Review Summary: Convinced you hate Nu-Metal? Give Spineshank a shot, I'm sure you'll be reconsidering.
The late 90's and early 00's were the beginning of a movement of somewhat mainstreamed "Metal" that was Hard Rock at heart but with harsher vocals. Enter Nu-Metal. The name alone can cause some of the most hardened Metal Heads to cringe, simply put, it brings back nightmares for some. The days of Korn, Slipknot, System of a Down, and similar artists getting ungodly amounts of airplay and downloads across Napster and KaZaA. I must admit, I was one of the people that blindly downloaded it, Metal was the method to my teenage madness.
Despite my harsh description of the genre, please don't get the wrong idea. Almost all of the artists I listed are favorites of mine. No matter how much Hardcore and Melo-Death I enjoy, I will never grow out of listening to Slipknot's self-titled album and jamming to Toxicity. The entire feel of Nu-Metal is somewhere between Hard Rock and Industrial. To be honest how it was even branded as "Metal" is somewhat beyond me, but I'm sure it has something to do with the song structures or something terribly boring to explain, so we'll move on.
Now, despite growing up in a small town, for some bizarre reason, there's a huge Metal fan-base in Vermont. So any bands who happen to stumble across this, head on out here, I guarantee your shows will sell out. This may seem like a bit of a random addition to the review, but I assure you it has relevance. Basically, I know a lot of Metal Heads, and a lot of fans of Hardcore music, and trust me when I say they are hard to please when it comes to music. I have however found that every so often there is an artist or a single album that slips into all of their collections and is universally accepted by them. Spineshank is one such example.
Spineshank was formed in 1996, they were essentially born from the ashes of a group named "Basic Enigma". After getting a lot of attention from multiple record labels, Spineshank signed with Roadrunner Records. Their debut album, titled "Strictly Diesel" was released in 1998, and another titled "The Height of Callousness" was released in 2000. After a few years of touring with many well-known bands of the time, and "Self-Destructive Pattern" was released in late 2003. Shortly after the vocalist (Jonny Santos) parted ways with the other members, stating "Musical Indifference's" as his reason. After 4 years of inactivity he reunited in early 2008 and the band is in the process of making a new album. Enough History, let's jump right into the album review for "Self-Destructive Pattern".
1. Violent Mood Swings
The album starts with a lot of energy, the first track is quiet at first and some feedback builds into a powerful set of guitar riffs, and leads into their vocalist screaming (essentially like a maniac, his trademark). One thing you'll notice immediately is how their vocalist has a somewhat gritty faux-Nu-metal voice, that also doubles as a great Hard Rock sound. It's hard to place Spineshank in a genre, because they just seem to play music that they like, and they do it damn well. The song flows with a lot of energy and does become a bit repetitive towards the end, but just when it starts tot get too boring they end abruptly.
Don't wanna see, don't wanna think
Don't wanna speak for yourself
This song starts out and seems to have a more Nu-Metal, almost Industrial sound to it. There's a lot going on, so it's hard to describe any particular qualities of it, but there seems to be a lot of effects thrown in the background that make the song unique. The real shocker is when immediately you're thrown off by actual singing, and no I don't mean the kind of Metallica-style "singing", I mean clean vocals. They're backed up by the kind of screaming that leads into them, but that doesn't make them any less powerful. You'll start to notice that Spineshank does a good job at preventing their songs from going on unnecessarily. Some may point this out as an "inability to remain creative", but I think it's more of a favor to the listener. As much as I love 15 minute epic songs, they're either hit or miss.
I reject the way you need
To hurt yourself to get to me
I will break away from you
My regret is knowing you
Probably the most well known Spineshank song (some what of an oxymoron). This song is more driven by very interesting guitar work, and a lot of heavy beats from the drummer. The real shocker is that the entire song is done in clean vocals. It's really amazing how well the singing is done for that matter. Usually bands that switch up their vocal styles are harassed for it (KSE, BTBAM, Slipknot) but I am yet to meet a single person that says Spineshank doing it is a bad thing. Anyways, the song is driven by a very distinctive chorus that is a lot of fun to listen to and song along with. Like I already mentioned, the song is fairly short (3 minutes), but that doesn't mean it's lacking depth. It has a lot of qualities that will probably drive you to listen to it 3-4 times more often than the rest of the album. This song also received a lot of mainstream attention, enough to warrant it a Grammy-nomination, only to be beaten by that god-awful song "St. Anger".
4. Consumed (Obsessive Compulsive)
The black and cold reminds me
Of all the distance we have crossed
And if your darkness blinds me
I could never be more lost
The song immediately starts with very loud vocals that overpower any instruments, it's basically a cacophony of screaming and bass pedal. It quickly like most of the album leads into slower singing that is fueled by some nice ambient background effects. About two thirds of the way through the song is a short breakdown where the vocals are changed from singing at full volume to some deeply exhaled singing. The song isn't exactly an amazing example of musicianship, but it is also sandwiched between 2 great songs, so its value is somewhat lost in translation.
