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Monday, October 29, 2012

Album Review: Ill Niño – Epidemia

Ill Niño are one of those bands that you either like or loathe. Many believe their nu-metal bleatings should be sent packing back to the past where they belong. There are those, however, who like their hybrid sound and are simply happy to enjoy their headbanging grooves and funky rhythms; they are the folks who have decided not to pigeon-hole them and that’s a wholly admirable stance to take.

Anyone remember a song called “2012″? It lies forgotten by most, deep in the midst of 08′s Enigma. That song, in particular, struck a chord with me because it did the musical equivalent of grabbing me by the shoulders and shaking. With its tight, feisty metal licks wrapped around airy Latin pop rhythms, it served as my wake-up call to just how far this band could stand out from the pack. Well it’s 2012, folks, and Ill Niño frontman Cristian Machado clearly hasn’t missed the irony when he recently commented: “It’s 2012 and we’re all still alive. It’s time to redefine Latin metal.”

Epidemia, as a follow-up to Dead New World (an album that I felt carried too many mixed messages and one where the Latin rhythms no longer felt integral), is a work that focuses on the heavy. And when I say heavy, I mean fridge-in-the-face heavy. Machado’s “redefine” claim is played out by the fattening up of the band’s already-present industrial metal vibe. Tracks like “The Depression” with its heavy-duty pulse, “Eva” with that petulant bite and, the album highlight, the startlingly impressive “Invisible People”, really lay it on thick – they each carry an element of ’s rough-housing but always pull up short of instigating anything approaching their kind of crush.

To ram their renewed position of strength home the band clearly felt it necessary to draft in vocalist Frankie Palmeri of . He takes the mic for “La Epidemia” and together with Machado they litter the track with alien gargles, pig grunts and random blasphemy to accompany the sugary-sweet, affected harmonies – yes, those flirtations (with sounding auto-tuned) that remain the band’s weakest link. If I’m honest, it’s a step too far and the incompatible juxtaposition of rough and smooth is all a bit of a mess.

The old remnants of Latin rhythm, those few that they have left, come to light in absurdly brief snatches of mid-song bongo or Spanish guitar. Most of what matters has been sucked up by regulation blasts of snare, tom and kick-drum. You’ll also spot the occasionally gritty lyrics, although they show a certain naïvety with some. Particularly biting lines include “We are misery / We are suffering” as backing vocals to “Start a war / death wants more” (from “Death Wants More”) but scratch the surface and you get the oddly contradicting suggestion of “Nuclear surrender to relieve this shameful endeavor” (from “Escape”).

With a firm backbone, but still suffering from a lack of memorable bites, a penchant for grinding repetition and carrying plenty of non-descriptive baggage, Epidemia may walk the band in a vaguely new direction, but a quick glance back reveals them to still be a long march from their greatest moments.

Also online @ The NewReview (with 30-sec samples) =
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