FOR IN THIS MOMENT, A PASSABLE ALBUM IS A RESOUNDING SUCCESS
Call it the Sarah Palin Effect: so much is already stacked against In This Moment (a metalcore band two to three years after metalcore flickered out with an incredibly attractive frontwoman equipped with a ridiculously provocative sense of fashion) that the bar is set almost comedicaly low. But much like struggling to answer simple follow-up questions during one of your first televised national interviews, any slight hint of competency already exceeds expectations, and by many, will be perceived a victory. I wouldn’t call The Dream, the band’s latest album, a victory by any means, but considering the flaccidity of the genre in which it exists, they manage to ascend from “Why do bands like this still make music?” to “Not that bad, really,” with relative ease. Though by no means a classic, it wobbles between lame metalcore and admirable pop-rock somewhat effortlessly to maybe work their way onto the guilty pleasure heap – no small achievement when considering the ocean of sneers and venom already directed their way before playing a note.
Of course, the only remote artistic success this band can claim to achieve is almost completely due to their singer, Maria Brink. Though having a miserable set of contemporaries, she manages to eschew most of the downsides to being a woman in metal. While still having to sex herself up for shows and photoshoots, she also manages to fully utilize her distinctive voice without drifting in the fake-opera mush of Cristina Scabbia or the histrionic bellowing of Amy Lee. While typical esoteric-girl influences are present (Bjork, Tori Amos), she also draws upon other metal and non-metal influences; her deceivingly lazy phrasing recalls the drowsy voice of Chino Moreno, sliding between notes instead of jumping for them, sounding easy-going instead of forceful. When she’s on, she sounds in control, passionate, but not showy or melodramatic. She fumbles like any other metal singer – female, in particular – every now and again, but if anything, The Dream showcases a unique and varied voice that will ideally open the metal world up for more women to sing less like their male counterparts or what their male counterparts would like to hear and sing more like themselves.
Of course, the downside to The Dream is that it’s also not very good. This isn’t an all-encompassing shittiness, but an unfortunate unevenness that makes the album worth chopping down to four or five songs. Though four or five decent songs on a mainstream rock album in 2008 is a near-Physical Graffiti level of greatness, the bad songs on the album are excruciating. Brink’s lyrics often veer into pages-torn-from-a-high-school-diary territory even on the better songs, but when they’re on full display, such as on the soul-suckingly awful ballad “Into the Light,” they illuminate the reason why so many people already loathe this band. That being said, the band also can’t really pull off “heavy,” sounding at their best when chugging along on a hard rock groove, throwing in the occasional nasty solo to compliment the gigantic choruses that are all over the album. In This Moment are a painfully dull metalcore band; they’re a surprisingly good hard rock band. On The Dream, they haven’t come to grips with that yet.
Of course, much like Battle of Mice (arguably – very, very arguably – In This Moment’s underground counterpart, fronted by Made Out of Babies vocalist Julie Christmas), In This Moment are made by their vocalist, and have wisely made the move to push her to the forefront. Though fatally hit-or-miss, The Dream’s first two proper tracks – “Forever” and “All for You” – practically make everything that follows it moot. They’re two solid-ass rock songs that evoke Pat Benatar or Patty Smyth’s Scandal, two underrated artists/bands that didn’t push the envelope creatively, but instead backed ballsy hard-pop with a rich, full bodied voice. In This Moment don’t have to aspire to much more than that, but that’s not necessarily a negative thing. And in an age where women, especially in rock and metal, are forced to dry-hump everything on the sidelines of credibility, Maria Brink manages to stand out without having to resort to being “OK, for a girl.” Sarah Palin could fucking learn something from this.
(2 ½ out of 5 horns)