Review Summary: With less than stellar critical reviews, poor album sales, an immediate loss of label support, as well as the fact that your first album came out so late in nu metal's heyday, Grade 8 stands as the one band that nobody asked for.
Nu metal is to metalheads what violent cartoons are to soccer moms, endless bitching and a lust for painful consistency. But don't get me wrong, there's plenty that's rotten about nu metal, but it didn't really stink until the start of the 21st century, or 2003 if you want to be specific to the era of this album.
By 2003, nu metal began to wain in popularity, with any bands only hope of even making some kind of profit is to have a fallback, i.e., albums released during the peaking years of the genre, because for almost every nu metal band, 2003 is a drop-off year, if you keep going, chances are nobody would give a *** or you'd sell out because the almighty dollar is too good to pass up. Other times, your debut comes out in 2003, and poof, you're not getting any further. While there do exist gems in 2003-era nu metal (Element Eighty's a good band that essentially got screwed by their label, and Motograter's proof that you could say Ivan Moody's name without cringing at the fact that he's headlining Five Finger Death Punch... Grade 8 is literally nothing, or better yet, they're every stereotype of nu metal shoved into one, hold the innovation or unique twist.
Grade 8 checks off every aspect that makes up the most banal of all metal bands.
Formed in the late-90s (typically 1996), check
Spiky-haired frontman, check
Tough guy dialect (their front cover is literally a boxing ring), check
Growly vocals to convey how tough they think they are, check
Came from California (typically LA), check
About the only thing they could claim to their own is that they actually got booted from their record label, Lava, and couldn't secure a new professional deal after that. Plus, you could say that in spite of being active throughout the late-90s, they didn't release squat until 2003, not even a demo.
I'm droning on their backstory, because there's more to it than their music.
Their first five tracks sound near identical to one another. I typically don't focus on lyrics, because I prefer that they have solid music to fall back on. Same rhythm, same structure, and this interestingly goes toward their lone single Brick by Brick. On that song, I will admit that it's not painful to listen to, but that itself is bad because that leaves the song with nothing to fall back on.
The album has a pattern, some songs are fast paced chug-fests, the others are slightly-slower chug-fests, there's no strong sense of variety in any of the songs, at least not enough to make for a stand out track. Okay, for one song, Deal With It, they do experiment a bit with a very small industrial influence, but that's apparently not good enough for them to apply it for the rest of their album. If I could find more than one similarity between each song on the album, chances are that the band didn't give a *** and needed to fill out the album with enough filler to justify a full commercial release.
The only other track worth noting individually is a cover of Rare Earth's I Just Want to Celebrate. I could call the cover it's own song, hadn't it been for the band following the template present throughout the rest of the album. You could say you never expected a nu metal artist to do a cover song, heheh, it's been done, much better and by lesser bands.
A cover of Black Sabbath's Hole in the Sky by Machine Head: https://www.youtube.com/watch"v=J-8PXsjVKRk
A cover of Cypress Hill's Insane in the Brain by Factory 81: https://www.youtube.com/watch"v=Qke4uurVETw
Overall, I had more to say on their foundation and the cliches that they follow. It's a testament to how unchallenging this band's music is. At least with bands like Limp Bizkit, I could say they made their own sound (and level of suckage), but Grade 8 (nice name by the way, a name that reflects on the kind of audience that listens to this crap.) proves that by the end of the day, they don't give a ***.
Can't even say they were in it for the money, the album bombed and they have a sophomore album that's practically unknown. A just fate.