Cane Hill - “Smile”
Buy on iTunes or physical on Merchnow
The nu-metal revival has been in full swing for a few years now, with the release of My Ticket Home’s Strangers Only. Since, we’ve had some interesting modern takes on a genre that we thought everyone has grown out of: Islander, Stray From the Path, Gift Giver, and more. Last year, we were given a taste of an up and coming band, Cane Hill from New Orleans. Their self titled EP caught the attention of a few for their sound reminiscent of bigger names such as Slipknot and Korn. For some, the EP sounded more like a cheap imitation than a genuine effort. In April, we got the announcement of the full length debut, Smile as well as the single “(The New) Jesus.” While the song concerned me with a vocal style inspired by Powerman 5000, one of the nu-metal bands from 2000 that should probably stay forgotten, the song grooved like we haven’t had in awhile. It wasn’t until the release of “True Love” a few weeks later to get me counting the days till the official release. The menacing and perverted song burned into my memory with with vocalist, Elijah Witt, roaring “Gag me,” with the unsettling squeal of James Barnett’s guitar. The band continued to release songs leading up to the release, and it's only gotten harder to keep expectations in check. Now that the album is out, it's even harder to stay objective after listening to it about 8 times in the very short period we’ve had since the full album stream went live.
“MGGDA” was amusing to listen to one the 4th of July, a song about the state of our country and alluding to Witt as the next James Dean, a handsome actor from the 50’s who was the figure of teenage disillusionment of the time. With Devin Clark’s simple drum beat accompanied by a very distorted riff as Witt speaks over, “Naïve and oh so confidant, We soak up blatant ignorance, I am your world motherfucker, My good goddamn America.” The energy is contagious the way listening to Slipknot’s self titled but grimy as opposed a pure frenzy. By “St. Veronica,” I swear I thought Korn’s See You On The Other Side started playing. Not only instrumentally with its semi electronic intro build into a sprawling soundscape, but Witt channels Johnathan Davis during the chorus. Hanging on vowels and keeping the melody floating, “I used to be an angel. Now I’m angel dust.” The transition to “Fountain of Youth” can be jarring, but that may be the point as it is the most kinetic song on the album. As instrumentation breaks becoming weird background noise, Witt takes the floor to pour angst on us. “Everyone says that the good die young, but if I die young what will you say about me?” The chorus sends you into a whirlwind as Witt becomes ravenous and biting with lyrics like, “I don’t care; I don’t care if I don’t make it. This is the let down. I’ll never get out.” Then there's “Cream Pie,” a song that features a sample of porn where a lady is mid orgasm and the song says, “It only dirt if you make it.” It's an interesting song with the band being heavily produced, but in the end, it's certainly one of the weaker songs due to a lack of substance, but Ryan Henriquez does have a groovy bassline.
The album takes the pace down for a bit for “You’re So Wonderful,” an emotional song as everyone takes it easy, riffs along lightly, and Witt delivers surprisingly good cleans. As the song progresses, the band as a whole starts breaking down emotionally. “So you take and you take and you leave me dry, and you break to escape and you know I’m right. Not a day, not a day, not another night. You’re so wonderful.” The other really jarring transition between songs is going into “Ugly Idol Mannequin.” The monstrous riffs and staccato chorus bring the album back up to speed. I usually criticize bands that choose to include previously released material from EP’s or splits, I don’t find myself doing so with “Screwtape” as much as I would have expected. It main has to do with the dirt production compared to its initial release with the self titled EP. Although, there still isn't much new offered here than the original. Ending with “Strange Candy,” the album’s longest song sitting at 5 minutes and it takes it time drawing out the end for this haunting conclusion. With echoed and phased guitars, Witt again shows us he can sing. Unlike “You’re So Wonderful,” vocals stay menacing under the surface. The concept of Witt being a James Dean type of figure comes back as he proudly sings, “I’m so captivating. Sticky icky swirl. Momma’s gonna cry when her pretty perfect girl’s all mine,” during the chorus and ending with this line as he sinisterly growls ‘mine.’
This is an amalgamation of all the old school nu-metal that has come before, and modernized it. Despite have a few problems with the album, I still believe this might be in my end of the year list, and high on it. The further I sink my teeth into this album, I’m wanting the absolute best from it and turning the other cheek isn’t that. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the coming months, Cane Hill blows up. They’ve already gone on tour with Bullet for My Valentine, and on Warped Tour currently, and the album is also receiving high praise from other outlets, so it's only a matter of time.