5. Beginning of the End
Consume the fight in me,
If it stops the room from spinning
This song is one of the standout tracks of the album. If you say that atrocious Freddy vs. Jason movie, this song was the only redeemable quality about the entire thing. Basically it's the most well-sung song on the album. It flows very well between singing and screaming, and the beat of the song is very interesting. It's one of those songs that you kind of seem to get lost in after listening to it a few times and lose track of where one set of lyrics begins and the other one ends. This is probably my favorite song off the album, I highly recommend it to anyone.
The life we knew before is gone
There is no compromising
The life you save will be your own
To find your inner senses
Another three minute song, but this one has a lot less lyrical depth than the other ones. That's not necessarily a bad thing, I think the song holds its own very well. You can interpret it two different ways. You could imagine that they were trying to make a song that got by on lyrical quality alone, and this is understandable, because although it's lacking in terms of lyrical diversity, the lyrics are hard-hitting and interesting. The other interpretation is that the song is more about the flow of it musically, and how well it manages to somewhat phase out the lyrics. I know, this probably seems confusing since the two interpretations seem to be opposite in every way, but the song has a lot of interesting aspects.
7. Self-Destructive Pattern
And time will block the vision
Life with you is so vague
It's like I'm living in a dream
This is the first song since the beginning of the album that uses their more harsh vocals, and it does it exceptionally. Considering this is the title track, which traditionally embodies what the entire album is supposed to stand for, it meets all expectations. It's a great song with a well-sung chorus, and some great vocals leading in and out of it. Although their not exactly the best example of it, Spineshank does happen to have some really catchy, and interesting lyrics. The quoted portion is the chorus of the song, and I think it's a great example of their work. Some may argue, but from what I've heard, they put a lot of emphasis on the lyrical value of their songs.
8. Tear Me Down
Born again I feel so hollow
Torn again my senses fade
Mourn again without the sorrow
Born again without the blame
The eighth song on the album is a strange one. It starts out with some very strange musical qualities, a very industrial sounding beat that leads into a more familiar style. The way the lines leading up to the chorus connect into it are one of my favorite qualities of the song. The breakdown towards the end is also a nice change of pace from the initial repetition of the song. At this point you'll probably start to notice that all the songs seem to start and progress the same way. While I cannot argue that this is false, I think it should be noted that where this is usually the bane of most bands, it works well for them, and the content of their songs is enough to overshadow this element.
You've taken me and everything too
Far, to me it's so disgusting
Wrong, I'll push myself away
Far, my sanity is rusting
Wrong, I look the other way
Another song that starts out with a really low beat mixed in a strange faux-Industrial style. It starts to pick up with guitar riffs and leads into the singer screaming the song title and then slows back down into their signature clean vocals. At this point to fill in some space I'll point out one of the reasons I really like Spineshank as more than a generic angst-ridden Nu-Metal band; their aggression doesn't feel like an act. With most Nu-Metal bands you start to feel as though they're throwing up the angsty attitude just for affect, but Spineshank seems to be more genuine.
10. Falls Apart
Think, it's all a delusion
Relieve your confusion when you put me down
Fear, afraid to accept it
You only defend it 'cause it's handed down
"Falls Apart" begins similar to several songs on the album by starting with ear-shatteringly loud vocals that lead into some instrumental work and finally their established slower vocals. Despite the cynicism this is probably one of the songs on this album that I remember most clearly. The way the chorus on this song sinks in is not easily forgotten. Unlike "Stillborn" and "Violent Mood Swings" it's not because it's laced with profanity, but because of the impact the lyrics have when you hear them.
I hate the way you turn this all around,
So you can bleach your shame,
Apology is not an option now,
It won't erase the blame now.
I actually really love this song. The song begins with some quick-paced singing that is nothing more than some very poetic repetitions. But the way the lines are delivered, even though it's not powerful screaming, they sink in and you can easily jam to this song. It's probably the most fun to listen to, and the lyrics in the song are some of their best. I highly recommend this song to anyone who's a Hard Rock or Nu-Metal fan.
12. Dead To Me
You think the world's beginning,
In truth it's really ending,
My disillusioned mind is wasting away...
The big finale. Classic albums are good from beginning to end, and usually end in a bang. This album isn't a classic album by any means, but it is a great one. The last track is somewhat disappointing, but is hardly a terrible listen. It's another track laced with screaming vocals, rather than their (arguably) more enjoyable clean vocals. For me, the song is somewhat of a let-down, but that's just me. Musically, this song does have a great beat around two minutes in and finishes the final third of the song very well. I suppose by those standards the absolute end of the album (the last 90 seconds or so) is really good.
This was Spineshank's final album before the band originally broke up (they have since re-united and are in the process of recording a 4th album). It's in my opinion their best work, although it doesn't have my favorite songs by them, it is the most consistently good. "The Height of Callousness" was a great album, but there were a few segments in it that were just painfully bad (Cyanide 2600), and "Strictly Diesel" was interesting, but nothing special (especially not their dreadful Beatles cover). I would not be surprised by another release from Spineshank either this year, or early next, that catapults them back on the scene.
"Beginning of the End"
Additional Suggested Tracks: