Nine albums, all released simultaneously – a mad folly, a moment of genius or a cynical slap in the face for music critics?
You can accuse Jeremy Spencer of many things but being lazy is not one of them. Having spent fifteen years drumming for critically savaged/phenomenally successful metal band Five Finger Death Punch, Spencer published a bestselling autobiography, wrote, directed and acted in a series of horror/erotica short films for PornHub and then joined the police force! Yes, he was sworn in as a reserve officer in his native Indiana around the same time he was filming Camp Blood Sex with porn sensations Nikki Benz and Reya Sunshine.
In 2020, he announced that he would be known only as Devil Daddy, the prosthetic-enhanced lead singer of a new band called Psychosexual. They released some singles, some flashy videos with Spencer in all his horned, rubber-faced glory, flanked by headbanging faceless ghouls, then followed it all up with an album called Torch The Faith. The internet roasted them alive. The reviews are all still out there and absolutely savage:
“PLEASE KILL ME. Behold: the worst fucking thing to ever happen, ever.” – Sputnik Music
“Just stupid… it’s as bad as it sounds, maybe even worse.” – albumoftheyear.org
“There’s really nothing at all to recommend about this album, or the band” – Illicit Articles
“Weird, creepy, psychotic… problematic and ridiculous… consistently cringeworthy, consistently uncomfortable, consistently gross, and completely out of touch with the world around it. I fucking hate this record.” – The Metal Meltdown
“worst shit I’ve ever heard in my life” – Othar, rateyourmusic.com
Then, in a twist no one saw coming, the album, singles and videos all were removed from the internet. It’s unusual to accomplish a digital disappearing act in an age when even an errant tweet deleted within minutes can get archived and widespread before you’ve even finished your covfefe. But Torch The Faith vanished.
Spencer himself resurfaced in 2021 with a new identity and band. He would no longer be known as Devil Daddy. He was now Grym Synner and his band was Psycho Synner. However, it did seem like only the names had been changed to protect the guilty. When this raised eyebrows, Spencer was surprisingly candid. Talking on a Pantera fan podcast, he admitted “We made the first thing pretty fast, and I just threw it out independently” and added that they preferred the new stuff they were recording. ”This is what I wanted to be the first thing.”
Having already poured time, money and energy into launching the band and indeed the brand of Psychosexual, its mastermind decided that he could just start again, do it better and basically pretend it never happened. With the pandemic prohibiting any Psychosexual live shows and the physical version of Torch The Faith being self-released, it was surprisingly easy to make it go away. It only ever existed in a virtual world and Spencer implemented a kind of viral marketing in reverse. Anti-viral marketing, if you like.
Then the big announcement…
Psycho Synner would not be releasing an album.
Psycho Synner would be releasing NINE ALBUMS, simultaneously, on the 5th November 2021.
An entire career created and released in a moment. The official press release even included descriptions of each album – “The psychedelic record”, “the acoustic record”, etc. Within the collection, there’s even a ‘double album’ split into two volumes. It took some bands the entire 1970s to become this grandiose, but Psycho Synner deliver a grand total of 94 songs in a day. And if you buy these 94 songs on physical media via their website, Mr Synner will even throw in a bonus download of an EP of cover versions called Songs To Stalk You By… which makes a total of 100 songs.
It seems like an impressive feat but looking at the song titles alone, there’s clearly some, uh, repetition. 10 songs have the word ‘dead’, ‘die’, ‘death’ or ‘dying’ in the title (one is simply called Dead Dead Dead) and there’s a lot of ‘grave’ and ‘kill’ too. At times, you wonder if he was just writing down random words (Spook Scare Scream) or, ala Catchphrase, saying what he saw (Giant Coffin). There are a few titles that suggest no effort went into them whatsoever (Motherfuckin’ Son Of A Bitch) and others where they tried maybe a bit too hard. The mental gymnastics required to come up with In Case Of Death, Please Go To Hell suggests that kind of unique creative psychosis that sets in after a really long time inside your head and in front of a laptop.
Still, nine albums. That’s a lot. Who’s got the time to listen to 100 songs? Where do you even start? The ‘debut’? The “Satanic rock’n’roll album”? Or the “straight-ahead face-smasher”?
It may be a crazy undertaking (no pun intended) but I decided to listen to all nine Psycho Synner albums, in the designated running order, in one sitting, to give them a fair chance. With Spencer’s Five Finger Death Punch history, his rubber devil make-up and schlocky song titles, it’s highly unlikely anyone else will. But I’m strong, I can do this, I have the mental stamina. I have a lot of coffee. I’m going in…
- UNHOLY HYMNS FOR THE CHILDREN (“Their Debut”)
I’m gonna say it outright. Unholy Hymns For The Children is not actually too bad. If someone had sent me a promo disc of this in 1999, I’d have probably loved it. The lyrical content is, as expected, rather limited (perhaps including On Your Grave and Love On The Grave on the same album was a mistake?) and the music is hardly adventurous but it’s a decent three-chord party album.
