Review Summary: Including the kitchen sink might have fun, but it'll cost a bit.
Managing a brand isn’t all it’s cracked up to, if it’s cracked up to be anything other than a headache. There’s a constant struggle regarding what a band wants to play that ends up looking like a tug-of-war: evolve or stick to the ‘formula.’ Every instrument chosen and every note played is a separate ingredient in the arduous process of crafting an album, making it all the more tempting to stick to tried-and-trued methodology rather than experimentation. After all, branching off from a core sonic identity tends to result in half a given fanbase rushing to the nearest comments section, Angry reacts at the ready. What inevitably is lost in translation is the sweet middle ground of advancing
the formula—fine-tune what’s already in the pot. The last time the world heard from Spain’s resident melodic-hardcore speed-riffers Adrenalized, they were cooking up a delicious concoction that relied heavy on sweet melodies bound by an aggressive bite to really make the dish pop. Plenty of other restaurants up and down the block may have been serving the same fare, but not quite as many seemed to portray the passionate, animated aesthetic of the scene to the same degree. For any returning customer, it can just as easily be said that Operation Exodus
does not deviate far from the menu, though the ultimate taste left on the tongue (read: eardrums) might not bring about the exact same experience.
Hardcore certainly hasn’t shielded up the fact that it likes to attack as quickly as possible, but to anyone that lacks previous exposure to Adrenalized, clarification is key: whereas fellow acts stir together their contents fast, spinning the ladle madly about in a circle, these gents from Basque take everything—even the kitchen sink—and cram it into microwave. The listener receives an explosion of expressive guitar playing that races around in circles through various progressions and solos, each chord striving to be undeniably memorable. Adrenalized seem to structure their songs in a pop-esque manner that is buttressed by powerful clean vocals, laser-sharp harmonies, and a build-up to an anthemic chorus meant to be screamed as loudly and proudly as imaginable. Pick out any single by the energetic quartet and the recipe is evident; tunes such as single “The Story to Believe” aptly illustrate how the band goes about their business, immediately establishing a polished melody as the singing jumps around in the controlled chaos, the drums pounding furiously in the background. A brief instrumental break erupts into the tune’s refrain, the phrase “Someday I know” repeated until audience memorization is assured. Coupled with lyrics dripping with genre-approved commentary on world issues, inequalities, and other bad stuff that keeps people down, this infectious track prompts whomever clicks the arrow to immediately stand up, fist raised.
More or less, Operation Exodus
adheres to the aforementioned framework to its greatest extent. Things end up being spiced up just a little bit more by accenting an element that previously went practically unheard: the bass is given a much more prominent voice. Sophomore effort Tales From the Last Generation
drowned the oft-ridiculed and simultaneously beloved string instrument beneath the commanding leads; the third record here makes amends by increasing the volume nob, allowing the band to fully function as a unit. Compared to the rapid-fire solo that closes out “The Threshold” or the dual guitar assault that opens “My Three Companions”—both contributors intertwined, joined in harmony then rushing ahead with crushing intensity—the performance doesn’t achieve quite as large a spotlight. The galloping riff that supports “Decide” certainly deserves attention though, as it adds an accompanying punch when it counts and makes the entry all the more intriguing. That extra factor means there’s more going into the bowl, more to enjoy with the senses—the tone of the bass gives it a sort of suave growl—and more to think about after the track concludes. The list of inputs remains untouched outside of that key inclusion, so the resulting smells and palates are familiar.
The trouble is that the feelings are perhaps all too
familiar—or not enough. A genre like hardcore, especially when ramped up to incredible tempos, can become susceptible to blending together and losing any touch of originality. Emotional vocal performances, impactful lyricism, and differentiated guitar arrangements end up covering for this in some combination (sometimes one, sometimes all three); having none of those cards on the table or having an overall weak hand compromises the final product. Queue a line-up of “The Story to Believe,” “The Mask” and “See the World Crumble” to witness precisely how these formations sound eerily similar in every sense: introduction, progression, the band’s delivery, and finale. Those are only to name a few guilty moments; more are abound on the record, which also suffers from a deficiency in constructing straightforwardly recognizable melodies ala “Tarkin Doctrine” from the preceding release. Crescendos are executed in no particular manner that makes them distinguishable, since the guitars are more preoccupied sprinting across the land instead of pausing to look at the directions. Entertaining though they may be, Adrenalized’s prose is not to be confused with poetry. An issue further compound by the vigorous bass demonstration is the linear percussion kit, whose formerly engaging beats are revealed to be rapid and not much else. Considering that the group consciously decided it was best to augment the presence of the bass, it is all the more jarring that the fourth member of the collective files in the bare minimum.
Looking back upon the tug-of-war, it’s difficult to determine where Adrenalized stand in the battle. On one hand, the recipe has been improved, but the boat hasn’t been rocked too hard to buck the fanbase off into the waters. On the other hand, anyone that walked through the axiomatic restaurant doors expecting—maybe even hoping—for something separate from the norm is destined to exit carrying disappointment in their take-out bag. A carbon-copy this is not, but it can’t be classified as a definitive valedictory from existing motifs set by the band. Albums are far from simplistic in their creation and pleasing a crowd a laborious task; that stated, it’s equally hard to shake off the feeling that all the pieces were there for Operation Exodus
to be an early-year banger, yet it stuck too close to a safe zone. Aspects were added or edited and others went under the radar. In doing so, Adrenalized have crafted songs that are familiar but not memorable, virtuosic but not divergent, spirited but not special. Sitting down and going through the brief duration of the disc is definitely fun and consequently brings about instances of foot-tapping sing-alongs. Nothing is wrong with a fast-paced, fun album, but it can’t be expected to be more or less memorable then the best local drive-thru window.