Nothing More

Nothing More

Written by: TL on 04/09/2014 16:32:23

Imagine if you will, the face of Lawrence Fishburne, sporting his legendary tiny round shades. Now what if I told you that there's music out in 2014 of the hard rock/nu-metal variety, that you can listen to and not feel a bit like a redneck who's stuck in the past? The road may have been long for American quartet Nothing More, who have made three studio albums prior to my knowledge of their existence, but after ten years of going the DIY route, a deal with Eleven Seven Music seems to have added newfound push behind the band's self-titled fourth album. It's clear from the intro "Ocean Floor" at least, that it is a time for ambition for the Texas band, as the over-dubbed vocals instantly seize your attention before the track rises and drops away, echoing the thunder of the oncoming noise before leading directly into the first stand-out song:

Opening with pummeling, near-djenty rhythmic riffage, "This Is The Time (Ballast)" soon establishes a mesmerizing contrast via the addition of swirling lead melodies and a leap from malcontent verse vocals to a chorus that soars at the very raspy top of frontman Johnny Hawkins' impassioned vocal performance. It's a proper fist-pumping rallying cry right off the bat, although the pseudo djenty low tones are a bit deceiving considering what's to come, but it's forgiveable because the fast-paced "Christ Copyright" that follows is strong in it's own right, certainly falling more squarely within an up-beat hard rock style, but with a political fury that wouldn't be out of place on a Letlive song: "Don't form thoughts, trust politicians - Forfeit soul, pursue religion - Lose free will to gain protection - Sink the ship with good intention" makes up the first verse before the second carries on with: "To think you know who goes to heaven, is just one big misconception, like God hates fags and communism.. Create fear to feed the system!"

The style of music is no more complicated at heart than the nu-metallic hard-rock of early 00's success story Hoobastank, whose hit "Crawling In The Dark" isn't too far from reference in "The Matthew Effect" for instance (another strong song by the way), but much like Britain's similarly styled Exit Ten, Nothing More seem to have listened to enough of Tool and perhaps more modern djent and prog bands, that while they may take departure in the vulgar, muscular chugging of your Trapts or your Breaking Benjamins, there's a persistant sheen of a wish to be both explorative and surprisingly current in sound. Fair enough, "First Punch" might not make it there before sounding like oddly positive sports-event-rock in the chorus to a set of lyrics that are otherwise quite aggressive, and fair enough, a late song like "Sex & Lies" is almost schizophrenic and unpleasantly shrill in its jealous rant against infidelity - But at the same time it's hard to not sympathise with the majestic build-up and relief in hope-anthem "I'll Be OK" or the relateable socio-criticism in "Mr. MTV": "In my iLife, in my iWorld, on my iPhone, with my iGirl - Just one bite to understand, even Eve couldn't live without the iPlan". It's heavy-handed, sure, and David Draiman's echo might be haunting in Hawkins' more syncopated vocal parts, but I'll be damned if it isn't on a level of catchy and rousing that the genre has failed to achieve for years.

Reading between the lines though, you can probably tell that I know that "Nothing More" is not a perfect record. Indeed, it has it's questionable moments - although even those are still catchy at the basal level - and the record is arguably somewhat too long at seventeen tracks and 68 minutes, with less inspired tracks like "If I Were" and "Jenny" appearing as apt candidates for omission in my optics at least. It is excellently constructed however, with interludes at track six and thirteen in form of "Gyre" and "Surface Flames", both of which are worth their own weight in minutes. The electronic romp provided by the latter is an excellent change of pace at a point when the record is about to need just that, and "Gyre" resonates in tandem with the near ten minute outro "Pyre", splitting up what sounds like a philosophical lecture which appears almost like a key to both the band's name and their frustrated subject material: "... but after a while the superstition becomes embarrasing, and so you become an atheist. Then you feel terrible because you got rid of God but also got rid of yourself. You're nothing but a machine [...] The world is nothing more than a neurological trap [...] You run from the maternity ward to the crematorium and that's it".

It's exactly that kind of existential frustration that Nothing More are preoccupied with for most of the time, and that's what they want you to think about, yet all the while they're giving you loving stomach-punches in form of expertly arranged nu-metal, which makes you squint because it should feel hopelessly dated in 2014, but courtesy of the impressively thought-through production, you're not sure that it does. You may keep wondering over this all the way through to the end, where "Pyre" eventually fades out via musical ambiance that turns into the natural ambiance of waves and rain, returning full circle to "Ballast"'s nautical theme, and sending you off with a philosophical suggestion to ponder. Yet while you can get lost in this if you're overly critical, a step back should reveal this: The flaws on "Nothing More" are details, perhaps preventing the band from evolving their potential to a truly revolutionary level, but at the same time hardly hindering a devilishly effective and enjoyable total listen, which you can enjoy via diving in and analyzing it critically, or by crushing beers, pumping fists and venting your anger. It's a rare record that has something for both such occasions and that, that isn't bad at all.


Download: This Is The Time (Ballast), Christ Copyright, I'll Be OK
For The Fans Of: Exit Ten, Hoobastank, Sent By Ravens

Release date 23.06.2014
Eleven Seven Music

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