The Rundown: Ill Nino, Anberlin, Issues, Aaron Lewis, Hotel Diablo

The latest edition of the Rundown takes looks at new releases from Ill Nino, Anberlin, Issues, Aaron Lewis, and Hotel Diablo.

File Under: Latin Metal?
Ill Nino – Epidemia (Victory): On Epidemia, Ill Nino’s sixth studio release, the Jersey-born band brings the heavy, and not just any heavy – this is flat out heavy. Case in point is “La Epidemia” featuring Emmure frontman Frankie Palmeri, a track that really speaks to Epidemia on the whole – it’s heavy just for heavy’s sake. Continuing a trend that really came to light on 2010’s Dead New World, the Latin rhythms that once fueled Ill Nino’s core sonic aesthetic (and made them a standout metal act) have not only taken a backseat, they’ve been pushed to the brink of obscurity, replaced with an industrial pulse prevalent mostly on pulsating stompers like “the Depression” and “Eva,” though this band proves they can still spin straw into gold with the closing track “Invisible People,” a track that caps off Epidemia in rather striking fashion. Judging by Epidemia it seems Ill Nino’s best days may be behind them, though they’re a band prone to an impressive outburst here and there.    
Grade: C+
Go Download: “Invisible People”            

File Under: Polished Hard Rock
Anberlin – Vital (Universal Republic): On Vital, Anberlin’s sixth studio album, gone is the emotive pop that fueled its predecessor Dark Is the Way, Light Is a Place, since replaced by a noticeable heaviness replete with electronic flourishes. Regardless of any aural changes Anberlin has endured over the past few years, Vital is still a record centered around the captivating vocal display put on by frontman Stephen Christian, who, when reunited with producer Aaron Sprinkle (who produced the band’s Blueprints for the Black Market, Never Take Friendship Personal, and Cities records), has the band sounding as if they are ready to take the next step. Vital, while melodic in nature, sounds more like an arena-ready hard rock album, driven by angular, anthemic cuts (“Little Tyrants,” “Someone Anyone”). But Vital is a bit more complex than that, as evidenced by brooding, electronic underpinnings (“Innocent,” “Other Side”), which makes for one hell of a challenging record, one that will continue to reward with each listen.
Grade: B+
Go Download: “Other Side”    

File Under: Rock
Hotel Diablo – The Return to Psycho, California (Scarlet): A potent cocktail of badassery and debauchery, garnished with just the right amount of raunch is one hell of an apt description of the Return to Psycho, California, the latest from Hollywood’s favorite sons Hotel Diablo. Mix in production from the vaunted Gilby Clarke (Guns N’ Roses, Slash’s Snakepit) and you have a rock record that sounds as much a throwback to mid-80’s Sunset Strip hard rock as it does today’s modern rock scene. If for some reason you only catch one of the venomous riffs off the Return to Psycho, California, make sure its “Set It Off,” by far one of the coolest rock tunes you’ll hear this year. And so goes the Return to Psycho, California, a record emblazoned with malicious, towering guitar work that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up (“Taken,” “Wicked Lines”) and hell, the Tinseltown foursome even toss in an admirable, honest cover of Oasis’ classic “Wonderwall” for good measure. Though there’s morethan a few nods to their hard rock predecessors of yesteryear, Hotel Diablo’s the Return to Psycho, California sounds ultimately fresh, which is NEVER a bad thing.
Grade: B+
Go Download: “Wicked Lines”

File Under: Spruced Up Metalcore
Issues – Black Diamonds (Velocity/Rise): Black Diamond, the debut EP from Issues, aka Woe, Is Me V.2, featuring former WIE frontmen Tyler Carter and Michael Bohn, is an interesting animal. On one hand you have the title cut, which features a dubstep beat and auto-tuned vocals that utter the line “we keep the cash on deck,” while on the other hand, there’s the blistering “King of Amarillo,” a track that should whip throngs of dance pits worldwide into a swirling frenzy of moving limbs. And it’s that diversity that defines Black Diamonds on the whole – in order to fully enjoy what Issues can offer sonically, you have to take the good with the bad. And to be completely honest, there really isn’t all that much bad to wade through on Black Diamonds, aside from the occasional bout of electronica and the like. “The Worst of Them” is a wade through the shallow waters of emotionality (perhaps the lightest track Black Diamonds has to offer), “Love Sex Riot” (featuring Fronz) is a straight up, stone cold killer fueled by soaring guitars designed to shatter (Ok, decimate) ear drums, and “Princeton Ave” is somehow somewhere in the middle of the both the latter and the former. As was previously said, Black Diamonds is a different breed of animal, one that will surprise you, hell, blow you away, if you give it the chance.
Grade: B
Go Download: “Love Sex Riot” (featuring Fronz)         

File Under: Country, Seriously
Aaron Lewis – The Road (R&J/Blaster): While it might be jarring to hear Aaron Lewis, the lead throated Staind frontman, waxing country on his debut long player the Road, this album shows that the hard rock troubadour has the chops to succeed in the country game. The Road stumbles out of the gates with the entirely too long “75,” a listless track that prattles on for nearly six minutes, though the album gets better as it progresses. The high-end twang of the subsequent title track has a vague Hank Williams vibe, while “Endless Summer” registers as a surefire hit single. The Road’s song structures aren’t anything new, and it’s evident Lewis isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to songwriting as he makes sure to touch on all of the country music staples – Patriotic love (“Red, White and Blue”), family (“Lessons Learned”) and broken relationships (“Forever”). Though this album isn’t perfect, it comes off honest and above all else you have to give Lewis credit for stepping outside the box and trying something new, regardless of the results.
Grade: C+
Go Download: “Endless Summer”