American Head Charge
It’s quite fitting that the band’s now classic single, “Just So You Know” would be playing in my head around the time I start thinking about them and writing this review. If not for that song, I wouldn’t know who these guys were. Yet as time passed, tragedy struck as the band’s former guitarist Bryan Ottoson passed shortly after the release of their 2005 record, The Feeding. Needless to say, these guys were battling drug addiction problems among other things and the band called it quits around 2007. Well, they’ve decided to get back at it nearly a decade later with this unexpected follow-up and IndieGogo backed album, which I would compare to the band’s best era in 2000’s The War Of Art. These guys have always been fans of acts like Ministry, Marilyn Manson and The Deftones as you’ll hear in these industrial and Nu-Metal (oh yeah, they are still definitely Nu-Metal) landscapes, which showcase nothing but the best that they have to offer. In other words, Tango Umbrella is the kind of Nu-Metal record that actually does it right. But come on, these guys were one of the best bands out there around the time of Mudvayne, Static-X (RIP) System Of A Down, Coal Chamber, Slipknot, Sevendust, Disturbed and others, and with this record they’ve literally built upon some of the crunchier efforts released in that era.
With the death of Ottoson comes Karma Singh Cheema (Ministry) and Ted Hallows, who provide both the bite (Let All The World Believe, Down and Depraved) and the melody (Sacred, A King Among Men) as the listener is taken for a quite unexpectable ride that seems to echo the mid-era efforts of a band like Faith No More, who you could never really put a genre-tag on. “Down and Depraved” is one of those Nu-Metal pummelers of my youth and it’s packed so full of grooves and harsh vocals that you’re going to feel like you’re back in high school (if you grew up in my era.) But then you have such a soft piano ballad like “A King Among Men” that almost doesn’t even fit. It’s a good piece, but feels a little too soft. Yet that’s when the whole band throws out their formula for the hugely Ministry influenced “Suffer Elegantly” which contains the familair drum chugging that we’d remember from Al Jourgensen’s classic eras. When the grooves hit, original frontman Cameron Heacock goes absolutely insane with his vocal delivery, giving us a much different tone from the previous number. That being said, none of this could have really been achieved if not for Chris Emery’s drum work and Justin Fowler’s samples, as well as the hard hitting bass grooves that make Chad Hanks such an integral part of this band.
It’s safe to say that Tango Umbrella sounds like a group effort and everyone gets a turn to show what they’ve got. As there are rowdy tracks laid beside more melancholy efforts, this prevents any of these guys from overoding the same thing one too many times. Though once again, this is still Nu-Metal and it’s still going to come with grooves and clean vocals, not to mention that radio rock flair. It goes without saying that any one track on this record could wind up in rotation tomorrow and probably already has. Notable contenders for that are “Antidote” and “Drowning Under Everything” which is right up there with “Just So You Know” as far as I’m concerned. I’d also say that the record’s closer, “When The Time Is Never Right” is a very strong moment for them, despite being a bit slower and more ballad-like in nature. This is the kind of disc where everyone will have their own hits and misses, and that to me is a very good thing. It shows substance, a thing horribly lacking in Nu-Metal’s earlier days.
These guys could have just churned one out, but they really wanted to give it their all and make something that isn’t so derivative. You can tell that the guys feel this is one of their best and hopefully with their heads clean and sober, they will be able to get back on the stage with several other groups still doing this kind of music and show the world that American Head Charge are still a force to be reckoned with in the Nu-Metal world. If you don’t like Nu-Metal, you’ll pass right by this and that’s fine, as there are several other records coming out around the same time that you’ll enjoy. But if you’re like me, and you’ve been waiting to hear a record of this now classic style done right, then please look no further than this truly solid effort from these Minnesota Industrial Nu-Metal vets. I wasn’t really sure how Tango Umbrella was going to turn out, but it’s safe to say that I’d recommend it. This is coming from a man who by the way; still enjoys his Nu-Metal.
(The Grim Lord)