During the first half of 1997, nu-metal had really started to make an impact in the UK. KoЯn had a couple of albums under their belt which had gained them a sizable cult audience, some of the cooler folks had the Coal Chamber album (which they’d likely bought for extortionate import prices) and nu-metal/rap-metal crew Limp Bizkit made waves with their cover of George Michael’s ‘Faith’ and their debut album ‘Three Dollar Bill, Yall$’ – an album which would go on to sell several million copies. The band saw increased popularity with their next couple of albums, reaching their commercial peak in 2000, when ‘Rollin’ scored a number one hit in the UK and its parent album ‘Chocolate Starfish & The Hotdog Flavored Water’ hit the number one spot in seven different countries. Between 1999 and 2001, Limp Bizkit was one of the world’s most popular alternative bands with their genre-mixing sounds seemingly appealing to so many music fans.
By the time of their last album, 2005’s ‘The Unquestionable Truth, Part 1’, the truth was, the tide was turning. Limp Bizkit’s popularity had plummeted, with many viewing Fred Durst and co’s arrogance and swagger as an embarrassment. Whereas only a short time earlier, they gathered awards for their million selling records, ‘TUQP1’ failed to chart in various countries, including the UK. The album is now all but forgotten by many. At the height of the band’s fame, Q Magazine praised ‘Chocolate Starfish’ for “great knockaround songs” and “gonzo bluster”, yet after the band’s demise, that same magazine claimed it to be one of the 50 worst albums of all time, placing it at #11.
Six years after their flop swansong, Limp Bizkit returned with ‘Gold Cobra’. On the opening track ‘Bring It Back’, once the DJ loops and handclaps mixed with hefty guitar chug hit their stride there’s an instant familiarity. And once Durst steps up to the mic and claims he’s “gonna turn this place into a muthafuckin’ danger zone”, it feels like their six year vacation could have been a mere six months. In fact, the best tracks on could have been released a decade earlier and sounded exactly the same. ‘Shark Attack’ reinforces these feelings, being an equal match for the most memorable numbers from ‘Starfish’. The track features one of the album’s funkiest grooves, and while there’s still a bottom-end metallic riff, it’s not overdone. Each of the musicians has a solid role to play here – and even Durst manages to reign in his arrogance and sound like he’s advocating fun.
With a hard mix of drop D riffing, funky grooves and solid rap performance, the amusing ‘Autotunage’ offers another stand out. The heavy riffs and catchy chorus are joined by a humorous streak (most obvious on an intro slagging off autotune abuse). These elements combined present Limp Bizkit at their best; these five minutes are a sharp reminder why you used to love the band (even though you may have spent years denying that). Likewise, ‘Why Try’, features great performances from all concerned. Durst’s rap comes with a solid delivery and lyrics which aren’t too cringe worthy, while Borland’s riff offers a decent level of funkiness as well as the required amount of bottom end.
On a couple of softer numbers where Durst pushes aside rap for actual singing, the band manage to sound professional and self-assured without the accompanying bucket of arrogance. ‘Walking Away’, in particular, is surprisingly mature. It shouldn’t be forgotten that for all of Bizkit’s childish shouting, musically they have a lot of experience – and here, that really shows. With reverbed, clean guitars and a reasonable vocal, this number (heavily inspired by Incubus, it has to be said), presents a side of Limp Bizkit which doesn’t surface nearly often enough. Even a more metallic climax with Durst screaming doesn’t spoil the mood – at least he’s not being threatening. ‘Loser’ manages to meld Limp Bizkit’s rap stylings with those softer alternative rock elements incredibly well. The vocal features understated rapping (almost a spoken word) and a strong (sung) chorus, while the music itself has just the right balance between atmospheres and hard rock riffing. Borland’s heavily treated guitar solo should have sounded out of place with its sharper edges, but somehow it works.
Obviously, there are plenty of tracks featured where the heavy-handed anger and tough talk actually gets in the way of anything decent. ‘Get A Life’ is structured around a juggernaut-sized riff, over which Durst shouts “get a life, get a mothafuckin’ life / You don’t wanna see what I can do when I’m nice / You don’t wanna be my enemy, I promise you / If you do, muthafucka bring it on!”. After a few listens, it’s the kind of thing which gets tiresome. Even worse, ‘Douchebag’ is little more than rap metal by numbers with “harder than you/better than you” themed lyrics which reach their zenith on a chorus with Durst repeatedly shouting “douchbag, I’m gonna fuck you up”. While ‘Shotgun’ has a decent tune and even better fuzzy guitar solo, the message contained within (regarding the US’s lack of gun control) is hampered by too much repetition. While somewhat better than both ‘Get A Life’ and ‘Douchebag’, any good work is undone by the end, when a looped sample of a shotgun being cocked and loaded provides “entertainment” for a bit too long.
‘Gold Cobra’ suffers the same major pitfall as all of Limp Bizkit’s releases, post ‘Three Dollar Bill, Yall$’: the formulaic grooves and OTT arrogance both wear a little thin if you attempt to get through the whole album in one sitting. In fairness, there’s about half an album’s worth of good tracks to be found on here, but you’ll have to be willing to wade through the trash to find them. With the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, ‘Gold Cobra’ is hugely unlikely to win Limp Bizkit any new fans just as it’s equally unlikely to gain any real respect from the press following years of backlash. In reality, despite plenty of inconsistencies, when it comes to the rap metal/nu metal sound, Limp Bizkit are still among the best when they get it right. It’s a shame they couldn’t get it right a bit more often here.