Release DetailsLABEL Trip Machine Laboratories
RELEASED ON 7/24/2007
Robots And Empire
posted on 1/2008 By:
God, what a difference a slight shift in a singer’s vocal delivery makes. True, for most, that’s not going to mean much. We’ve become so used to burps n’ gurgles, screeches, and spoken speeches fading into the background, haven’t we? We’ve trained ourselves to give a lot of vocal performances a pass simply because the music was too good to ignore. So, when one cites “a slight shift in a singer’s vocal delivery” as the sole reason to check this out, it’d be understandable if you didn’t take the bait. But then, rarely have we ran into an album like the aptly titled Omnivore (we’ll get to that), an album where that slight shift makes all the difference in the world.
Robots and Empire kicks things off like they’re another band firmly stuck in the mold of the later Floor/Torche followers; bands that are unquestionably heavy and have a bit of pop brewing below the surface. The guitars create this distorted wall of window rattling power, but they’re not above infusing these songs with proper hum-able hooks. There’s just a touch of modern space rock in there as well, a bit of Failure by way of hardcore guitars that add a nice clashing texture that complements more than it contradicts. Still though, the first two tracks on Omnivore are all about the bottom end, destroying subs with powerful grooves. Decent, but damn, do those gruff shouts leave me cold.
And then, it happens. Okay, some clean vocals do appear on the bridge to “Monouth”, but you don’t make much of ‘em. Maybe, you think, like those spacey strums, it’s there to briefly offset the density. But, when “Skywelder” gets going, there’s no mistaking the band’s new direction, this style about-face that suddenly takes place. And, what’s amazing about the deviation is that the music hasn’t really changed much; it's all about how the singer (read: no longer the shouter) sounds now. On track three, Robots and Empire answers one of my favorite what-ifs: What if a Jonah Jenkins’s project merged with post-Jupiter Cave In, or, in this case, their offshoot Zozobra? It’s all there, the rippin’ riffs of the rockin’ (and sadly departed) Miltown, the Scofield-esque bass tone, Jenkins swagger with a sugary quaver thrown in, and both artists' attention to pop craft. Omnivore still roars, sure, but the hooks make it soar into near-sublime rock-radio catchiness. “Skywelder” shoots to net two types of fans: those that swoon when it comes to the chunky cuts of the rock-meets-core set and those that secretly love a good hook, something that stays with you like soup in a mustache and carries you through the dullness of your daily routine.
It’s then that the title becomes clear. Omnivore, one who eats meat (gigantic core flavored riffs) and veggies (pop hooks); one who takes in everything. There’s no doubting that Robots and Empire is interested in the overall heft of their songs and they’re all about throwing down some abrasive riffs that drop out of their amps like ten-thousand tons of, uh, heavy stuff, but they’re all about offering you some catchy and killer choruses too, ones that suck you in and get your head nodding. No, they’re not as good as those groups previously mentioned, since they miss more than they hit, but Omnivore is pleasing in the same way that the now-forgotten Injected was pleasing; they’re able to sate two basic needs: the need to get your eardrums blown out by something loud and the need to have something fun to sing along to in the car. It’s all about painting smiles and when an album succeeds at doing that, it’s really hard to find fault. It’s not for every metalhead, or, really, any metalhead, but a niche audience is really going to fall for this one. Fans of bands in the Cave In family and Jenkins’ more hook oriented work (later Only Living Witness, Miltown, etc.) would probably do well to track this down, an album that could sit comfortably between your copies of Harmonic Tremors, Miltown, and Burn it Black because it’s a solid combination of all three. And to think, after the opener “Pure Shit”, I almost wrote Robots and Empire off as exactly that. I can’t say it enough: God, what a difference a slight shift in a singer’s vocal delivery makes.
Register to post comments.