The introductory Devil From Hell demonstrates the band’s primary influence right off the bat; it’s Rob Zombie. But these industro-metal stompers are tempered with gothier numbers where Synner croons instead of barks, sounding a lot like The 69 Eyes used to. Bleed For Me would certainly not empty a dancefloor at Slimelight and Psychedelic Orgy Of The Dead, the only song that brings the synths to the fore in what’s otherwise quite a meat-and-potatoes rock record, is surprisingly sublime.
Interestingly, Psychosexual’s deleted second single, The Torture Never Stops, gets a revisit here and sounds… remarkably similar to the old version (a bit like a Powerman 5000 B-side) but it’s notable in that it shows Spencer isn’t entirely erasing his past. He’s just re-recording and rearranging it so he can convince you it’s his present.
So yeah, Unholy Hymns is by no means great but it’s simple, catchy, inoffensive and, at 35 minutes, never outstays its welcome. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would and even had a few chuckles at some of the gallows humour. “I love wearing your skin… I love everyone’s skin!” howls Grym Synner with delight on In Your Skin. How can you not smile? Well, actually, I guess if he’s wearing your skin, it might be tricky…
- BITE THE SNAKE (the slimy, electric rock record)
Great! A totally new style! “Slimy electric rock”! That’ll sound different, right? Hm. Not quite. By the second track, it’s apparent that this is very much more of the same. It’s maybe a little more club-orientated and reminded me of that time in the Nineties every goth band tried to sound like Vision Thing era Sisters of Mercy (remember Rosetta Stone? The Merry Thoughts?). I guess there’s a certain endearing nostalgia to this, especially in a song like Claimed (a cheery little number about stealing souls), that’s super catchy and melodic.
The title track here is easily one of their strongest. It’s got a daft but memorable hook and a lot of sleazy energy. It’d be an instant hit in a vampire strip club and its slinky groove is one of the few times where Psycho Synner, despite constantly talking about it, actually sound like they might’ve had sex once.
However, the coffin rot starts to set in a little on this record. Die & Let Die sounds like Tenacious D improvising around the word ‘fuck’ (which is used like machine gun punctuation here); Chop It Like It’s Hot, the first of many dreadful puns, is kinda cringe; You’re What Belongs To Me is a syrupy electro-ballad involving Tinder in which Grym Synner sings about “swiping left”, conjuring the preposterous image of him clutching his iPhone in the candlelit darkness of a crypt somewhere, hoping to find some sexxxy deth chix.
- AS THE DEMON DANCES UNDER THE BLOOD RED SKY (The psychedelic record)
As is traditional, a band’s difficult third album often finds them experimenting so it’s no surprise that, after the many – uh – seconds that have passed since their last album, Psycho Synner offer up “the psychedelic record”.
Sadly, this isn’t as psychedelic as I’d hoped. In fact, it sounds suspiciously similar to the other two for the most part. That’s not to say there aren’t flashes of creative inspiration. The opening track, Demon Dance, is an interesting start with its gypsy violins and analogue synths making it sound like Aurelio Voltaire doing the Safety Dance. Seeking Someone To Devour has a nice Japanese koto sound in the background although the vocal melody is drearily familiar. Creepy Crawlin’ To Getcha finally delivers some light psychedelia with its sitar samples and Manson Family lyrics.
But again, the vocal melodies are severely limited and so many of the songs share the exact same tempo and rhythm. It sounds almost like Spencer bought a drum machine (possibly even Doktor Avalanche himself, moonlighting while the Sisters are on a break), programmed it once with a simple 4/4 beat and thought “that’ll do for about 90% of my songs”.
There are also some cheeky lifts here from other artists. Here To Raise Hell is basically Rob Zombie’s Superbeast and Miss Blood Lustrous is My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend by Type O Negative with a couple of notes swapped around. We Are Rebellion tries to insert ‘child-like’ vocals but I fear they may just be Jeremy Spencer with a pitchshifter as there’s something really unnatural about them, like an unwell alien. It sounds more like an unwell alien than a wailing diva. Interestingly, the spoken intro refers to a kid wearing a Psychosexual t-shirt. The least they could’ve done was re-record this to make it Psycho Synner…
By the time I reached the end of this album, the fatigue was starting to kick in. “Is this where I mention it’s boring?” I wrote in my notes. Although the fact that I actually wrote “is there where I mention is boring” probably gives you an idea of how much I needed a break.
