The late nineties. Not, overall, a time to look back on with much fondness if you’re a fan of proper heavy metal. Every week magazines like Kerrang! would come up with a new band, usually from the US, ready to save the world with some new but predictably tedious variant on the nu-metal playbook. Downtuned riffs, whiny vocals, meh,meh,meh. If you lived through it you know how bad it got.
So, somewhat incredibly, given all the great metal music created before and after that barren period, Devin Townsend Project offshoot Imonolith have decided to resurrect this style some twenty years after the fact with their new album, State of Being. Even more incredibly, it’s not nearly as bad as you’d expect.
Of course musically you know what you’ll get is top notch in terms of technique; Former DTP members Ryan Van Poederooyen (drums) and Brian Waddell (guitars) are clearly not men that could be described as ‘slouches’ on their chosen weapons. In tandem with vocalist Jon Howard (Threat Signal) Scott Whalen (bass, Econoline Crush) and guitarist Kai Huppunen (Noise Therapy and, ulp, Methods of Mayhem) they’ve clearly decided on a party line and they prosecute same to the hilt on State of Being. Hence we get a range of songs, none of which would ever have been off the radio had this been 1998. The Mourning is the apogee of this forensic look back in time; quasi rap vocals on the verse exploding into a tumescent clean-vocalled chorus all backed by chugging, downtuned axes… Forgone and Hollow add a Linkin Park-meets-Disturbed lurch that lovers of this kinda schtick will doubtless find irresistible. If rock radio actually meant anything in 2020 then Imonolith would undoubtedly be kings of the medium.
Howard is the surprise star of the show, displaying a versatile vocal style that allows him to handle anything from Jonathan Davis-styled whining through Draimanic staccato spitfire delivery to full-blown Corey Taylor madness; He pulls it all off with aplomb, sometimes in the same song, and, for all my carping you have to say that the rest of the band have at least given him a suite of songs worth singing over. Maybe it’s because music like this is now something of a novelty rather than the norm – the relentless misery of 1998 can now at least be broken up with swift doses of uplifting folk metal – but overwrought radio metal like Breathe now brings a smile to the face and a spring to the step rather than an urge to self harm. That can only be a good thing, so if a bit of harmless nostalgia is your thing then this comes highly recommended. Break out the wallet chains!
State of Being is out now.