Metal Review – Ill Nino: Till Death, La Familia

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Metal Review – Ill Nino: Till Death, La Familia
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Ill Nino: Till Death, La Familia
Alternative Metal, Groove Metal
Victory Records
July 22nd, 20145
Release length: 43:40
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Since storming into the music world amid the “Nu-Metal” branding of Alternative/Groove Metal back in 2001 with their debut album Revolution/Revolucion through Roadrunner Records, Ill Nino has found major success for their mixture of “American Metal” music and Latin influence. As time went on, it started to become clear the band was losing it’s edge and started looking to commercial success and radio plays, especially by the time of their first Victory Records outing Dead New World. However, 2012’s Epidemia was a surprise return to the passion and anger that had made their 2003 album Confession such a smash hit all around the board. It’s now 2014, and the group is gearing up to release Till Death, La Familia, their seventh full-length effort that vocalist Christian Machado told Arena.com “will absolutely surprise a lot of people” and “that it is very catchy and very groove-oriented.” But does the final product live up to the hype, or is this a step in the wrong direction?

Till Death, La Familia finds the band really going through some kind of rough identity crisis. Much of what made the group such a powerhouse back in the day is lost among songs that seem to just throw their Groove Metal foundation into the various trends of today that sometimes are rough to get into or look past. “Not Alive in My Nightmare” asserts that mainstream approachable presence with plenty of hooks and single note chugs that become as common throughout the album as the sudden shifts into Latino flair via Santana influenced guitar solos that rarely pack the same emotional vibe. There’s also some Electronica thrown in for good measure, especially during the chorus to make it a little more infectious then the main verses. Those effects help pull the attention away from the aforementioned guitars through all but the chorus of “Blood Is Thicker Than Water.” It’s like an odd combination of Deathcore stereotypes without the brutality, replaced with clean singing meant to come off like a moody power ballad that oddly works well enough together to create a simple song that has a decent amount of staying power.

“I’m Not the Enemy” is catchy enough thanks to the bongos, but for the most part it’s like a mixture of modern less hostile Slipknot with a chorus that sounds exactly like Nickleback‘s discography omplete with just as emotion in the clean singing. “World So Cold” is also guilty of the one or two note chugs, though it does offer a hint complexity at the end of certain bars and bridges. It’s an empty, hollow performance that really offers nothing to keep your attention outside the vibrant chorus with more of the aforementioned Electronica that sound just slightly out of harmony with the clean effect from the guitars, as well as yet another Santana-esque solo that does manage to bring a little more passion out of the instrument than many of the others that fail to capture the Latin heritage.

“Pray I Don’t Find You” starts off with a slow build you would expect from Tool using a similar Maynard James Keenan vocal style. The cold, grim music hits again with the poetic narration around three minutes in, further pushing the sensation of a man who has nothing to lose before caving back into the Sepultura-grade groove and vocal hostility once more. But it’s “Are We So Innocent” that ends up the first to really throw a curve ball into the mix. The Melodic Death Metal hooks and hostility of early In Flames with mid-pitched gutturals are a welcome move that comes out of nowhere, though the chorus does give way to the standard formula of the genre by caving to clean singing.

There’s only two others that truly make going through this kind of thin sounding effort worth it. “Dead Friends” manages to capture what this band is known for. The music is heavy on the bongos, making it impossible to not bang your head along to the rhythm they establish alongside the drum kit and its strong cymbal presence. The vocals have a great deal of emotion, enthusiasm and range to them unlike nearly every performance here, though the guitars still cater to the single note idea that somehow finds enough energy to actually sound good and enhance the experience. But it’s the closing track “My Bullet” that has so much power behind nearly everything that it can honestly bring you to tears with the tale of a man in such a dilemma that suicide was a viable option while knowing that those actions would damn him to Hell given his beliefs. The passion in the vocals and additional layering with perfectly timed growls laced with rich bongos, drums and guitars capture the mood perfectly, pushed over the top with a moving solo that the restrained electronics compliment perfectly.

While 2012’s Epidemia was one of the band’s best albums in quite a while, everything Ill Nino re-established with it was thrown right out the window with it’s follow-up. When you nearly crash your car into a tree from laughing hysterically to the lyrics of the first thirty seconds of the album’s opening song, it’s clear Till Death, La Familia was going to be a rough experience. Yes, it has some catchy songs, but there’s so little substantial about this release, and so much of it just sounds flat. With so few songs that sound remotely original or even engaging past or during the first spind, it’s so hard to imagine that this recording was anythin more than just radio fodder, and the fact that the lead single is the literally laughable “Live Like Theres No Tomorrow” and not the genuinely moving “My Bullet” only fuels that argument. It’s an absolute shame that a band who put out one of the best albums to drop in 2012 follow it up with a barely passable collection of generic, cliche, uninspiring songs that largely pass for moderately catchy, even with plenty of time to grow on you.

01. Live Like Theres No Tomorrow – 4:25
02. Not Alive in My Nightmare – 4:25
03. I’m Not the Enemy – 3:31
04. Blood is Thicker Than Water – 5:59
05. Are We So Innocent – 3:53
06. Pray I Don’t Find You – 4:11
07. World So Cold – 3:39
08. Dead Friends – 3:40
09. Breaking the Rules – 3:45
10. Payaso – 2:52
11. My Bullet – 3:21
Initial Pressing Score: 4/10

Ill Nino
Ill Nino

Digital review copy of this release provided by Victory Records.