint or trend.

Blending rock, metal, funk, punk, hip-hop, synthpop, and anything else you can throw into the mix, it sounds like this should be a complete mess, but the Californian five-piece do manage to string it all together. And while the compositions are very raw and unpolished, you can already hear just in this short release that the band can, and will, improve over time and go on to release much stronger albums.

NUCLEAR RABBIT Vicuna

Album · 1997 · Funk Metal
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siLLy puPPy
The metal version of the Easter bunny with rancid eggs, hehehe! This album seemed appropriate for this review on Easter Sunday, the 21st of April 2019. Not only for the obvious RABBIT connotations but also because this band was formed in Novato, CA which is the first destination i moved to in the San Francisco Bay Area and have ended up living there many times over my restless Bay Area living experience. How in the world did i not know about this band for so long when i’m definitely one who craves the most weird and demented expressions of the metal world? Well, that is no longer the case and NUCLEAR RABBIT has become more than a curiosity in my world but a band that delivers some far out funk metal weirdness taken to the n-th degree. And when i say weird, i totally mean it!

Not only does this band resonate with me on the aforementioned levels but ironically the founder and virtuoso bassist Jean Baudin has become one of the Bay Area’s foremost underground bassists with his classic 11 string bass guitars and is often seen playing video game tunes at the Santa Clara based California Extreme event where classic 80s arcade video games congregate en masse for a larger than life retro experience where Pac-Man, Berzerk, Centipede, Donkey Kong and a gazillion other unknown games are ready for one to take a trip back to the 80s / 90s timeline. Whoah. While i digress, this actually applies to NUCLEAR RABBIT’s debut album VICUNA as well. Funk rock / metal was all the rage in the 80s and 90s with bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone, 24/7 Spyz, Extreme, Primus, Living Colour, Faith No More and of course Mr Bungle were rocking out wit da funk turned up to 11!

While the band was created in 1989 by Jean Baudin who wanted to create music that wasn’t confined to any particular genre, it seems that the funk and ska thing won out. While Baudin started out as the vocalist / bassist along with Pat Garner (guitar) and Steve Sigaty (drums), the true magic started once vocalist Greg Parrish joined the cast and NUCLEAR RABBIT started to develop its own weird persona that would propel them into one of the Bay Area’s most revered cult metal acts that still persists to this very day. While clearly following in the footsteps of the first Mr Bungle album’s goofy take on potty mouth immaturity married with prog rock sophistication, NUCLEAR RABBIT took a harder edged cue from the thrash metal infused energetic approach of Infectious Grooves, the solo project of Suicidal Tendencies frontman and lead vocalist Mike Muir. Add a bit of over the top Zappa antics and a touch of indie pop inspired Ween weirdness and voila!!! The perfect recipe for some Dr. Demento styled metal all funked up 2 da max.

While VICUNA is technically the debut album by NUCLEAR RABBIT, it is in reality it is a compilation of tracks from the four demos: “Poo Factory (1990),” “Bowling for Midgets (1991),” “Utensil Extravaganza (1992)” and “Spork 2000 (1993)” which is the reason this album despite its 1997 release sounds very much grounded in the funk metal paradigm of the early 90s. However since the demos were never really released, this is a bona fide album that marks the debut of one of the Bay Area’s most bizarre bands and that’s saying a lot in these parts! While Baudin is famous for his 11-string bass guitar, on these earliest recordings he simply abuses a 5-string Ralf bass and it is his outstanding virtuosic playing that makes this one helluva roller coaster ride despite the clear influences on the band’s sleeves. They really take things to the next level and VICUNA truly delivers in not only the absurdity department but really excels in some of the most off-kilter progressive takes on funk rock, metal, ska, punk, jazz as well as ethnic influences from all over these freaky planet.

