One Nation Underground
posted on 9/2005 By:
As if there wasn’t enough absurdity in the world already, it seems that Ill Niño is still releasing albums. All sane rationale dictates that this band should have evaporated with the recession of nu-metal, but somehow they have clung to a fanbase and label deal, sticking like an itch-inducing burr. Not one to snap to tempting judgments, I did my utmost to give One Nation Underground a fair shot, and a swing through their website yielded a bunch of the usual shit about the band being willing to try everything and diversify their influences and make use of atypical instrumentation (I kept hoping for an electric guitar being played with a detuned violin, but no luck) and so on. Somehow it didn’t come as a surprise to me that the band responsible for perhaps the worst moniker ever devised (I defy you to come up with something worse than an xtreme-inflected play on a minor meteorological phenomenon that unnerved Floridians for about six months) couldn’t do much more than slap a fresh coat of glaze on their outdated style. One Nation Underground is nothing but a worn-out beast dressed up in slightly more fashionable clothing, and frankly it’s that much more irritating for its disingenuousness.
If you couldn’t tell, my attitude towards this album was not entirely receptive from the outset, but even the strictest application of journalistic ethics has done little to discourage me from panning it. It’s incredible to me that a band whose style (in this case, nu-metal) has so clearly grown tiresome to listeners are still producing albums of the same dubious quality that sunk the genre in the first place. Sure, Ill Niño have made a few superficial attempts to touch up their craft with modern appeal; opener “This Is War” contains some miserably clumsy Lamb of God references, while “Turns to Grey” totes a breakdown that punished more when it had Perseverance’s production job. The attempts at metalcore relevance aren’t just grating. They’re simply ineffective. This is, under the crunchier production and occasional thrashy moments, essentially prototypical late-nineties radio-core, and its stagnation is excruciatingly pungent. The grooves, the staccato riffs, the crooning-screaming vocal dynamic, the occasional programmed drumming, the bar-chord commercial choruses, and the rest is all there; listening to One Nation Underground produces the same effect as inadvertently running into that really annoying guy you went to high school with. He’s just a little bit different, but you can still see exactly why you hated him so much in the first place. Ill Niño are so fumbling that they can’t even pull off their ‘signature’ ethnic element with any particular grace. Sure, they’ve crammed in piecemeal Latin breaks and vocalist Cristian Machado periodically switches between English and Spanish, but it doesn’t really keep them from sounding like a bunch of second-rate Soulfly imitators. Which is, of course, what they are.
A nice, clean production and heavy label support can’t save this one from the scrap heap. Ill Niño are waist-deep in the same tar pit of mediocrity that will claim most metalcore bands in five years; they are outmoded, insipid, and embarrassingly inadequate. And yet, somehow, there are still kids lining up for in-store appearances by these guys. Preposterous indeed.
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