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Music Review: Ill Niño – Dead New World

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New Jersey’s Ill Niño burst on to the scene with 2001’s Revolution Revolución, an album heavy on the rapcore and nu-metal vibes. Their single, “What Comes Around,” made the rounds at all the usual places and the band was even tapped to play Ozzfest. All in all, a fairly good start.

But as with many bands of the nu-metal era, the changing musical tide appeared to leave them behind. The fusion of styles, including hip hop and and hard rock, gave way to a more solidified texture and bands like Ill Niño struggled to evolve. With Dead New World, their fifth studio recording, the vibe remains the same.

That’s not to say that Ill Niño’s subtle blend of Latin music and metal isn’t interesting, of course. There are moments of potential, such as when guitarist Ahrue Luster uncorks some South American flavour over the traditional backdrop of swirling guitars and clattering drums.

Let’s be clear, though: Ill Niño isn’t reinventing the wheel by integrating Latin music with metal. Other bands have dabbled in similar territory to greater success, with Sepultura’s Roots perhaps being the most pressing example with its mesh of Brazilian roots and death metal. The reason Roots remains a classic is the band’s full commitment to the experiment.

In the case of Dead New World, the lack of progression and commitment hurt the process. Here’s a band almost crushed by the weight of what they could do, it seem. Ill Niño, instead of embracing some of the broader Latin concepts, seems content to throw in the odd blast of flamenco or “tribal drums” and leaves the rest of the music to the bland and outdated scourge of nu-metal.

This is clear from the outset. Vocalist Cristian Machado tries to show off his range with “God Is Only For the Dead,” the first cut on the record. Despite his best efforts, the track can’t escape the predictable soil it’s planted in and the strangely mixed piece fades into nothingness.

Other songs pace through familiar sites, like the Sevendust-inspired “Against the Wall” and the incredibly generic “Ritual” that opens with something out of a Filter song and backs into a strange mess of overlapped vocals and well-meaning percussion.

The cover of “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” barely warrants a mention, as Ill Niño doesn’t seem at all interested in making the Smashing Pumpkins track their own.

Fans of Ill Niño will enjoy Dead New World. Fans of heavy music with a little bit of creativity or thought are better served elsewhere, however, as this bland mass of potential could have used a little more innovation and a lot less childproofing.

Check out the video for “Against the Wall” here:

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About Jordan Richardson