Other than Baudin’s brash bravado on the funkified bass with unique techniques of tapping, slapping and popping the strings, the next star of this show clearly belongs to vocalist Greg Parrish who not only mimics Mike Patton of Mr Bungle, Frank Zappa as well as the singer Mike Silverman from the long forgotten band The Fabulous Hedgehogs as well as the mastermind behind That 1 Guy, but also delivers some of the most eccentric vocal antics that actually exceed anything Mike Patton has conjured up in his lengthy career. Parrish not only takes yodeling to a new level of weirdness but also delivers some highly bizarre vocal styles that i’ve never heard anywhere else. The tracks are all generally silly and mock the consumer culture such as on the hilarious tracks like “Supermarket,” “The San Francisco Treat” and “Parkay.”

VICUNA is clearly for those who don’t take music too seriously but then again it is totally for those who take music seriously! This dichotomy and attitudes in opposition is what makes this appealing. Generally speaking, the tracks are based on funky bass lines that deliver an instantly addictive groove with ridiculous subject matter and then turn to left field by taking things in a totally opposite direction often with off-kilter time signature freakouts and musical insanity with hardcore technical wizardry. The attitude is clearly rooted in punk rock with most tracks exhibiting a brevity but a few like “A Little Squirrel And His Crack Pipe” taking many twists and turns and extending to much longer lengths. This compiled debut represents the first phase of the band’s career. Soon after the release Pat Garner left the band and was replaced by Jason Brandon. The band enjoyed minor success after touring with Green Day, PUYA, Grip Inc., Deftones, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Melvins, MDC and the Skankin' Pickle but lost momentum by taking several years to craft a followup. While not as OMG brilliant as Mr Bungle, this is definitely the next best thing and not to be missed by freaky avant-garde metal lovers on the funkier side of the spectrum.

LIVING COLOUR Stain

Album · 1993 · Funk Metal
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Warthur
Like the preceding Time's Up, Living Colour's Stain doesn't quite deliver up a standout song on the level of the anthemic Cult of Personality, and like Time's Up it adds even more thrash metal influence to the band's funk and jazz-tinged metal foundations. In fact, the dial on the harder-edged and darker influences is dialled up enough to elevate the album above Time's Up somewhat - whilst there's no smash hit on there, there's also a substantially higher level of quality overall, and in terms of the heaviness and complexity of the material involved they aren't quite as enamoured of technical complexity as jazz-death outfits like Atheist were at the time, but they wouldn't be embarrassed sharing a stage with them either.

FISHBONE Give a Monkey a Brain and He'll Swear He's the Center of the Universe

Album · 1993 · Funk Metal
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siLLy puPPy
FISHBONE really stepped things up with their 1991 classic “The Reality Of My Surroundings” by adding stealthy doses of alternative metal to their already electric palette of ska, punk, funk and soul which allowed the band to experiment in myriad directions beyond the hyperactive funk ska of their earlier years. The band experienced minor success with that album which reached as high as No. 49 on the Billboard album charts, but sadly FISHBONE didn’t quite break free from their cult status as one of the sharpest badass fusion bands that delivered the social commentary of gangsta rap dressed up with the goofiest sense of humor and outstandingly brilliant compositions played by seven of the dopest musicians in the entire rock scene.

Two years later they followed up with the fourth full-album GIVE A MONKEY A BRAIN AND HE'LL SWEAR HE'S THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE which gets my vote as one of the coolest album titles in all of rock history. Stylistically FISHBONE continues expanding their musical tentacles into the furthest reaches of what they had been known for but also crafted a darker more inauspicious lyrical delivery with biting critiques of society and life under the perpetual thumb of the US empire. Unlike the smooth delivery of the previous album, GIVE A MONKEY with its incessant delivery of disparate musical styles proved to be too much for the fanbase and the album despite its utter brilliance got panned by the critics and went over the heads of the fans despite the fact that the metal was more metal, the funk tracks were funkier than ever and the humor while tamped down was still lurking under every cadence in a less in yer face manner.

