Probot was a heavy metal side project of ex-Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters guitarist and lead-singer Dave Grohl. An album was recorded out of the material and released in February 2004. It featured one single entitled “Centuries of Sin”/”The Emerald Law”.
After years of popularity in the alternative rock scene, Dave Grohl wanted to express the passion for heavy metal he bore since his youth. In 2000, with some free time on his hands, Grohl recorded seveninstrumentals without vocals but with various heavy metal musicians in mind (i.e. one song with the intense thrash style of Sepultura, another in the classic metal flavor of Motörhead). He labeled the recordings “Probot” but never had the intention of fully developing or releasing the material. Years later, with the help of friend Matt Sweeney, Grohl slowly managed to contact some of the artists in mind and began developing a studio album out of his work. He noted in a Rolling Stone article: “I came up with my wish list of all of my favorite singers from this era which is ’82 to ’89 underground metal, and all the bands I listened to at the time: Eric Wagner from Trouble, Snake from Voivod, Cronos [from Venom], Lemmy and Wino. We started making phone calls trying to find all these people.”
By 2001, rumors had spread throughout the heavy metal community that Grohl had starting working on a heavy metal project; however, record label red tape stalled production. Major labels were also reluctant to release an album featuring cult musicians of the past, causing Grohl to opt for the smaller, metal-based Southern Lord Records.
On the album, Grohl teamed up with heavy metal vocalists from 1980s and 1990s bands who influenced his musical tastes while he was growing up. Similar to 1995’s Foo Fighters, Grohl wrote all of the music and performed most of the instrumentation. Each track on the album features a different lead singer including Lemmy, Max Cavalera and King Diamond. Some of the singers who contributed to the album did not work directly with Grohl; instead, the tapes were shipped from studio to studio until the album was finished.
Grohl approached death metal legend Chuck Schuldiner of Death, who was at the time battling brain cancer, to contribute to the project, and even campaigned to raise funds to help Schuldiner pay his medical bills, but Schuldiner died before any collaboration could happen. Grohl also attempted to get Slayer‘s lead singer Tom Araya on the album, but he was unable to due to scheduling conflicts.
In a 2007 interview for Guitar World magazine, Grohl was asked about the future of Probot. He explained that the idea behind Probot was to choose his favorite vocalists that inspired him when he was a teenager. Grohl said that he does not think that he will do it again, because he does not want to go outside of that idea.
Critical reception to the Probot album was largely positive with few recurring complaints; Metacritic shows a 72/100 critic rating based on 21 reviews. Rolling Stone declared it as “the year’s first great metal album,” while Blender reported, “Unlike similar records… this has a unity of aesthetic purpose, a competitive wallop, even (kind of) a seriousness.”
David Browne of Entertainment Weekly gave Probot a B− rating. He notes, “For a lark, it aims for (and hits) a few bull’s-eyes, including the whiplashing ‘The Emerald Law’ and the post-apocalyptic death march ‘Ice Cold Man’.” However, Browne comments how the mystery and thrill of vintage metal bands is “largely gone” with many lyrics on Probot sounding “more amusing than menacing” and even “unintentionally funny.” He sums it up as “lying somewhere between homage and howler.”
Probot earned an A rating in Stylus magazine as well as the title of StylusMagazine.com’s Album of the Week for February 8 – February 14, 2004. Scott McKeating’s extensive review describes how “Probot balances the grit with the sonic polish without lapsing into Metallica’s Metallica. This is metal that demands banging, shaking and stamping.” He commends the ambition of its overall conception, noting, “Very few [artists] go as far as Grohl and actually create something vital and new in their mid-thirties from their teenage obsessions. . . Probot is an inspirational record in every sense.”
Adrien Begrand of PopMatters describes it as “One of the coolest ideas for an album in a long time, Grohl has put together a record that not only serves as a sincere tribute to the metal and hardcore bands of his youth, but features all his favorite vocalists as well.” He gave a favorable review but heavily discussed Grohl’s guitar skills and songwriting as lacking: “The biggest problem on the album is Grohl’s complete lack of inventiveness as a guitar player. . . Had Dave Grohl used more guest musicians instead of trying to do everything himself, Probot would have been much better.” Despite these criticisms, Begrand considers it “impossible not to like this album, mistakes and all.”
Awarding a 4/5 rating, Allmusic‘s Alex Henderson emphasizes the wide variety of genres featured on Probot and adds, “Whatever the style of metal that he is embracing, Grohl’s drumming is passionate throughout this fine album, which is as rewarding as it is unpredictable.”
