When former vocalist Hank von Helvete left Norwegian punk rockers Turbonegro in 2010 after nearly three years of silence from the band, many fans feared the worst. With the group still officially on hiatus, former Dukes of Nothing frontman Tony Sylvester was announced as von Helvete’s replacement last year and Turbojugends settled in for a long and anxious wait, unsure if a ninth album would ever see the light of day. Almost exactly a year later and the band have emerged with ‘Sexual Harrassment’, the follow up to 2007’s ‘Retox’, and you’d be forgiven for forgetting that they’d ever been away.
‘Sexual Harassment’ kicks off with “I Got A Knife”, dark and edgy track replete with trademark Turbonegro speed and snarling brutality. Like the rest of the album, it sounds great; the scuzzy riffs tempered by surprisingly modern production that just about manages to strike the right balance between organic rawness and studio polish. “Hello Darkness” keeps the pace up and features excellent lead guitar work from Euroboy while” Shake Your Shit Machine” slows things down a little for an immensely entertaining exercise in pure sleaze. It’s one of the most memorable songs on the album, due in no small part to an amazingly catchy main hook and a hilarious voiceover introduction. “TNA (The Nihilistic Army)” borders on the anthemic with yet another monster riff and a fantastic breakdown.
While the tempo stays high throughout the record, there’s a feeling that Turbonegro have led with their best foot forward. The first four songs are infectious, explosive and among the best work of their career, but from “Mister Sister” onwards, the band take their foot off the gas ever so slightly. Let’s be clear; there isn’t a bad song on ‘Sexual Harassment’ but the second half of the album just falls short of the lofty standard set by the opening salvo.
Tony Sylvester constantly impresses and lifts the weaker second half with his rousing vocal performance. His voice sounds absolutely huge, the production allowing it to dominate the mix so that it really does become an instrument in itself. His rich, gravelly delivery is reminiscent of both Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead and Neil Fallon from Clutch and stands in stark contrast to Hank von Helvete’s sneering, higher pitched tones and while ‘Sexual Harassment’ doesn’t have quite the same urgency and manic energy as older records, The Duke of Nothing brings a deep-seated anger and world-weariness that genuinely suits Turbonegro as they progress further into their third decade. As ever, it’s a matter of personal preference but for my money, Sylvester is neither better nor worse than von Helvete – just different.
As the album title suggests, Turbonegro’s characteristically filthy sense of humour remains intact and the lyrics are as foul-mouthed and explicit as ever. There’s not quite as much focus on deviant sexual behaviour as on previous records but “Tight Jeans, Loose Leash”,” Mister Sister” and the “Shake Your Shit Machine” do just about enough to keep fans of Mötley Crüe-style debauchery happy while other songs fixate more on violence and mild body horror, putting the death back in death punk. Sensitive souls will be relieved to find that it’s all wonderfully tongue-in-cheek and while a few individual lines occasionally raise eye-brows, we’re not talking about Steel Panther levels of faux-ironic depravity.
There’s no doubt that this is an older, wiser band than the one who released ‘Retox’ five years ago but Turbonegro wear their years well and seem to revel in their new identity as grizzled veterans of a scene that has chewed up and spat out so many other bands. ‘Sexual Harassment ‘is a superb return to form from an act that many considered to be down and out for good and while it doesn’t hit the same heights as ‘Ass Cobra’ and the rest of their late 90s work, it nevertheless deserving of a place in every punk fan’s record collection.