Black Light Burns - Cruel Melody
When I found this disc in the latest pile of promos, I was at once anticipating and dreading throwing it on and diving in. Like the wait in the dentist`s chair, you do and don't want to get on with it. Wes Borland was widely seen as the only 'respectable' or 'talented' part of Limp Bizkit, the anti-Fred Durst (how mean haha..). I haven't kept up with his work after the Bizkit died a (personally) satisfying death, mostly because I didn't think I'd care what he had up his sleeve. His work with Durst and co. was never as impressive as it could have been, and whether or not that was due to the limitations of sound forced by Durst or other factors is a big guessing game. Of course none of this has much to do with Black Light Burns, Borland's pet-project and one that's been more or less in the works since Limp went splitsville. Featuring a nicely-rounded crew of veteran musicians (including NiN-collaborator/producer Danny Lohner and APC skinsman Johh Freese), Cruel Melody is full of promise that doesn't necessarily stem from their music. Of course, that's simply on the surface; while prior associations may keep some listeners at bay like garlic to Dracula, Wes and the rest of Black Light Burns have delivered an excellent NiN-inspired industrial rock album that is 75% groove, 25% aggression and 100% atmosphere.
The mood is somber and often down-right depressing. That all begins unintentionally, as the band tries (and fails, but not so badly) to conjure up images of Queens of the Stone Age on opener "Mesopotamia", a groove-monster that's too weighed down for it's own good. Honestly, many of Cruel Melody's songs sound like Year Zero (Nine Inch Nails LP) throw-aways, which is good praise but not exactly praise of originality. Still, they manage to capture a sound that does more to honor their influences than it does embarrass them, and if you're going down these roads you'd better be prepared for the criticism. Only it's slight, and so many solid tracks ("Cruel Melody" and it's infectious chorus, the noticeably-more upbeat indie-ish "I Have A Need", the Tool-esque rhythms of "One of Yours") compared to so few poor always equals a good vote from me.
Wes' vocals are worth note, as he's a capable frontman who comes off as a twisted bastard-child of Trent Reznor, Jonathan Davis and Fred Durst, while retaining a unique low-ranged croon that is sadly under-utilized. It's hard to be disappointed, even when all I expected was just that. Cruel Melody isn't a masterpiece, it isn't even a necessary part of anyone's collections but when it's all said and done, it deserves to be heard. Especially for the experimental majesty of the two gems at the end of the album...
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