- FUCK IN THE FIRE (The straight-ahead face-smasher)
One strong black coffee later and it’s into THE STRAIGHT AHEAD FACE-SMASHER! YEAH! What couldn’t be good about that? The opener, We Hate You, does actually start with a scream or two but then moves back to the midtempo goth plod we’re accustomed to. The lyrics – “we hate your face, we fucking hate you, we hate you, motherfucker” – sound as tired as the vocals do. There’s just not enough rage to get the sentiment across. It sounds like the way you might hate finding a bit of unwanted anchovy on a pizza rather than the soul-searing loathing you want from a “straight-ahead face-smasher”.
Fuck In The Fire is easily the weakest Psycho Synner album for me. When the highlight is Motherfuckin’ Son Of A Bitch – a Zombie-like swamp-stomp that actually gets something of a groove going – you know the idea tank has run dry. Part of the issue here may be the sheer volume of songs. Is it possible for anyone to truly feel 100 songs they’ve written in such a short space of time? I realise that Psycho Synner aren’t exactly high emotion soul-searching. They’re horror-themed party metal and make no bones about that (bones, geddit? C’mon, I’ve got to entertain myself here…) but there still needs to be some feeling, or at least convincing theatricality, to make things exciting.
The title track, for example, should be super-cool. The lyrics ooze Luciferian sex vibes and you can hear the song they wanted to make but it’s oddly lifeless and deeply sexless. It’s almost like the more sex they try to put in, the less comes out. Likewise, We All Go Psycho sounds like an unfinished guide track for a fun White Zombie style banger but what’s missing is… all the stuff that made White Zombie great. They made the songs incendiary with layer upon layer of complex sampling and production dynamics that just aren’t here. Instead, it sounds like a demo track sung by a robot.
- KILLING YOU SOFTLY (the acoustic record)
But this one’s gotta be different, right? The acoustic record?! And it does, like so many Psycho Synner albums, start out reasonably well with Sometimes They Come Back. It’s an atmospheric acoustic-ish number and a welcome break from the chugging homogeny of Fuck In The Fire. Raise Your Horns & Spread Your Wings is almost a country number, all harmonica and twang, but it’s let down when those Doktor Avalanche rhythms kick in again…
I think Killing You Softly would’ve been a more successful and distinctive experiment if they’d taken out all the percussion. By including drums on most of these tracks, they sound even more like demos, like unfinished treatments for songs. So, like every other Psycho Synner song but with the distorted guitars taken out.
That said, closing track En Fuego is one of Psycho Synner’s moments of inspiration; a really catchy, brooding Latin-flavoured swing through the darkness that might be the best thing they’ve done. Genuinely love this one and would happily admit that without shame. It gave me the strength to go on…
- 666 BC VOL 1: THE BURNING YEARS (First of a double album)
Yes, Psycho Synner, after five albums, have decided it’s time to release a double album. I hope the irony is intentional because – if so – it’s legit hilarious to include, within a nine-album cycle, a ‘double album’. There is, of course, no logical reason whatsoever to group these songs together as they are very much in the (now very sucked) vein of most Psycho Synner output.
There are a number of Psychosexual songs that resurface here and, worryingly, they’re by far the strongest moments. Baby On Fire and Lady Killer are bonafide bangers and it makes me wonder if maybe more time was taken over those than the newer ones.
There’s a certain frustration with some songs in how they’re so close to being decent, yet so far. A bit like poor Georgina Spelvin at the end of Devil In Miss Jones, always approaching fulfilment but never getting there. Sin, for example, has a catchy refrain/cheer in the chorus of “S! I! N!” but it’s just delivered in Mr Synner’s ghoulish monotone. If you just added some Be Aggressive style cheerleader chants in the background of that, it would immediately make the track pop off. But it’s just so close… yet so far… the Devil Daddy in Miss Jones, perhaps?
- 666 AD Volume 2: The Scorched Years (Second of a double album)
It’s the second volume of the ‘double album’ but actually the seventh Psycho Synner album I’ve listened to in a row. There are a few real lows on this, like Harder To Kill, which sounds like Dr Seuss gone rogue (“Are you gonna be a bitch/and wind up lying in a ditch?”) and You Will Pay One Day, whose refrain sounds like something you’d hear in a schoolyard (albeit one for very, very naughty children). The Rebel Within is a so-so reworking of the Psychosexual song Let The Sin Begin (which in turn is basically a so-so reworking of David Bowie’s I’m Afraid of Americans!). Same tune but the lyrics have changed. You might think it wasn’t worth it when the new lyrics are as drab as “we really like it when you don’t breathe” but I guess it’s a step up from “you’ll be wiping my love that’s dripping from your chin/your Devil Daddy’s gonna spank you, over and over again”…
There are a few embers of joy be found in The Scorched Years though. A Witch That Can’t Burn, once again, lifts heavily from Rob Zombie but the lyrics – about a witch burner who meets a witch who’s so hot she literally can’t burn – are genuinely very funny. Sadly, this kind of gonzoid wit doesn’t get pulled out anywhere near as much as I wish it did.
