REVIEW: BPMD – “American Made”
Ten timeless American rock classics from the ’70s. Four of Metal’s legendary names in a favorite new covers band. A flash in the pan, some self-indulgent fun, or a lack of new ideas? Debut album, ‘American Made,’ by BPMD suggests all of the above. An album in which vocalist Bobby Blitz (Overkill), drummer Mike Portnoy (The Winery Dogs, Sons of Apollo, ex-Dream Theater), bassist Mike Menghi (Metal Allegiance) and guitarist Phil Demmel (Vio-lence, ex-Machine Head) modernize, and sometimes Thrash-up, some of their earliest influences. With each member choosing two tunes each, and the band collectively picking an additional two, the result is part blistering good time, and part self- indulgence on an uninspiring cover album of their inspirational greatest hits.
Showing judicious respect by never straying from the roots of each song, BPMD attempt to ramp up the rock n’ roll ante with about the same level of originality as they put into the band’s name (made up from the first letter in each of their surnames). Shifting into high gear and staying there, their rendition of “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” by Ted Nugent makes the original sound neutered, with Bobby Blitz showing the vocal agility of a child that’s inhaled a bag of sugar. A trait he seasons the vast majority of the record with. However, in this instance, the two combine to make for an adrenaline-inducing start that will leave your speakers fearful of what’s to come.
And so they should be, for both the right and wrong reasons. Aerosmith’s “Toys in The Attic” delivers an almost night and day performance in comparison to the original while staying true to it. With a crisp, chunky guitar tone injecting new life into the iconic riff courtesy of Demmel, you really hear the meat being slaughtered on the bone as Portnoy trades dancefloor-bop for a mosh-pit body slam. Making it another track that straps the Blues to a bullet and pulls the trigger. Even so, the punkish vocal performance from Blitz sounds clumsily spread throughout, and the whole thing evokes Dad rock images of middle-aged uncles reliving their golden years while slicing through air guitars at your cousin’s wedding.
Typically, whenever Portnoy is attached to a project, there is an unsurprising and even expected reveal, that he was the mastermind behind it. While the songs recorded for ‘American Made’ were indeed hashed out in Portnoy’s home in Pennsylvania, its inception came from the mind of bassist, Mark Menghi. The story goes, Menghi was sitting around his campfire listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Saturday Night Special” when he was overcome with the urge to record a version himself. From here, he contacted the members of what would become BPMD, and a supergroup was born. Curiously, the fateful Skynyrd song made it on to the record with peculiar results. Results replicated elsewhere on the album.
Despite some wonderful playing, Menghi takes a back seat with the bass never quite cutting through. Whether due to some questionable judgment calls, or Menghi’s personal preference, his presence is missed. As it is on a great deal of ‘American Made’. And while his Skynyrd choice is delivered as yet another beefed up rendition, it’s really only Portnoy and Dimmel bringing home the bacon here. Where they really come together as a unit is on Blue Oyster Cult’s “Tattoo Vampire”, which sees B.O.C guitarist, Buck Dharma, join BPMD in punking-up this dark horse track and possessing it with the spirit of The Ramones.
On paper, BPMD’s namesakes call out like musicians equivalent to “Avengers Assemble.” Yet most of the time it feels like only half the team showed up and decided to play Justice League for a day instead. What ‘American Made’ has in energy, it lacks is any real sense of ownership or real investment, and therefore any sense of replay value. None of the ten tracks here will ever make you think of them in the way we think of Jeff Buckley version of Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, or Johnny Cash with “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails, or even Manson’s “Tainted Love” or “Sweet Dreams”. An homage as opposed to a reinterpretation, ”American Made” shouts to the converted. Like an old joke that you’d get better if you’d been there, it’s kind of fun, and you giggle along at times. But not all that much.