Denied By Cliche

So Jono released his album. I thought I’d give it a little listen.

Its a metal album. I’m not the biggest fan of metal to be honest. To me it is a genre that seems quite content to live in the past and rehash the same old cliches. Occasionally (ISIS, Pelican, Sunn o))), Earth, Boris to name a few) they do something different and I stand up and pay attention. Is Severed Fifth one of these metal bands that makes me sit up and listen?

In short, no, not really

Denied by Reign seems to relish the old metal cliches. Jono is clearly very well rehersed on the double kick pedal, but it seems to be at the detriment of the other parts of the drum kit. Take away the double kick and what is left is a beat that could have come from a cheap keyboard’s rythmn section. While I’m thinking about the drums, if you’re going to use a electric kit, at least get some decent samples. I don’t know how they were recorded, whether it was from the drum module through an amp, or via midi (I suspect the former), but replacing them with better samples with more bass would help a great deal. For the way it sounds at least. Actually, more bass all round would have helped. Everything sounds very brittle and too bright, which is generally bad for metal sounds.

The songs vary in length, and the better ones are the shorter ones, the longer ones feel boring and drag on, another common complaint I have with metal songs. There’s rarely enough to fill out the 6, 7 minutes here, and the songs (except for War) have no dynamics. They begin as they mean to go on, and become predictable. Another reason that the songs all blend together and sound the same is that they are most in the same tempo range between 90 and 100 bpm.

War has an attempt at song dynamics, where it builds from acoustic, to rocky, to growly, but again, this progression isn’t anything we haven’t heard before. The Metallica influence is prevalent in War, given that Jono pronounces the last word of every phrase as if James Hetfield had been giving him elocution lessons. Maybe there’s a belief that it adds sincerity and gravitas, but it sounds forced.

The lyrics that can be made out seem just as unoriginal: “Step inside my mind, see whats inside of me” or “take away my hatred because it eats away at me”. Nothing earth shattering here or with the concepts that flow through the album as a whole. Its a political album and digs into the old cliches: war is bad, money is a problem… You can also tell that its a political album because it has samples from politicans. George Bush tells us that is a beacon of freedom blahblahblah, Chamberlain tells us about Hitler…easy soundbites that offer nothing new to the mix.

Of course, Severed Fifth isn’t just about the music, its an attempt to use the new musical economy to … do something. I don’t know what Jono is hoping to achieve, but beyond putting out an album for free I’m not sure how he’s planning on using the NME (Economy, not Express). It feels like he hasn’t gone far enough yet. The music is out there, released under a creative commons license and remixing is encouraged, but it is only available in lossy formats (with the more Free ogg format actually being a transcode from the mp3 so adding a nice fuck you to anyone who actually cares about Freedom, which seems strange) and the individual tracks of the songs are not available either, both of which scupper any chance of a good remix appearing. Lyricsheets are also slow to come, it helps with a “political” album to give the listeners a chance to understand the points you are trying to make. None of these extra things are very hard to supply and it seems a shame that the opportunity has been wasted when the hard part of actually recording the thing has been done to squander the initial buzz by limiting the potential.

To be honest, I’m not sure if there even is an NME, calling it that would be to imply that there is money to be made. The big bands who have flirted with it are either doing it as a gimic, a fuck you to the record companies who have treated them badly, and as a bargaining chip to improve their contracts, or in the case of Trent Reznor seem to have stopped caring about making money and just seem to want to give stuff away (officially and unofficially). And the bands that became big via myspace, the internet, word of mouth etc have either burnt out as suddenly as they appeared, or have signed to the big labels.

One of the things about the barrier for entry being lowered that excites me is the ease at which artists who would not be commercially viable can record and release music and I think the music will fall into two categories: Music that is more creative and original than the commericial releases so no publisher wants to touch it, and music that would like to be a commercial release but just isn’t good enough yet to play with the big boys. Sadly for Jono’s first foray into the NME, its in the latter category.

6/10 – Not a terrible album, but too samey and too stuck in the old cliches to make anyone really pay attention.