Monday, April 8, 2002 @ 1:05 PM
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Here’s a nice surprise: A band that actually brings something “nü” to the nü metal table. In fact, Chicago-area sextet Five Pointe O probably try to do too much on their debut album. And though it doesn’t always work, the approach is still preferable to recycling the same old bullshit like so many other bands are happy enough -- or lazy enough -- to do these days.
Though they start with requisite ingredients -- thick riffs, swaggering basslines, pile-driving beats and whisper-to-scream vocals that follow the music’s thrust-and-parry bluster -- Five Pointe O exclude the usual hip-hop antics and mix in, at various times, elements of death metal, hardcore and industrial/prog rock. It’s a sometimes clumsy mix - “Purity 01’s” tribal rhythms, propulsive grooves, sludgy chorus and clean/gargled vocal gymnastics never gel -- but it is different and it’s got dynamics that go well beyond the typical thud-and-thrash.
When the band keeps things relatively simple, as on the bruising opener “Double X Minus” and the frantic title track or the chunky “Syndrome Down,” they can be pretty darn formidable. Here, Eric Wood and Sharon Grzelinski’s shuddering guitarwork makes a nice contrast to Daniel Struble’s resonant vocals -- his voice is a dead ringer of Anthrax/Armored Saint frontman John Bush -- and deliver grooves that’ll cave in your chest. Even the time changes and thrashy outbursts work when kept in perspective.
But logic and restraint don’t come easy to young musicians, and Untitled is reminiscent of the first Fear Factory album where the band was full of ideas, inspiration and energy, but didn’t quite have the experience to tie it all together. Ironically, veteran grindcore producer Colin Richardson -- who helmed Soul Of A New Machine -- is behind the boards here as well. And though Richardson does a fine job of bringing clarity and power to Five Pointe O’s sound -- this is one of the cleanest sounding album’s he’s done -- he doesn’t do much to give it focus.
The slow grind death metal passages add nothing, and Wood’s throat-slashed rasping makes for an unwelcome evil twin to Struble’s predominantly clean vocals -- the guy can actually sing!-- and surprisingly spiritual lyrics. The tradeoffs only garble the message and on more dramatic, atmospheric songs like “The Infinity” or “Syndrome Down,” where keyboards play a more dominant role, the death grunting just sounds silly. And the tedious, 12-minute Pink Floyd exercise “Aspire, Inspire” does neither and easily could have been left off without being missed.
Still, give Five Pointe O props for not settling for the same old, same old. Nü metal fans might not demand much in their music these days -- how else could tuneless schlubs like Drowning Pool get so huge -- but Five Pointe O give ‘em something more to digest than just the usual fat.