Rize of the Fenix sits directly in the middle ground between 2001’s self-titled straight forward mock-rock album and 2006’s Pick of Destiny soundtrack album. It adds a post Hollywood chapter to the Tenacious D lore. “When The Pick of Destiny [the bands 2006 film with accompanying soundtrack] was released, it was a bomb/ And all the critics said that the D was done” Black tells on the title track then laughing that “If Tenacious D has died, what will we do?/ And what will we do about all the fans who have the D tattoo?” Ironic as the original premise behind the rock duo was two slackers who dreamed of rock grandeur, and, after a career spanning eighteen years, there probably are people out there with D related tattoos owing to this band. If The Pick of Destiny hadn’t bombed at the box office then the band wouldn’t have had the same fuel and motivation to come out and “the D will rise again, just like a fenix” and prove that they are indeed still the best rock ‘n’ roll band on the planet.
Long-time devotees need not worry that the band would lose their vulgar edge to middle age; their humour still speaks to the part of us deep down that hasn’t grown up or evolved past dick and fart jokes. So when Black impersonates a Spanish guitar instructor called Felix on Classical Teacher our insides burst with laughter and light up with the humour at both the accent and the inappropriate jokes. This band just won’t let you grow up (not that you’d want to).
The thing with Tenacious D is that the joke is always in the music and never the music itself. Their music is solid and musically great despite their ‘comedy’ nature – in actual fact this is a breath of fresh air in amidst all the bands who take themselves far too seriously today. Black’s vocals are unmistakable and range from big operatic and theatrical to softly spoken for two skits on the album. The majority of it is straight forward rock with an edge paired in with his theatrical delivery are nothing short of magical and Gass’ acoustic guitar playing is still the perfect framework for the bands compositions. To hear the true extent of the duo’s talent skip through to Rock is Dead where Gass’ ultra-fast guitar playing and Black’s dance worthy singing are put on display in a song which sounds like it has been sped up. The album still has plenty of heft and punch especially as Dave Grohl provides drums on almost every track. Black and Gass, this time, have actually created an album which is so varied and even at times epic- most notably the title track- that makes this album one of the most enjoyable rock records released this year.
Standout Tracks: Ballad of Hollywood Jack and the Rage Kage, Rize of The Fenix and Rock is Dead.
For Fans of: Rock opera, A less crude Steel Panther and Iron Maiden.
Written by: Rhian Westbury