Portland, Oregon’s Full Metal Jackson first formed in 2015 under Quinton Gardner’s auspices and dedicates themselves towards the noble goal of reinterpreting and recasting Michael Jackson’s catalog as metal rather than pop. This self-described “tribute” act deserves fulsome props for originality if nothing else, but metal fans and devotees will enjoy the ferocious bite this four piece possesses despite the source material. The band’s first single “Dangerous” revamps the title track to Jackson’s 1991 release as a Motorhead-like pummel with staccato guitars, a breakneck pace, guttural vocals, and stop on a dime timing. The band promises to explore Jackson’s songs in a variety of metal “styles” and, if there’s more to come the equal of or greater than this, many metal fans will want signed up post haste.

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Full Metal Jackson has a limited shelf life. They could reach back even further in Jackson’s history and start re-doing Jackson Five tunes once they’ve exhausted his solo work, but those songs likely resist this sort of interpretation to a far greater degree than Jackson’s solo music does. It’s unlikely though that Full Metal Jackson is thinking that far ahead however. There’s nothing about their act or output that says you shouldn’t take them seriously, that they are a joke band, far from it, but their clear mandate is entertaining the masses rather than eyeballing posterity. It definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea., but it’s going to make believers out of more than a few people.

It’s so far afield in sound and attitude from the Jackson original that don’t waste your time scanning the track for similarities. Their first single chooses a relatively obscure song from Jackson that isn’t going to register on recognition meters the way “Billie Jean” or “Beat It”, among many others, might have, and that’s a canny and likely conscious move on Full Metal Jackson’s part. Instead of forcing listeners to contend with reconciling the band’s unorthodox approach with their memories of hearing the aforementioned pop classics ad nauseum, Full Metal Jackson begins their journey on the far flung reaches of Jackson’s recording history. It makes for an entertaining ride.

Their musicianship is beyond doubt. The guitars are in lock step throughout the recording and the drumming never misses a single mark. Some might have issues with the production; a bit more focus on the lead guitar in spots and instrumental separation might have given this track even greater musical wallop. Full Metal Jackson has released a video for the song as well, primarily performance in nature, and it does a good job communicating the unmitigated glee they take in savaging and overturning what you expect from a Michael Jackson song.

They promise more to come and you should believe them; regardless of how long they are with us, it’s refreshing to hear a band who surprises you and, frankly, doesn’t take themselves too seriously. They’ve sewn this up into a memorable presentation and their live performances are certain to blast convert goers straight out of their seats.

Garth Thomas