The only single to be released was the double A-sided, “Centuries of Sin/The Emerald Law” in a limited edition of 6,666 on 7″ vinyl only. It is available on black, green, red & red/black swirl vinyl.
“Shake Your Blood”
Although Grohl recorded the guitar and drums himself, Lemmy performed his own bass and wrote the lyrics to “Shake Your Blood”. He noted, “I wrote the lyrics in about ten minutes. . . It’s rock & roll, you know. It’s not one of those complicated things.” The song bears strong resemblance to Lemmy’s style and was considered “a terrific Motörhead clone” by Adrien Begrand of PopMatters.
The “Shake Your Blood” music video was filmed in November 2003 and released shortly thereafter. It features an appearance by 66 women from the SuicideGirls adult entertainment website. In the video, the band is represented with Dave Grohl ondrums, Lemmy on lead vocals and bass, and Wino (who sang on the Probot track “The Emerald Law”) on lead guitar. Lemmy regarded the performance as “just like a tour in the ’60s, when things were a lot more fun.” The video gained significant airplay upon its release on Headbangers Ball and is ranking #2 in the list of the best metal videos of the new millennium in a vote carried out by MTV2.
The song was featured in Chuck, season 2, episode 9 ‘Chuck Versus the Sensei’.
Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil plays additional guitar on “Ice Cold Man” and “Sweet Dreams”. A few minutes before track 11 ends, at 8:56, a hidden track begins, sung by comedian/actor/musician Jack Black. The album artwork was created by musician Away (Michel Langevin) of Voivod.
Foo Fighters performed “Shake Your Blood” live with Lemmy at their 2006 Hyde Park (UK) show. “My Tortured Soul” was performed live on Headbangers’ Ball in 2004, with Eric Wagner on lead vocals, Grohl on drums, Wino on lead guitar, Greg Anderson (of Goatsnake and Sunn O)))) on rhythm guitar, and Foo Fighters producer Nick Raskulinecz on bass guitar. This performance is available on the compilation album MTV2 Headbangers Ball, Vol. 2. Soulfly has also been known to play “Red War” live as recently as 2009. “Ice Cold Man” has also been played by Cathedral on their 2004 tour. “Centuries of Sin” has also been played by Venom on their 2009 tour in South America.
The album is available as a single CD and a double LP (available on red and black vinyl).
|1.||“Centuries of Sin” (feat. Cronos of Venom)||4:09|
|2.||“Red War” (feat. Max Cavalera of Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy and Sepultura)||3:30|
|3.||“Shake Your Blood” (feat. Lemmy of Motörhead)||2:59|
|4.||“Access Babylon” (feat. Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity)||1:24|
|5.||“Silent Spring” (feat. Kurt Brecht of Dirty Rotten Imbeciles)||3:28|
|6.||“Ice Cold Man” (feat. Lee Dorrian of Cathedral and Napalm Death and Kim Thayil of Soundgarden)||5:53|
|7.||“The Emerald Law” (feat. Wino of Saint Vitus and The Obsessed)||5:33|
|8.||“Big Sky” (feat. Tom G. Warrior of Celtic Frost and Hellhammer)||4:51|
|9.||“Dictatosaurus” (feat. Snake of Voivod)||3:52|
|10.||“My Tortured Soul” (feat. Eric Wagner of Trouble)||5:00|
|11.||“Sweet Dreams” (feat. King Diamond of King Diamond and Mercyful Fate and Kim Thayil of Soundgarden)||5:23|
|12.||“I Am the Warlock” (feat. Jack Black of Tenacious D) (hidden track)||3:04|
Album – Billboard (North America)
|UK Albums Chart
- Dave Grohl – guitars, drums, bass, backing vocals
- Kim Thayil – additional guitar (tracks 6, 11)
- Cronos – lead vocals, bass (track 1)
- Max Cavalera – lead vocals (track 2)
- Lemmy – lead vocals, bass (track 3)
- Mike Dean – lead vocals (track 4)
- Kurt Brecht – lead vocals (track 5)
- Lee Dorrian – lead vocals (track 6)
- Scott “Wino” Weinrich – lead vocals, guitar (track 7)
- Tom G. Warrior – lead vocals (track 8)
- Denis “Snake” Bélanger – lead vocals (track 9)
- Eric Wagner – lead vocals (track 10)
- King Diamond – lead vocals (track 11)
- Jack Black – lead vocals, guitar (hidden track)
- Bubba Dupree (Void) – guitar (track 4)
- Erol Unala (Apollyon Sun, Celtic Frost) – guitar (track 8)
- Mike Sweeney – additional guitar (track 9)