Under The Influence
posted on 6/2008 By:
Frankly, I'm shocked that Element didn't come about sooner. Metal is perhaps more rife with hero worship and unofficial tribute bands than any genre out there—and it's more evident than ever thanks to the (increasingly stupid) 'thrash revival.' With everyone from Exodus to DRI to Vio-Lence garnering 18-year-old disciples, it seems inevitable that the more mainstream 80s thrashers will find themselves imitated by younger musicians. That said, I wasn't sure that anyone would have the temerity to do what Element have done here. Under the Influence rehashes almost note-for-note the masterworks of Metallica.
In a way, Under the Influence's conception has been hiding in plain sight for decades. Metallica—and Ride the Lightning/Master of Puppets-era Metallica—have so thoroughly influenced heavy metal that shamelessly cloning them seems untenable. I certainly haven't heard a band adopt so many of Metallica's idiosyncrasies at once as Element have. In fact, it's almost courageous of them to have so openly replicated one of the most distinctive formulas in all of rock history.
And the hallmarks really are all present on Under the Influence—the album employs literally the same template that Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets were built on. It's comprised of eight lengthy tracks, including a speedy opener ("Downfall"), a somber ballad ("Untold"), and an instrumental epic with a Greco-Latinate title ("Lucidia"). Guitarists Adam Calderbank and Chow have neatly replicated Hammet/Hetfield's flinty guitar sound, and they lean heavily on meaty power-chord stomps and Chow's glitzy, wah-happy solos. Calderbank also contributes a gruff, semi-melodic shout that bears a very familiar tendency to drawl out the last syllable of every line. In short, Under the Influence is one classical-guitar intro away from being a cover album.
All of this, of course, is why Under the Influence fails. While Element's ability to replicate so many features of Metallica's inimitable sound is impressive, they still just ain't Metallica. While I could point to a number of deficiencies that render Element less effective than their forefathers (moments of sloppy playing, amateurish production, weak vocals), these guys simply sound waaaaaaaay too familiar. I feel like open acknowledgement of their redundancy (along the lines of nod-and-wink Carcass clones like The County Medical Examiners) would make Element more palatable. As it stands, they're an audacious but dull thrash clone in a sea of dull thrash clones.
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