There’s nothing worse than a preening musician—although in the case of black metal band Hatebeak’s lead vocalist, we might give him some leeway. He is, after all, a parrot.
It used to be an insult to compare a singer to a shrieking animal—Taylor Swift is probably still furious—but in the case of Waldo, a 25-year-old African Grey Parrot, it’s a spot-on analysis of his, um, “singing” style. Backed up by Baltimore-area audio engineers Blake Harrison and Mark Sloan, Waldo is the world’s only avian vocalist, with three singles under his beak and more than 4,600 fans on MySpace, sure to climb after a video of one of the band’s signature singles, “Bird Seeds of Vengeance,” went viral.
“We don't play live. It would be absolute torture for the bird to experience decibels at those levels."
Hatebeak’s discography reads like the LiveJournal poetry of a particularly angry teenage bird enthusiast: “Number of the Beak;” “Beak of Putrefaction;” “The Thing That Should Not Beak.” True to the genre, Hatebeak’s works feature heavy guitar distortion, somewhat frenetic song structure, and odes to Lovecraftian cosmic monster Cthulu, but Waldo’s growling vocals turn a typical garage band into the equal of Cannibal Corpse. “Bird Seeds of Vengeance” is easily Waldo’s best work, featuring a mixture of hoots, honks, and growls that show off the parrot’s vocal versatility. African Grey Parrots are famous for their ability to mimic human speech, and some specimens have displayed intelligence roughly on par with that of dolphins, great apes, or human toddlers.
Hatebeak has been producing recordings since 2004, but don’t start refreshing Ticketmaster for concert dates just yet—Reptilian Records, the band’s label, is on hiatus, and Waldo’s backup refuses to play live. “We don’t play live,” Harrison told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It would be absolute torture for the bird to experience decibels at those levels.”
After listening to “The Thing That Should Not Beak” a few times, we’re inclined to agree.