Confession time. I am a nerd. Not like a League of Legends-playing, Doctor Who-swallowing, PC elitist nerd, but I definitely know the tactical value of siege tanks, remembering to carry a towel when I travel, and can tell a Rodian from a Vorlon. So I feel right at home diving into an album called “Sci-Fi or Die” by a band named Droids Attack, even if I am instantly reminded of the ‘Simpsons’ episode where Mark Hamill is being harassed and Homer angrily yells “NNNEERRDDSS!”
What we have here is an album that taps into many of the rich veins of metal fandom over the course of forty years of metal, steeped largely in the dirty rhythms and stop-and-go riffs of the blues metal tradition. The album really gets going with “Clawhammer Suicide,” a piece that puts the pedal down and crosses the intersection of Annihilator’s cadence with Clutch’s tone. These moments are when Droids Attack impress the most, employing copies (clones? Replicants? Life Model Decoys?) of the best tropes metal has to offer and infusing them into a giant, multi-title crossover.
The other look we get prominently on this, the band’s fourth full length album, is a less dramatic but still effective distorted mash that reminds of the headiest days of Viking Skull, a crafting of sludgy, noisy rock that’s being made for sludgy, noisy rock’s sake. What stands out is that hidden in the noise of the middle third of “Sci-Fi or Die” is a trick that lofty artists like Rush used to use to great effect – the ability to create to play a minimalist riff and occasionally change one or two notes out in order to create a more varied-sounding experience. Droids Attack do this a couple of times, both in “Mashenomak” and “The Maze,” and it works fairly solidly in an unexpected medium.
However, Droids Attack leans on this trick too often, creating a record that as it drags into the later tracks, sounds awfully similar to itself. Even within the songs, if a discerning listener simply clicks through the songs at about ten-second intervals, what he or she will hear is the same basic structure repeated ad nauseum. Even minor variances within the riffs can’t wholly prevent the turning gears of repetition, so “Mashenomak Strikes Again” and “Rebirth” sound uniform from beginning to end. Droids Attack has already displayed the talent to avoid this pitfall, so the ceaseless back and forth oscillations of the riffs don’t really grip the memory like seeing attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.
So here’s the deal – what we’re left with for “Sci-Fi or Die” is essentially a really nerdy metal album made by nerds for nerds and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s a market for that. Let’s be honest here, the metal scene has long been collected with nerdery of all stripes. I mean, come on, have you ever really listened to Venom’s “Welcome to Hell?” That’s the ramblings of three homely nerds who were frustrated because women wouldn’t touch them. So we’re merely experiencing the next in a long tradition.
That said, while “Sci-Fi or Die” is a capable album that ably captures and replicates the mechanics of honest and pure metal (with some progressive undertones,) it perhaps does not properly engender the spirit of the genre, or capture the imagination.