Invitro
"When I Was A Planet"

(Gridiron Records 2007)Invitro - When I Was A Planet

Having a goofy/cool/lame live shtick can be a double edged sword for a band. On one hand there's Kiss, whose pretty damn good (but not mind-blowing) music wouldn't have sold half the records they did without the makeup, blood, and fireworks. On the opposite end of the spectrum you have Gwar. Even though Gwar is awesome and their live show is something you should experience before you die, I know exactly zero people who actually own a Gwar album. So Invitro chose to roll the dice a bit, donning full-on helmets and masks made of tinfoil. This is a choice sure to draw the mockery of some, but is that any more ridiculous than, say, having a nine-member band with three drummers who use numbers instead of names and wear masks and matching jumpsuits?

Invitro, the brainchild of former Snot and Soulfly guitarist Mike Doling, fuse the attitude of punk, the heaviness of metal, the abrasiveness of hardcore, and whatever other influences they please on their debut album, "When I Was a Planet." Far from being a messy mishmash of musical styles, though, "When I Was a Planet" is controlled, direct, and tight. It's also damn fun to listen to. The songs are short and sweet, managing to be both heavy and hooky at the same time, hovering somewhere between punk and heavy metal. Invitro throws us curveball or two, from the '80s pop sounding verse in the title track to the clap-along chorus in "Hollyvision," and they manage to keep these touches from feeling out of place or forced. Presiding over the controlled cacophony is Jeff Weber, who shifts gears from harsh bark to almost operatic soar and lots of stuff in between. Think of him as Mike Patton Jr.

Despite the absurd stage personae and goofy songs titles and lyrics, Invitro are by no means a joke band. "When I Was a Planet" is filled with good songwriting, serious musicianship, and it's catchy as hell. Fans of punk, metal, and hard rock looking for a good forty-minute drive through crazyland would do well to pick up Invitro's intriguing debut.

B+

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