Ankla's debut album, Steep Trails
should have made for an interesting listen. I mean, how many times do you get the chance to hear metalcore laced with Latin flare? Unfortunately, the album isn't very interesting at all; it's just poor, generic, boring metalcore...with some Latin flare.
The biggest problem with Ankla is their vocalist, Ikaro Stafford. His screaming is decent enough, but over the course of 12 tracks his voice becomes monotonous and repetitive. Several times on the album there are effects on his vocals as well. On tracks "Generacion Mutante" and "Step Ahead", there is a very raspy, almost distorted effect used on his voice and it makes him hard to understand and slightly out of tune with the music. Although his harsh vocals have their flaws, they are not his biggest problem, and the main reason the album suffers. His attempt at singing is horrible. I realize that he's not supposed to be the next great vocalist of our time, but the least he could do is sing in tune. Throughout most of the album he is either sharp of the correct pitch, or ridiculously flat. It's hard to comprehend just how off he is at points unless you've heard the album. Some of the vocal melodies sound rushed, as if the lyrics were written without music, and then forced into the songs. Fairly often he will be finishing one phrase while starting another, and the end/beginning of the respective lines are jumbled into a cacophony of out of tune vocals.
Ramon Ortiz (ex-Puya/Mattador) handles the guitars for Ankla. His style is interesting throughout the first few tracks, seeing as he interacts with the percussive elements of Ankla's music very well. However, after those first couple of tracks, he too starts to sound repetitive. Many of his riffs are in the same minor key, so they blend together within the context of the album, and sometimes within the same song. Don't begin to think that his playing is all bad though, because he does have a few standout riffs throughout the album. On tracks like "Deceit" and "Still Alive" he manages to write riffs that don't jumble together like the rest of the album, and all in all they make for two interesting tracks. It's unfortunate that he was unable to do so for the entirety of the album, because two tracks don't save this album from its mediocrity.
His solos are something else entirely. Unlike many of his metalcore counterparts, he can be heard shredding away throughout the album. His speed and technical ability are most certainly impressive, and his solos suite each song accordingly. Once again though, 20 or 30 seconds within the context of each song isn't enough to make them interesting.
The bass is fairly prominent on the album, but it might as well not be. Throughout the entirety of Steep Trails
, bassist Edgar González doesn't stray from the riffs of Ortiz, and creates a dull wall of sound...but at least he's in tune, right?
Drummer Pepe Clarke Magana is one of the few highlights on the album. His footwork is impressive, and he never takes a rest. He alone is responsible for the death metal comparisons that Ankla receive. He'll hit speeds with his feet that rival those of death metal drummers, and will leave you wondering, "Why the hell is he drumming for Ankla?" Although his drumming is well above average, it's still not enough to drag the songs and riffs from becoming repetitive.
Oscar Santiago, aka Ankla's other percussionist adds a flurry of Latin influenced percussion all throughout the album. However, much of it sounds out of place, and sometimes it clashes with the vocals, almost fighting for supremacy. Most of the time, the percussion isn't really necessary and doesn't add anything to the respective songs, and is just, well, there. He obviously has talent though, because he performs on several different percussive instruments over the course of the album; if only they managed to add something to the music. In short, other than showing the listener that this is "Latin metalcore", he serves no purpose.
Many of the songs off of here follow the same pattern, and it becomes predictable after the first song. They use the same blueprint for every song, which normally wouldn't be a bad thing, but when there's not much interesting going on, it's boring. The listener will literally be able to tell when a breakdown is going to come in and when a solo will start without any problem.
All in all, Ankla's debut album Steep Trails
is the definition of mediocrity. The guitars, vocals, and percussion all blend together after only a few tracks, and if you manage to listen to the album in its entirety even once, chances are you won't be ever again. Final verdict...pass.
- Guitar Solos
- Lack of originality