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Probot: Probot - Album Of The Week Club review

Dave Grohl gets his mates in to pay loving tribute to his heavy metal youth on Probot's self-titled (and only) album

Probot album art
(Image: © Southern Lord)
Probot: Probot

Probot cover art

(Image credit: Southern Lord)

Centuries of Sin
Red War
Shake Your Blood
Access Babylon
Silent Spring
Ice Cold Man
The Emerald Law
Big Sky
Dictatosaurus
My Tortured Soul
Sweet Dreams

After touring in support of Foo Fighters’ decidedly mellow There Is Nothing Left To Lose, frontman Dave Grohl developed a metal itch that needed a scratch. After recording a series of metal instrumentals with producer Adam Kasper in his Virginian home studio, he hit upon the idea of getting a list of his heroes to sing over the top.

One can only imagine Grohl’s glee when he managed to green-light the project. Not to mention the dismay of his record company when he told them he was finally getting to duet with King Diamond. Probot gave Grohl a chance to live out his metal fanboy fantasies, giving him free rein to go back to his garage and beat the living daylights out of his kit. 

A record for certain moods – like when you have to clear a dividing wall in your house – it’s at its ferocious best in the hardcore Access Babylon (featuring Corrosion Of Conformity’s Mike Dean) and the thumping, Max Cavalera-assisted Red War

“Probot is Probot,” said Dave, reflecting on whether the thing could have toured, with or without iconoclastic underground noisemakers at the mic. “The logistics of making this album were so completely insane, I can’t even imagine getting all these people into one room at the same time. 

"It would have been amazing to do one show for a record release party, but it’s kind of great and special that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing. And it should remain that way…"

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Other albums released in February 2004

  • Evolution Purgatory - Persuader
  • Critical Energy - Threshold
  • A Crow Left of the Murder - Incubus
  • 10 America's Sweetheart - Courtney Love
  • Keep It Simple - Keb' Mo'
  • Lucky - Melissa Etheridge
  • Scars of the Crucifix - Deicide
  • About a Burning Fire - Blindside
  • The Arrival - Hypocrisy
  • Bodysong - Jonny Greenwood
  • Devil's Ground - Primal Fear
  • Punk Statik Paranoia - Orgy
  • Sea of Faces - Kutless
  • Shadows Collide With People - John Fruscianti
  • They Were Wrong, So We Drowned - Liars
  • The Wretched Spawn - Cannibal Corpse
  • Answer - Supercar
  • The Blue Notebooks - Max Richter

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What they said...

"It's a heavy yet ultra-melodic song that sticks with you long after the dirge-like vocals of Cathedral's Lee Dorrian (Ice Cold Man) or the shrieks of King Diamond (Sweet Dreams) stop ringing in your ears. Like most of Grohl's post-Nirvana work, you're not sure how serious to take the man and his music, because you're not sure how seriously he's taking himself. But like most of the Foo Fighters' material, the songs on Probot are a hell of a lot more fun than anything Nirvana ever laid down." (Sea Of Tranquility)

"The most disappointing aspect of Probot is that many of the songs sound more like Foo Fighters turned to eleven than actual metal. The Emerald Law (with Wino) not only could have been Foo product, but a hard-edged Nirvana B-side. It's not a bad song, per se, just a tad less intense than what preceded it. (Pitchfork)

"Nevermind resonated with metal dudes as much as it did with punks, with kids who may have been fans of Venom, Celtic Frost, and Sepultura – whose lead singers all make appearances on this monster of rock. Grohl wrote the riffs, and he hammers like a god, letting his hero singers write the lyrics and man the bellows. Lemmy’s Shake Your Blood is the same song the Motorhead frontman has been howling since Earth cooled, but since that howl is the sound of punk and metal copulating like beasts, he can do what he wants." (Spin)

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What you said...

Mike Canoe: I love Probot: the album, the concept, the artwork, everything. Probot is Dave Grohl the way I like him best: rock'n'roll superfan, eager and affable team player, ridiculously talented drummer. What could have been a flaccid vanity project is instead a metal compilation for the ages.

