REVIEWS IN BRIEF: BAD BRAINS, THE SHOWDOWN, DROWNING POOL
MetalSucks takes a look at new releases by seminal rasta rockers Bad Brains, hard rock newcomers The Showdown, and nu-metal mainstays Drowning Pool. Read our quick pick reviews after the jump.
The Showdown, Temptation Come My Way
Judging a book by its cover as we are so wont to do, you’d think The Showdown played generic metalcore. But a listen to this CD quickly proves this is far from the truth; in fact, Temptation Come My Way is so devoid of metalcore or any other modern trends that it’s really quite refreshing. The Showdown have way more in common with their hard rock forefathers in Guns N’ Roses, The Cult and Motley Crue than they do with anything else on the airwaves in 2007, and hell, if their record label (Mono Vs. Stereo) has to dress them up with silly emo-core haircuts to get the kids to pay attention then I say more power to ’em. Big guitars, dirty riffs, and hard-hitting drums are the name of the game (with nary a blast beat or unnecessary double-bass flourish in sight) and David Bunton’s gritty vocals are the perfect compliment (no cookie monster screams here, thank you very much), all tied together by J.R. McNeely’s (Underoath, Thousand Foot Krutch, Lucerin Blue) slick mixing. “Head Down” and “We Die Young” are driving rock tracks with the swagger of “Nightrain” and the opening riff to “Six Feet Under” could easily have come from Ratt’s Out of the Cellar. Good songwriting isn’t lost in the shuffle either, as is often the case with young bands, and tasty guitar solos invoke the spirit of Slash-cum-Eddie Van Halen. Temptation Come My Way is a solid album through and through, and despite the band’s obvious influences this record never sounds dated. I’m looking forward to seeing this band live as well as their development as songwriters as they mature into their own sound.
(four out of five horns)
Bad Brains, Build A Nation
“Funk-reggae-punk-metal” sounds about as ridiculous as any hyphenated “-core” genre currently in the metal press, yet it really is the only way to accurately describe Bad Brains. On the Adam Yauch (Beastie Boys)-produced Build A Nation, Bad Brains are back with their first proper album with the original lineup in a very, very long time (since 1995), and the results are more than pleasing. Bad Brains are the only group that can go from groove-metal (“Give Thanks and Praises”) to fast punk (the 56 second-long “Pure Love”) to dubbed out roots reggae (“Natty Dreadlocks ‘pon the Mountain Top” and “Jah Love”) and have it not seem awkward. Everything fits in right, from Dr. Know’s dirty, aggressive distorted guitars to the dub samples and echo, to H.R.’s smooth as butter ragga voice. Build A Nation won’t deliver any surprises nor does it really forge any new ground for the band, but what it does it does well and it will certainly please the fans.
(three and a half out of five horns)
Drowning Pool, Full Circle
I was expecting to hate this CD, but despite borderline nu/rap-metal leanings, I have to hand it to the dudes in Drowning Pool for being decent, if entirely predictable, songwriters. What you won’t get from Full Circle — the band’s third release — is anything too original, but what you will get are a few pretty solid songs. Ben Schigel (Switched, Chimaira) produced the effort, and the result is pretty much par for the course for this type of music; Drop-D riffing provides the basis for alt-metal style choruses, songs follow the typical soft/loud/soft dynamic, and the vocals are of your usual angsty sing-shout variety. Like most bands of the late ’90s / early ’00s post nu-metal boom, Drowning Pool have pretty much abandoned all but the occasional elements of rapping and in their place are ballsier, more classic-rock oriented riffs (see also: Saliva); but even so, certain structural elements of their music trace them back undeniably to this period. This change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it opens up the band to things like guitar solos (of which there a few here, but don’t get too excited, nothing more than slow pentatonic runs a teenager could easily figure out). The vocals of Ryan McCombs, the band’s third singer to date, though not at all original (hello, Layne Staley!) are at times entertaining and impressive, and the three-part harmonies that are sometimes thrown in are good ear candy, though they certainly don’t help dissuade the AIC comparison (neither does the frequent use of acoustic guitars). Lead single “Soldiers” is a heavy nu-metalesque number with a shoutalong chorus praising the work of the US soldiers; musically it’s the closest thing on this disc to the band’s big 2001 hit, “Bodies.”
Basically, the upshot is this: smart, forward-thinking metal fans are not going to like this CD. Meat-head, flag-waving midwesterners are going to love it. Interpret that as you see fit.
(two and a half out of five horns)