posted on 9/2004 By:
A lot of bands combine genres. It’s a satisfying but very common practice in metal these days. However, sometimes bands end up sounding like a patchwork version of a metal Frankenstein, as if the music was constructed from a schematic. The parts are there, but they don’t necessarily mesh together. Fortunately, that is not the case with Inner Surge, who seem to combine a punk ethic with elements of dissimilar bands like Metallica, A Perfect Circle, System of a Down, and Nine Inch Nails, without really sounding entirely like any of those bands in the end. The music is heavy, and will appeal to a lot of metal fans, but will probably turn away many of the purists. Fortunately for the band, they will attract fans from other genres as well.
Calgary’s Inner Surge is the brainchild of Steve Moore, who wrote and recorded the first Inner Surge album, 2001’s Solus Verum, himself. For this second effort Moore has enlisted a band, although he still seems to be the prominent leader. It is clear from the band’s lyrics and info on their website that their passion for social and political causes nearly matches their passion for all varieties of music. Moore has claimed that he is inspired by people like Malcolm X, Chuck D, Zach de la Rocha, and Lisa Gerrard. As you would expect, the band’s list of musical influences is also long and varied.
Although the band has melded their influences into a sound of their own, these various influences tend to crop up more prominently throughout the album. After the brief instrumental “Censored,” the album opens with "Backlash", which grooves with a riff similar to the verse of the Metallica/Holocaust track “The Small Hours.” Moore’s vocals are where the A Perfect Circle comparison comes from. His clean, layered vocals are reminiscent of Maynard Keenan’s, although his voice is not where near as strong as Keenan’s. Many of the vocals are sung in a staccato, sing songy gait that sounds a bit like System of a Down. The System of a Down comparisons can be made on many songs on the album, sometimes vocally, sometimes musically (although not at the same frenetic pace), often both. “The Fall” grooves with a funky bass line and atmospheric guitar noodlings, while “Our Rights” uses a muted guitar riff to build a catchy groove. Later in Matrika the band takes an unexpected turn and begins to incorporate some electronic elements. “Beneficial Fever” makes effective use of a spacey keyboard line and APC-like emotional vocal. “Bury the Evidence” sees haunting synth lines reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails or Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me era The Cure. The instrumentation is sparse, and the song builds to an emotional vocal climax.
I recognize the irony that I started this review by claiming that Inner Surge have a unique sound, and have then spent much of the review comparing parts of songs to other bands. However, as I've said, they aren't clones of any of these bands, and I’ve used so many comparisons in an attempt to help you understand the band’s varied sound and influences. Sometimes, in fact, they are a bit too varied. The stylistic jumps are sometimes more obvious than desirable. Also, the liability of such an inclusive list of influences is that you’re bound to turn nearly everyone off at some point on the album. For me, it is times like the hip hop vibe of “The Deepest Wound.” However, on “Silencer” the band effectively incorporates all of the aforementioned influences and melds them into something that is completely their own.
Regardless of its big name bloodlines, the bottom line is whether the style of Inner Surge will click with the listener. If you have little patience for alternative influences or the nu metal funk of System of a Down, you should sit this one out. However, if your tastes include forays into these directions, Matrika is worth a look. I found the album to be intriguing, although I question its long term appeal.
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