- DYING TO SEE YOU (The straight-up metal record)
While there’s an element of fun to the idea that Psycho Synner’s discography has been spread across many stylistic ‘periods’, you can tell even they’re struggling to come up with new descriptions now. Please try not to mistake the “straight-up metal record” for the “straight-ahead face-smasher”…
Unsurprisingly, it’s not a massive departure from anything else they’ve done. Part of me started to think maybe it was a little heavier but it might just have been the vibrating sound of the horns sprouting from my head after nearly eight albums full of Psycho Synner. Hail Synner. Cut me, I bleed Synner…
As ever, there are a couple of standouts, most notably Thank Fuck For The Bomb. This is a relatable dose of cheerful nihilism about instigating mass destruction “because everybody sucks now” and it has a nice, catchy refrain of “push the button” that I could see going down well live. What Doesn’t Kill Me (Had Better Start Running), an old Psychosexual song, is another fun one and shows Mr Synner flirting more successfully with wordplay than he does on limper tracks like Dead Sure Looks Good On You.
- THE DEVIL MADE YOU DO IT (The Satanic rock ‘n’ roll record)
Because nothing thus far could be classed as “Satanic rock’n’roll”, eh? I have to admit, I was hoping I’d get a renewed energy boost on this one because it was the last but it’s actually one of the weaker albums of the cycle. With the exception of the lively opener, Satan Loves Me, there’s a dearth of hooks or lyrics of interest here. It’s positively DOA at times. Something Funny Happened On The Way To The Funeral is pretty much just a stream of consciousness (“Something funny happened on the way to the funeral, oh yeah, I almost forgot you were dead!”) until it deteriorates into an endless chant of “you’re fucking dead, oh yeah!” (x 666).
Album and indeed cycle closer Teeth Meet Fist is one of the best song titles he’s got and I had high hopes that it would end things with a bang but, alas, it’s another midtempo goth plod that finds Psycho Synner slipping quietly out of the room, pointy tail between their cloven hoofs…
And after that, we can all have a lie down and think about what we’ve been through…
Quite frankly, who could want nine albums of material from anyone? If you think about even the strongest bands who’ve been around for decades, very few of them can boast as many as nine genuinely great albums, so the idea of writing and recording that many in a year, as ambitious as it is, was always doomed to failure.
It’s certainly an interesting time to be alive where artists can put out something as mad as this without anyone or anything – labels, industry regulations, fans, common sense – stopping them, but if anything, Psycho Synner’s creative explosion makes an argument for an element of gatekeeping to exist. While it’s not for me to say Jeremy Spencer shouldn’t release nine albums of whatever crosses his mind – you go, gurl – I’m not sure who the audience is here. Is it tricking the listeners who hate him? Treating the ones who love him? Or does he sincerely believe each and every one of these songs is good enough for release?
Of course, as ever, the hysterical internet response to the project is disproportionate. Anyone who genuinely thinks that Psycho Synner have produced the worst music they’ve ever heard has led the same blissfully charmed life as the people who say Plan 9 From Outer Space is the worst film ever made. You’re not even close. These albums, despite their obvious flaws, are far from unlistenable and have enough genuinely decent tracks to condense into one fun goth-rock party album that I’d probably give a super-favourable review to.
Ultimately, Spencer claims he wanted to relaunch Psychosexual after even he decided it wasn’t up to scratch and the narrative suggests it’s to ‘fix’ the mistake. But nine albums of something that’s just much, much more of the same seems like a big flaming middle finger to critics rather than a genuine attempt to win them over. I can admire that in a way. It’s an artist’s right to make art for themselves and no one else, and Psycho Synner is therefore not just channelling Rob Zombie’s Superbeast but also its namesake, Aleister Crowley. After all, do what thou wilt and thou shalt be the whole of the law. Whatever else you can accuse Jeremy Spencer of – he is unquestionably doing what he wilt.
Listen to Psycho Synner here, before the whole thing is deleted from the internet and relaunched as Synful Psycho with Grymdaddy P on vocals:
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