It is so true that the album lacks the cohesiveness of its predecessor and instead GIVE A MONKEY exercises a series of mood setting units. The album slaps you in the face with the two heaviest tracks “Swim” and “Servitude” with the thundering grunge distortion and frenetic metal riffing with pummeling percussive drive dripping with snarling attitude. Considered the heaviest tracks of FISHBONE’s entire canon, they deliver an unexpected douse of heavy metal that nothing on “The Reality Of My Surroundings” even came close to. However, after the two headbangers, the freneticism cools off a bit with “Black Flowers” providing more of a transitory metal ballad type of energy despite the darkened lyrical content free of any cliche love song antics. The track provides some stellar church organ as well as ending with a sort of “Hey Jude” type of outro that loops around for a lengthy time. After these three heavy guitar units rear their ugly heads, the band surprisingly reverts back to their origins with the hyperactive ska funk track “Unyielding Condition” which also hosts stellar vocal tradeoffs.

The Funkadelic and Parliament funk rock influenced prowess continues on the sarcastic “Properties Of Propaganda” but the band throws another curve ball with the return to the heavy metal in “The Warmth Of Your Breath” but also breaks out some serious off-kilter funk riffs which makes this the ultimate funk metal track of all time IMHO. The album turns sombre with the funk and horn sections in “Lemon Meringue” and “They All Have Abandoned Their Hopes,” two tracks that are upbeat in sound but provide downer lyrics as does the guitar driven “End The Reign” which drops the funk and ska and focuses more on a standard hard rock sound in mid-tempo. The strangest track on the album is clearly “Drunk Skitzo” which features a funky groove and some completely unhinged vocals that leads to a frenetic jazz section with guest musicians Branford Marsalis providing a sultry sax freakout. The ending is augmented by atonality, weird sound effects and a dip into the truly surreal.

The album ends with the return to a nice mix of the church organ, rock guitar and bass and funky groove underbelly with the two closers “No Fear” and “Nutt Megalomaniac” which after a playing time of over 64 minutes always leaves me wanting more. This album may have been a let down at first following the perfection of “The Realities Of My Surroundings,” but in time this one has emerged to be just as prophetic and utterly addictive. The melodies are infectious, the compositions are divine and the performances are outstanding. The lyrics are tantamount to a brilliant hip hop album only dressed up in rock / funk / ska / metal clothing. Not to mention the mesmerizing album cover that folds out into one of the coolest astrological art scenes in music history. This album doesn’t have a bad track on it and although it doesn’t flow as perfectly as it should, the collection of disparate tracks is a perfect one and while certain tracks may hook you instantly, they all will if you give this album enough spins. Somehow, some way, this one has weaseled its way into my top 100 albums of all time.

Sadly the album failed to generate the momentum that carried FISHBONE to the next level and fizzled out at No. 99 on the album charts. The album was simply misunderstood and lacked the instant connection factor that so many modern music fans require. The financial frustrations of carrying on were too much for several members and the two primary songwriters guitarist Kendall Jones and keyboardist / trombonist Chris Dowd would leave the band after this album. The band continued in name but the magic had been lost as starting with the following “Chim Chim’s Badass Revenge” having much simpler song structures that were clearly trying to generate a pop hit or two. This is the end of the line for the classic FISHBONE era and together with “The Reality Of My Surroundings,” GIVE A MONKEY A BRAIN AND HE'LL SWEAR HE'S THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE is a bona fide masterpiece of musical accomplishment. Woefully underrated this one is. I simply cannot understand why others don’t find this to be one of the greatest rock albums of all time.

LIVING COLOUR Time's Up

Album · 1990 · Funk Metal
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Warthur
Living Colour's Time's Up finds the pioneering funk metal unit steering further into more experimental turf. The upshot of this is that there's no one standout hit here like Cult of Personality was for the debut album, but the album is worth digging deep into if you are keen on the idea of funk and jazz/fusion influences being combined with a metal approach.

There's just a pinch of thrash influence here too, enough so that whilst they never quite cross the line into the sort of jazz-death metal that the likes of Atheist were pioneering at around this time, at the same time the two bands could easily have opened for each other and it wouldn't have been entirely incongruous. Both, after all, were attempting to combine the technical complexity and chops of jazz with the power and force of metal - it's just that Living Colour had a bit more of a funky approach to the experiment.

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