Belonging to a genre as prone to stale repetition as it is diverse, many Metal bands benefit mightily from a refreshing reinvention with each release. In the wake of their disappointing 2008 effort "Enigma", the jury was still out on the question of just how much this game plan benefitted New Jersey outfit ILL NINO and their unmistakable brand of self-described "Latin Metal". Happily, said jury (i.e., yours truly) has now concluded in the emphatic affirmative. Exhibit A in evidence: the group's fresh new follow-up - and their fifth full-length album - "Dead New World".
ILL NINO are one of the few worthy bands of their kind to emerge undaunted from the Great Nu-Metal Collapse of 2003, and have since fearlessly soldiered on to carve out a distinct identity for themselves. As mentioned above, it hasn't always been enthralling, but ILL NINO's longtime fans can now joyfully reap the reward for their continued patience and dedication. With "Dead New World", the band pull out all the stops and deliver a landslide of a performance that draws on all the strengths of their past work. Present in equal doses are the hopped-up, fiery Nu-Metal of 2001's"Revolution/Revolucion", the radio-friendly strains of 2003's "Confession", the Thrash-driven fury of 2005's "One Nation Underground", and the brave Progressive forays of "Enigma" - all infused, of course, with ILL NINO's signature use of tribal rhythms and Salsa-inspired backing melodies. All these elements are applied to the songwriting with a renewed confidence and vigor that has been sorely absent in recent years, and it makes all the difference. Especially noteworthy are the Spanglish croon and tortured roar of frontman Cristian Machado, whose voice slices through "Dead New World" like an amnesiac Michael Myers who's just remembered who he's out to kill. In other words, Machado is making up for lost time and piling on the passion and power with abandon. His - and his band's - only puzzling moment arrives near the album's end with a cover of the classic SMASHING PUMPKINS anthem "Bullet With Butterfly Wings". While perfectly competent and entertaining, it's somewhat lacking in imagination (SKINLAB covered the same track in 2004 to much greater dramatic effect), and perhaps best left to reside in the vault with the worthiest of B-sides in its place on the album. In the big picture, however, this hardly hurts the overall impact.
In the world of Metal, the times are always a-changin', and given ILL NINO's origins and myriad of influences, the grace with which they've changed accordingly has been admirable - and not without adventure or surprises. "Dead New World" functions as both a fitting testament to that decade of change and a bracing new statement of the band's intentions for the next ten years. It may prove an uphill battle, but with a new label, hard work, and a bit of luck, these gifted musicians may yet gain a whole new legion of fans.