Grohl's love for underground metal is obvious in his choice of lead singers as well as in his choice to have Michel "Away" Langevin, Voivod's drummer and artist in residence, do the album cover. You are reassured from the outset that Grohl knows his metal.

What takes longer to sink in is how well he writes and plays - not just drums but guitar and bass too - to suit the strengths of each singer. Probot actually sounds like twelve different bands. You feel like you're getting the coolest sampler of thrash/groove/speed/black/doom metal you never knew existed.

The singers chosen really rise to the occasion too. By and large, everyone sounds great and writes amazing lyrics to fit the amazing music, resulting in a nearly flawless metal symbiosis. 

Ominous opener Centuries of Sin demonstrates that the strangled snarl of Venom's Cronos has only gotten better with age. Max Cavalera's brutal battle hymn Red War echoes the powerful groove of Chaos A.D. Sepultura while sounding thoroughly modern. D.R.I.'s Kurt Brecht savagely indicts humanity in the unflinching ecological horror show Silent Spring.

Kurt Brecht brings up another one of Probot's strengths. This album was my introduction to Brecht as well as Wino, Tom G. Warrior, and Eric Wagner and had me seeking out albums by D.R.I., Celtic Frost, St. Vitus, and Trouble. I also gave bands like Venom, Voivod, and Mercyful Fate another chance thanks to the great contributions by Cronos, Snake, and King Diamond.

Originally I Am The Warlock" was a hidden track at the end of the CD and part of me wishes there was still a bit of mystery to it. Nonetheless, Jack Black nails his performance, hilariously over the top yet unquestionably metal. And, of course, the review would not be complete without saying that Lemmy is beautifully, perfectly Lemmy.

There will probably not be another Probot album. Dave Grohl likes to stay busy, really busy. And he seems to be happy with what he accomplished. I sure am. All hail Probot, the Rosetta Stone of metal.

Alex Hayes: Probot, eh? I'd never even bloody heard of the album before this week. I see it was released in 2004. That helps to explain things. My interest in new rock music was at an all-time low back then. As it turns out though, the Probot album is a very difficult one for a fan like me to dislike.

Dave Grohl himself summed up the Probot project perfectly (try saying that five times fast) when he described it as a 'death metal Supernatural'. 12 tracks, each one featuring a different vocalist from across the world of metal. Most of them I'm familiar with (Cronos, Max Cavalera, Lemmy obviously), but a couple I'm not, to be frank (Wino, Snake). Regardless, this is pretty good stuff. In fact, give me this over a Foo Fighters album any day. If I live to be a hundred, I'll still never understand the appeal of that band.

Yep, for the second time this year, the Club has offered up a Dave Grohl side project that I infinitely prefer over his regular day job, so to speak. The other example of course being Them Crooked Vultures. I prefer Probot to that too.

I do wish that Grohl had invited as many guitarists along for the ride with this as he did singers. There's a distinct lack of invention in the guitar playing department and the album would have certainly benefited from more variety in that area. Apart from that little niggle, what can I say? I've always loved metal and I mostly enjoyed this homage to it.

Nigel Taylor: This is an album which makes me all the more frustrated why Dave Grohl makes middle of the road bland rock with the Foo Fighters.

A superb collection of songs written perfectly for every vocalist who performs on them. Personal favs would be The Emerald Law with Wino, Shake your Blood with Lemmy, Centuries Of Sin with Cronos and My Tortured Soul with the late great Eric Wagner.

Really hope another Probot album appears at some point and I can then consider letting Dave Grohl off for his crimes to music with Foo Fighters.

Mark Herrington: Never heard this before. So was pleased it was a good, varied metal album. Reminds me of Iommi’s records. 

Rich Bush: I wish Dave, Lemmy, and Wino would have formed a band.

Evan Sanders: It reminds me of some of the songs on the Sound City soundtrack, where Dave Grohl brought together a group of artists to record using the equipment from the famous Sound City studio.

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Final Score: 6.63 (65 votes cast, with a total score of 431)

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