After a few years of inactivity, Latin-tinged metal six-piece Ill Niño return with latest release ‘Dead New World‘. A forerunner of the late nu-metal wave that Roadrunner Records inundated America with in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, the band’s strengths always lay in their willingness to diversify from the standard shouty fare with stylistic Latin flair and occasionally delicately beautiful serenades.
So, whilst the world has changed drastically in the ten years since the band made a name for themselves, have Ill Niño risen to the challenges of making music in an increasingly X-Factor dominated musical market?
The answer is an uncertain one. Opener ‘God Is Only For The Dead‘ is an atheist affirmation of lighter melodic bridges to crunching metal overlaid with elaborate Latin riffs. It is typical duration of the record, the main components of the band’s signature style. Their ten-year-old formula remains largely unchanged, though lighter ballads such as fan favourite ‘With You‘ from breakthrough album ‘Revolution Revolucion‘ are markedly absent.
The band counter this lack by writing and producing songs in which screamed vocals and clean singing are more evenly distributed than in past efforts, whilst retaining the overall heaviness. Lead single ‘Against The Wall‘ showcases distinctive vocalist Cristian Machado‘s singing and screaming capabilities to great effect, as does ‘Mi Revolucion‘, a thought-provoking call and response concerning society’s direction with depth and foresight.
The angsty and political themes explored lyrically lend the album a youthful and contemporary feel, yet the unwavering dedication to a style honed at such a specific time in metal’s history unconsciously roots the release firmly in 2002.
Yet it would be unjust to deride Ill Niño for refusing to bow to pressure to alter a style they’re clearly adept at performing. Consistently crisp and concise, the tight production creates a coherent body of songs that sequentially unfold thematically and lyrically. The musicianship remains as skillful and impressive for a band with a penchant for lineup changes, the brooding percussion proficiently weaving into the rhythmic pulsing guitars.
Penultimate track is a Smashing Pumpkins cover ‘Bullet With Butterfly Wings‘ and it is a bizarre yet pleasing addition to an album resting strongly upon foundations laid long before. Current fans of the band will not be disappointed, and on the whole ‘Dead New World‘ is a commendable but generally unremarkable effort. Ill Niño may have resisted compromising a style dear to them, but at the cost of revolution or evolution.
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