Nu metal is making a comeback whether I like it or not. This can be a good thing in the hands of an eclectic band like Code Orange, but it gets real bleak when major metal publications write a million articles titled something like “23.1416 Nu Metal Albums that Turn 23.1416 Today”. On their debut album State of Being, Imonolith combines the bounce of nu metal with the intensity of metalcore and the heft and groove of a band like Meshuggah.
Imonolith was formed in the ashes of the Devin Townsend Project. Founded by DTP veterans Ryan Van Poederooyen (drums) and Brian Waddell (guitar), the band was expanded to include Threat Signal vocalist Jon Howard, Methods of Mayhem guitarist Kai Huppunen, and Econoline Crush bassist Scott Whalen. While I think it’s unfair to compare this band to Devin’s work, it’s reasonable to expect quality given the talent involved.
Admittedly, I didn’t have the highest expectations for this after the first two singles “Hollow” and “Instinct” dropped. Both songs just felt like sorry attempts at some form of “accessibility.” The choruses harken back to some of the worst moments of mid-2000’s radio rock. On top of that, they feel bolted-on in the context of the songs surrounding them. Both choruses are in a different key than their respective preceding verses, and the key changes are anything but graceful. Fortunately, these are the two worst songs on the album. The only other genuinely bad song is the intro track. Would you like to supersize your vocal fry? The lyrics are well intentioned, but the delivery is poorly executed.
So let’s talk about what State of Being does right. The band hired RVP’s brother Jason Van Poederooyen to handle all things production, and he did a damn fine job! The album sounds very punchy yet crisp. The band is proud of the fact that this album was recorded to tape, and rightfully so. The organic recording process results in raw, energetic performances. Instrumentally, RVP’s drumming is the highlight of the album. His fills are as tasty as ever, and he more than brings the power and groove required for this style. Jon Howard’s vocals are nothing to balk at either. His range is pretty incredible – both in terms of note range and versatility. To master both clean and harsh vocals like he has is no easy feat.
As far as actual songs go, the middle of the album contains Imonolith’s best bunch. Among these tracks sits “Breathe”, the best song on the album. Not only are the band successful at crafting that catchy chorus that they were attempting on the first two singles, but they also show promise of something much greater. “The Mourning” also has a great clean-sung chorus, and it features some sick spider crawl riffs. Meshuggah’s Jens Kidman makes an appearance later in the album to bark battle cries in the chorus of the stomper “The Reign”. Not to be outclassed, Howard starts and ends the song with some seriously intense screams.
All that said, while most of the songs aren’t bad, most aren’t super memorable either. The verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus song structure becomes very predictable after a while. This band is well-equipped to deliver groovy-as-hell riffage, but much of that riffage gets lost in the shuffle. The chromatic nature of many of the power chord riffs shrouds them all in a haze. None of the chunkier riffs really stand out, it’s only the more melodic riffs like in the chorus of “We Never Forget” or the flashy riffs like those aforementioned spider crawls that stay with you. The song “Dig” has some great riffs (especially those pre-chorus slides), but it gets too repetitive towards the end. “Persevere” introduces some cool Alice In Chains elements, but as a closing track it feels more like a continuation of the rest of the album, rather than the band going out with a bang.
I think if Imonolith takes the elements they do best and blend them with some experimentation, they could be onto something great. There’s still a ton of potential in this band, but aside from a few great songs, they’ve missed the mark for now. Regardless, I’m still interested to see what they do from here.
Best Tracks: Breathe, Forgone, The Reign
Weakest Tracks: Instinct, Hollow, State of Being
FFO: Slipknot, Lamb of God, Static-X
Overall Score: C