As should be common knowledge by this point, ABBA is releasing a new album. So far we’ve heard three new songs, all of which are delightfully similar to their previous work. I mean, let’s be honest, who wants something different from ABBA?
If your answer to that question was “Me! I’d like classic ABBA songs except done in a comedic style through the lens of various horror characters,” then it’s your lucky day! Brian David Gilbert, internet funnyman and genuinely skilled singer and musician, and his friend Jonah Scott, yes the Jonah Scott who played Legosi in the English dub of Beastars, have made the (probably) first horror themed ABBA cover album, AAAH!BBA. I’m reviewing it. Let’s get started.
The album starts off strong with a small introduction explaining the concept and its origins, which leads right into Gilbert dancing in a delightfully cheesy vampire costume. Along with pertinent lyric changes—namely adding references to blood and Van Helsing, the tone of the music is exactly what one would expect and/or hope for from a lovelorn vampire. It concludes with an a capella chorale. Haunting. This is the only track with a music video, and it’s absolutely worth a watch.
It takes surprisingly little to make a song sound like it’s being sung by a robot pursuing the destruction of humanity (or, at least, the subjugation thereof. It’s a bit vague). The modulated voice with lyrics reminiscent of the Portal (2007) boss battle, prominent synth tones, and the chiptune outro build the atmosphere effectively. The featured artist on this track is a previous creation of Gilbert’s: a boy band made up of quadruplets, three of which are desperate to kick out the fourth. In “Under Attack,” they support the robot uprising. Going in, I fully expected this to be my favorite concept, being as I am a known fan of fictional Artificial Intelligences, but I was quickly proven wrong.
I am nothing if not in love with Frankenstein. I read it in high school half-heartedly, and quickly re-read it whole-heartedly. I might read some in my diner (which you can listen to every Thursday at 5pm), but it’s a long book and only done justice when read in its entirety. Or so I believe. I’m a nerd, you can’t trust me on that. Frankenstein aside, “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” was my childhood ABBA favorite. It was just about impossible for this cover to go wrong for me. And it didn’t! Starting with Victor’s letter to his sister/wife, his rendition is backed by strings and has a delicate tone to his singing which wonderfully contrasts the quick transition into synths and manic laughter and such cries as “I can see no repercussions to this!” The dialogue between Victor and his creature spices up the lyrics but doesn’t overshadow them. My personal favorite line: “There’s not a soul out there / Why not make one in here?”
I am many things, and not a single one of those is “music expert.” My favorite songs are pretty much limited to interesting lyrics, a strong beat, and a good time, so I don’t have much to offer for commentary related to music theory. However, I can tell you this: “SOS” sounds pretty odd in 6/8 time. It takes a while to get used to, but once you do, it works! Probably the biggest change in genre from the original, but absolutely necessary given the singer, as is the use of the hurdy gurdy (which Gilbert obtained through illicit means). In this cover, Captain Hook is mourning the loss of his hand. Not the strongest concept, and Captain Hook isn’t the first character who comes to mind when I think of Halloween, but it has interesting lyrics, a strong beat, and it offers a good time, so I can’t complain. The Captain ordering around his crew is a nice touch.
“Oh no,” I thought before listening. “I really hope he hasn’t replaced the chorus with ‘mummy, mummy, mummy.’” Well, unfortunately I was right, complete with changing the rhymes to “fummy” and “summy.” However, I was not expecting the swing style with a bar ambience and the occasional interjection from spooky customers. It’s a pleasant listen, and what more can one ask from a man covered in toilet paper?
Overall, AAAH!BBA is a blast and I highly recommend it. I mean, do I even have to? It’s a horror themed ABBA cover album. It sells itself.
Wishing you all a blood-drenched Halloween!
Your DJ/Dinner Companion,