Zak Tell is the undisputed star of the show here — his voice is front-and-center, the music constructed around his vocal lines, and his overbearing assault on controversial topics is what gives CLAWFINGER their unique identity. Whether he's castigating rapists ("Right to Rape") or accusing homophobes of being secretly queer ("The Faggot In You"), he wields the English language like a spiked bat, with about as much subtlety as an after-school special public service announcement. He's not too concerned with what you think about it, either — love 'em or hate 'em, there's no denying that CLAWFINGER are honest to a fault, and confident in their own idiosyncrasies to an intense degree.
CLAWFINGER has a somewhat dated sound going on, whether writing a song that would fit onto a mid-'90s ANTHRAX platter ("Hypocrite"), aping "King For a Day"-era FAITH NO MORE ("What We've Got Is What You're Getting"), or following the rap-metal sound that they started out with so long ago ("Sick of Myself"). There's even a bit of speedy punk aggression on "Breakout" and "Hate Yourself With Style" that works very well with Tell's vocals.
As "Dirty Lies" shows, Tell isn't really rapping any more, opting more for a sardonic, quasi-melodic bark akin to HELMET's Page Hamilton (in cadence at least). His unique delivery is a double-edged sword for the band — on one hand, his forceful singing is instantly identifiable. But he can take on this strident, self-righteous tone that's irritating — only Tell could perform a love song, "The Best and the Worst", and make it sound like he's about to tell his paramour to fuck off.
Even at their most lyrically heavy-handed, you can't deny that these guys can write a chorus like no one's business. It's hard to picture a stadium singalong to the tune of "if a woman raped a man / would the verdict be the same?" Yet somehow CLAWFINGER turns it into one — they may not fit in any genre easily, but they do pay close attention to making their music accessible and relentlessly catchy.
In the end, it's hard to rate a band like CLAWFINGER. The uniqueness that they proudly wear on their sleeves, the admirable penchant for risk-taking that helps them stand out from a jillion cookie-cutter bands, is also what can make them sound a bit dorky and off-putting. Two things are certain — "Hate Yourself With Style" is CLAWFINGER at their best, and if you don't like it, they more than likely don't give a fuck. As the band says themselves: "like it, hate it, leave it, take it — what we've got is what you're getting." Worth checking out with an open mind.