There are a plethora of super young bands being scooped up by big labels left and right lately. Remember that when weighing the merits of wunderkind types, you need to judge slowly. From Mozart to Louis Armstrong, Sinatra to Little Stevie Wonder, Tori Amos to Jason Becker, Fiona Apple, Devin Townsend an now Adele; the bristling energy of a talented prodigy can make hearts pound. Recall that except for Adele, they didn’t have to deal with trolls on current social media who have neither talent nor any nurturing it seems. Since forming ten years ago Floridians Black Tide broke out with their explosive début Light From Above (Interscope), and they blew up as fast as their riffing little fingers were moving. In the years passed they have dealt with changing times, changing members, and a back biting scene.
However, the story does not end here and the arc of Black Tide’s career does fade out yet. Founder Gabe Garcia and longtime guitar partner Austin Diaz have matured past the Trivium-esque neo-thrash of their début and the active rock of Post Mortem to make an interesting mix of all those influences and much more. Chasing Shadows (Pavement Music) sees the band come into its own and becoming comfortable with uncomfortable: adulting in this cray decade.
When Chasing Shadows rocks, it blazes hot. After a dramatic classical intro ‘No Guidelines’ just rips. There is a confidence to match the talent now that has seasoned into form. Thrash, heavy metal, harmony guitar solos, great singing: all in the kitchen sink of well written songs. ‘Angel In The Dark’ has a faint hint of a pop-rock chorus, but doesn’t lose the script of a ballsy rocker. ‘Predator (Animal)’ is the best song on the album. Gabe and Austin are super talented shredders and when the band lets their inner Iron Maiden loose, you are sure to smile.
There are other worthy gems on here such as the title track, the stellar ‘Before We Form’ and the epic thrash closer ‘Promised Land’. There are some missteps too, and despite some competently performed balladry the band will always fall nearer to mid-era Avenged Sevenfold and Bullet For My Valentine than Shinedown or Seether. Nothing wrong with that at all by the way.
Latin metal band Ill Ill Niño have had a lot on their plate with the release of their seventh studio album, Till Death, La Familia (Victory Records), a spot on 2014’s Mayhem Festival, and a tour in Russia, all while finding balance between their lives as musicians and as men with growing families. With about a decade and a half with the band under his belt, vocalist Cristian Machadogave us some insight as to how the creative process has changed over time as their lives have progressed
“We’re trying to be more mature songwriters and in different ways, not every album has the same approach. It’s just like you put it, every album has a very different flavor going on even though it can all be interpreted as Ill Nino, it’s got the very traditional Ill Nino signature rhythm and tones, but, I think every album is from a completely different point of view. On this album, I think we wanted to get back to our own instinctual place. I think we wanted to write more from a fan’s point of view and just ourselves in general, from the point of view of a fan, a music fan, and what we want to hear in Ill Nino’s sound. I know, personally, doing albums when you’re self producing an album, it can psychologically be this maze where you can get into the over-contemplation of a lot of parts, and different creative ideas, and things like that. We do try to get everything to flow very naturally, vocally. I was given some really awesome songs by Ahrue Luster, Laz Pina, Diego Verduco, and Dave Chavarri. I definitely wasn’t sure on any musical inspiration. I just wanted to come from the gut a little bit more; things that feel good. From a melody side, sound refreshing to my ear and tones that suit the songs as much as possible. As far as words and themes, I think that a darker side of me came out after going through the birth of my daughter and starting to realize that the world is really screwed up and full of violent images and has a very angry media presence. I think my defensive, protective, father side came out and perhaps it translates a little violently onto the lyrics but it’s really trying to do the opposite. I’m actually trying to not glorify criminality and try to make sense of the world a little bit more while still hoping for a better future. I think that a lot of that was just instinctual, you go as an individual and, hopefully, within a band, you grow as a musician and as friends. A lot of trust went into this new album, we looked up to each other very much and there was this very big, open creative space and there weren’t these huge battles about parts and I think that’s what music is supposed to be at the end of the day. When five or six people form a band, and they have a hugely successful first album, the fans can read into the creative decision making when a band feels comfortable and it will translate to them and they can relate to the music. We wanted to write as cool as we could write right now and take into consideration everything that we’ve done in the past, the grooves we’ve used, the bilinguality of the band, and the duality of our sound, but we wanted to be more refreshing, to feel more grown, and to, obviously, continue to grow and expand as musicians and song writers.”
You mentioned that you’ve noticed a change in yourself coming from a producing standpoint. When working on material now, do you actively see yourself switching into that producer mindset and then switching back into the musician?
