Review Summary: Could have been worse
After the failure of an album that was Enigma
, I practically gave up on Ill Nino, with the two pre-released songs from Dead New World
only cementing my choice as the right one. Nevertheless, for old times’ sake, even though I must admit that I approached Dead New World
with caution, I decided to give it a fair chance - a chance the album, to my slight surprise, didn’t fully abuse.
Even though Dead New World
isn’t a staggering record by any means, it is a good bounce-back from Enigma
. Ill Nino have managed to bring back the energy of past records, like Revolution/Revolucion
and One Nation Underground
, while working their sound up to a heavier, meaner (relatively speaking) level. They’re also visibly trying to move away from their pure nu metal roots, as there are influences from alternative metal and present day metalcore scenes, but the nu parts are still loud and clear. While that wouldn’t be a problem by default, Ill Nino have already used and abused that old formula of theirs enough (Enigma
being the perfect example), so a change in general is imperative for the band. Dead New World
is making baby steps towards musical development; let’s hope that Ill Nino’s next endeavor continues on that path and shows more of it.
But, in 2010, the mentioned lack of development thus far is what averts Dead New World
from being anything more than passable. The guitar work is still rather plain, the main emphasis being on simple downtuned chords that, while catchy and loud, could be spiced up a bit. There are a few unexpected solos, but that's as far as spicing up goes here. Exactly the same can be said about the overall product, in fact, as it's catchy and loud with a nice soft acoustic section popping up here and there, but little else. Ill Nino’s main strength is still the prominent, Latin-tinged tribal percussion in the background, as it’s what sets Ill Nino apart from their peers. Vocalist Christian Machado also deserves some credit, as he has a decent rock voice and he also tries to mix things up by adding screams and lower register grunts to compliment his cleans, but while the screams are solid, Machado’s grunts are both inept and unappealing, bringing his overall performance grade down a notch.
Then there are some things about Ill Nino that will probably never change (whether that is a good thing or not will depend on the listener’s preferences). Namely, I’m talking about the boundless angst and lyrics. The two practically go hand in hand, though Ill Nino do express their angst in not only the lyrics, but in their overall demeanor (both their music and live shows are loud, reckless, pissed-off - you get the point). Machado still sings how the world is a dim, cruel place ("God Is Only For The Dead"), how he is hurting inside and needs to break free ("If You Were Me"), and how we should never conform and should conduct a revolution instead ("Mi Revolution"). Now, this wouldn't be a big deal at all if it wasn't for the fact that the lyrical topics have stayed the same throughout five albums already. Similarly to, for example, Korn, Ill Nino should diversify their lyrical content; there's nothing wrong with having some angst filled material, but five full length albums that are filled to the brim with angst anthems is a bit much.
As a matter of fact, that leads me on to the biggest failure on this album, besides the production, which is flat, lifeless and overly clean. The cover of The Smashing Pumpkins’ "Bullet With Butterfly Wings". I simply can not grasp how a group that thrives on angst, manages to smudge a cover of an anthemic angst song. It features Machado’s cleanest, tamest vocals on the whole album – does he even know what the song is about? - and the instrumental side is equally incompetent in carrying out the song’s original message, as the cover even sounds upbeat at times. The ever-terrible production here doesn’t help the cause either, it only makes me cringe just a little bit more.
In conclusion, it is a bit sad that Dead New World
turned out exactly the way it did. While it is infinitely better than Enigma
and you can see the band members are trying, the album is plagued by too many problems, with terrible production and extremely inconsistent tracklist being the biggest issues. There is potential to be found here, and at times the band manages to carry it out, as "Ritual" and "Killing You, Killing Me" are some of the best Ill Nino tracks up to date, but in general, Dead New World
is an album that tells us the band is on an upswing again, but not quite where they want (or should want) to be yet.