Tuesday, December 4, 2001 @ 1:03 PM
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The minute I saw the title of this CD, I was plunged into an ethereal, Twilight Zone-type flashback. I began to tremble and my shirt stuck to my back. Oh God, I was back in 8th grade! I was sitting in that ill-advised egghead math class I’d signed up for because at the time I thought I was “good with figgers.” And here, before me on the dinged-up, scrawled-on desk, lay yet another of a long stream of worksheets, featuring my demon: synthetic division. I tried to scream, but only h hideous, cracking whimper came out.
And then I woke up. Yes, I made it out of that class alive with an A-, somehow, and to this day, I could not begin to tell you how to do synthetic division. I forgot it that very summer. Anyway, once I’d calmed down after my little episode, I turned my attention to he task at hand, reviewing the debut CD from Tampa, Florida’s own Crossbreed. But first, let’s have a look-see at the band’s bio, which was thoughtfully included with my own personal copy. Hey, I’m a goddamn journalist! I get these little silver circles for FREE, and don’t you dare forget it!
I realized I was in trouble when I saw the names of the band members. Okay, James Rietz, Chris Nemzek, Charlie Parker and Travis Simpkins (vocals, guitar, bass and drums, respectively) are all nice, normal names. But then we have the two keyboard players, who call themselves Flip and DJ Izzo. Oh shit, what have I done! To quote my all-time favorite book, Tom Kakonis’s Criss Cross, “anybody named Flip was bound to be bad news.” And Dj Izzo? What’s that, like “JH to da Izzo, V to the Izzay?” Or whatever that goddamn Jay-Z song is my neighbors keep blaring.
Speaking of my neighbors, they also like techno. Let’s get one thing straight before we go any further: I HATE TECHNO. Fake music for fake people is what I call it. And yet here’s this bio, crowing about the band’s “pulsing techno beats.” Oh…oh dear. This thing also states that Crossbreed combine ‘industrial fury, metallic rage and rock n’ roll bombast.” Oh yeah, and a “hatred for old people,” says Nemzek. Okay, whatever. As we are about to see, most of the rock n’ roll bombast is concentrated in the bio itself. It says things like “soaring to melodic highs, plunging to demonic lows…” Shit, I’m exhausted already!
Now let’s stop a minute here. This Chris Nemzek guy asserts that, “Tampa didn’t really have a music scene for as long as we’ve lived here.” He must not have heard of Morbid Angel, Iced Earth, et al., ya think? And what does it say about them that they were discovered and helped along by Kittie? Never mind!
So he lives in a box, fine by me. Let’s finally get around to reviewing the damn CD, shall we?
To tell the honest-to-God truth, it ain’t that bad. If you like Static-X, you’ll most likely eat this right up. The riffs are simple and highly repetitive. The vocals range from creaky groaning to almost singing, to outright yelling, and are also highly repetitive. But then we also have a lot of keyboard work in here as well. This is where most of the melodic element comes from. I was going to say we should cut the keyboards out, as it goes against my metal nature to have too much of those, but without them, this Crossbreed would sound even more like Stati-X, and one Static-X is plenty for this boy. Unfortunately, there are some fake drums, and I really don’t know why they need those. Just listen to the pounding real-drum intro to “Underlined.” This guy can play, why not let him go to town on the whole record?
Okay, enough bitching. There are actually some pretty good parts to Synthetic Division. The music is energetic for the most part, god for working out, if I actually worked out instead of sitting on my ass eating Cheet-O’s all day. Some of the keyboard effects actually sound pretty cool, like the one accentuating the drum groove on “Severed.” If they were a real rock ‘n’ roll band, that would be a cowbell, and as it is, it sounds close enough, so I’m happy. There’s a similar adornment in “Underlined.” One of the better riffs on the album appears in “Release Me.” Listen! It’s an actual riff, and not just somebody gouging away at the same chord over and over again! Amazing! “Pure Energy,” is a bit contradictory to its title, but it has a nice buildup at the beginning. The only problem is, it keeps building back down, and then back up again, and then back down, and then back up again … “Machines,” also contrary to it’s title, contains more (gasp!) real drums! “Stern” has a faster beat to it, a nice break from the typical moshable groove present on most other tracks here.
The big problem here is the redundancy inherent in this kind of music. After all, there ARE techno influences, and isn’t that the most repetitive kind of music known to man. Many of these songs would be greatly improved if they were a minute shorter, because as they are now, after the second verse, you’ve pretty much heard the song. The choruses mainly consist of the song title being shouted over and over again. “Release Me” in particular is guilty of this. I started out thinking the song was one of the better ones, but halfway through, I too was begging to be released. James Rietz often comes off as nothing so much as an angry little kid, screaming his demands again and again until he gets his ass smacked.
But I DID say somewhere back there that this isn’t bad, exactly. I’d have to say “Underlined” is my favorite off this disc. Real drums, god beat, nice dynamics (without being too dynamic), unobtrusive keys, I’ll take it. It says here that’s the first single as well. Coincidence? Hmmm. At any rate, if you’re looking for musical brilliance, you’d do well to stick with your Dream Theater CD’s. But if you just want something to jump around to and aren’t planning to think a whole lot about what you’re hearing, this might be the thing for you.