On the two records prior to Till Death, La Familia, we were self producing and not really working with anyone outside of the band, and I think that was growth that we needed to experience ourselves before getting to present where we worked with Eddie Wohl who’s an amazing and very talented producer. Even though there really wasn’t this huge change to anything that I was bringing into the studio, there was the sense of relaxation, that I’m working with someone great, and that I trusted. On past records, I did have a battle within my own mind; where do I draw the line between recording the album with the band and getting down to where I need to do which is to write vocals and tell a story? On this album I was able to do that, I was able to focus on what I wanted to say and the tone that I wanted to bring to the band. At the end of the day, I wanted to compliment the songs that Ahrue, Laz, Diego, and Dave had written as much as possible. I was lucky, I’m very lucky and I wouldn’t want to go back to doing it the other way where we’re just self producing albums. For me, it was easier than Ahrue who wrote a lot of music and did a lot of arranging without having to record himself. Vocally, I was blessed this time around and I look forward to doing things this way where I can just focus on the creative element and not have to worry about too many other things. I think it definitely gets in the way of myself as a musician. In order for me to expand and grow as a song writer, I have to commit to that first and foremost. I’m very grateful for the way I was able to do this album. I have to give a lot of credit to the guys in the band and to Eddie Wohl.
Speaking of the guys in the band…You’re no strangers to lineup changes but you’ve had a solid core team for a number of years up until Daniel Couto’s decision to leave the group; what has the band dynamic been like with Oscar Santiago carrying Danny’s torch after his departure?
“Having Oscar in the band is a blessing, he’s probably the origin Latin percussion player in metal. He’s somebody that we’ve looked up to for years and Puya, his band that he’s played with for so many years has been a huge influence on us so having him in the band definitely changes the dynamic in that we want to start moving more towards his rhythmic direction. On this album it was difficult to incorporate everything that we wanted to but I think that having him in the band now is truly a blessing and we’re going to be able to move, rhythmically, closer to territory where we used to be while still keeping in mind the things that we’ve expanded upon. As a band with a fifteen year career, at our level, it’s very tough, it’s not like any of us are making a bunch of money. At a Metallica level, where a band is universally famous, there’s a lot of money to be made and it’s easier to stay in a band where you can support your family and have them travel with you. In our case, where we’re at that medium theater to large theater touring circuit, every penny matters and we leave our families at home a lot. Some of the people in the band felt it was necessary to have more time at home. The older we get, the more we realize why they left and we can’t really tour just to tour. It has to be something extremely worthwhile to the fans and it has to be worthwhile to us as well because we have to leave our families behind. As far as changing band members, Danny, who played percussion before Oscar, he’s staying home with family and recently had a baby. Jardel Paisante has a family as well. Besides that, we changed a couple of band members after the first album but that was a creative and personal difference more than anything else.”
In Part I of an interview series with Cristian Machado of Ill Niño, among the many topics discussed with Ghost Cult scribe Aleida La Llave were the common bonds of Latinos in the metal community. One of the things that has always stood out about the band has been how heavy music has been intertwined with Latin culture and influences. Aleida asked Cristian about some of his experiences and how he feels about the state of Latinos in the metal and rock communities now, as opposed to when he first started out in the scene.
“Until I became a musician, a Latino in a metal band, and I got to meet a lot of the other bands that I had looked up to for years, I never realized how many Latinos were actually in those influential bands. The first time I met Tom Araya and Dave Lombardo from Slayer, we spoke Spanish. Fifty percent of Slayer was hanging out with us and speaking to us in Spanish so that was a really cool experience. Also, Robert Trujillo, a Latino who’s now in Metallica. Another hugely influential band, Suicidal Tendencies, and even hardcore bands like Agnostic Front and Roger Miret being a Latino and being able to speak Spanish with him. It depends on what band you’re looking at but there’s so many Latinos in the metal scene. Dino Cazares (Fear Factory), definitely one of the top five most influential guitar players in metal, he’s Latino and we talk in Spanish when we hang out. To me, it’s something that is already embedded in metal. Latinos are everywhere. They’re in a lot of bands that you would never even think that those guys speak Spanish but they do. It’s something that I never really took huge notice of until I started playing culture metal and started meeting people and they would be drawn to us more because we were pushing the culture thing and we came from the same part of the world rhythmically. They’ve always been there, we’re definitely not the first ones. We’re far from inventing anything, we’re just approaching it differently and definitely very focused on culture in metal.”
“This is the Puya comin’ straight to ya! This is the Puya comin’ straight to ya!” Puerto Rico based Latin metallers Puya have returned from their dormancy to embark on a brief tour of the USA. They hit a bunch of East Coast dates, landed at Sirius XM studios in New York City and and appeared with Jose Mangin on Liquid Metal, and more. The band is revving up their engines again on their way to participate in the Patria Grande Festival in Cuba this November. Hopefully more tours and new music are on the horizon for the ground-breaking act that combined Latin Jazz, hardcore metal, funk and Nu Metal. Check out our photo set from their recent Boston show at The Middle East Downstairs. A full review is coming soon.