It’s a testament to Hank Williams III’s ambition that he can flood the market with albums from multiple genres on a single release date, but this strategy doesn’t necessarily do his metal album, Attention Deficit Domination, any favors. Simply put, Williams’s Hellbilly album, Ghost to a Ghost/Gutter Town, is the far superior effort. He may have cut his teeth as a musician by playing in punk and hardcore bands like Superjoint Ritual and Arson Anthem, but he’s more compelling as a country artist than a would-be rocker.
At least from the perspective of a casual tourist to the genre, contemporary metal frequently runs the risk of veering into self-parody, and Attention Deficit Domination stumbles into that territory far too often. Lyrics that scan as dark and genuinely anguished in the context of a metal album can read like unintentionally hilarious high school goth poetry when considered on their own merits. “I Feel Sacrificed” loosely approximates internal turmoil with lines like “Eyes shut but I still see/I’m cut but I don’t bleed,” while “Demon’s Mark” stumbles over stilted references to vampires and zombies. Williams’s lyrics are just too strident to make for a real emotional bloodletting, and they aren’t funny enough to play as full-on satire. I have no idea whether or not a serious metal fan would actually buy any of it, but the songs on Attention Deficit Domination are just campy.
What salvages the album, then, is Williams’s undeniable technical skill: He played the majority of the instruments himself and pulled all of the production and engineering duties. Purely in terms of its musicianship, it’s an impressive accomplishment, since the album actually sounds fantastic. It’s obviously a heavy album, but there’s no “loudness war” compression to speak of, so every one of Williams’s intricate electric guitar lines rings through, giving impossible force to “Aman” and the sludge-thick blues riffs on “Make a Fall.” Williams is also one hell of a drummer, and his thundering percussion lines on “In the Camouflage” give the album a powerful opening punch.
There’s a downside to Williams’s decision to play all of the instruments, however, in that the mixes intermittently come across as sterile. The album never sounds like the work of a proper band, since there’s no actual interplay between any of the instrumental performances. For an album that pretty well lives or dies by its technique, that’s a significant liability. That Williams’s voice, even when he’s at his throatiest howl, is a bit too thin to carry such portentous material is a problem as well. Even if Attention Deficit Domination lays plain Williams’s sincere passion for metal, there’s no getting around the fact that there are some other things that he does better than this.