Till Death, La Familia Review

artist: Ill Niño date: 01/09/2016 category: compact discs
Ill Niño: Till Death, La Familia
Released: Jul 22, 2014
Genre: Alternative Metal, Metalcore, Latin Metal
Label: Victory Records
Number Of Tracks: 11
Though bearing equal amounts of progress and problems, Ill Niño's seventh album, "Till Death, La Familia," is a step forward for the band.
 Sound: 6.5
 Lyrics: 6
 Overall Impression: 7
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overall: 5.7
Till Death, La Familia Featured review by: UG Team, on august 01, 2014
3 of 3 people found this review helpful

Sound: Taking form right before the turn of the millennium, Ill Niño would step into the music scene right as the nu-metal subgenre started to hit its stride in the early noughties. Though that subgenre was already occupied with brand names like Disturbed, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Mushroomhead, as well as being flooded with a plethora of one-hit wonders, Ill Niño would separate themselves from the pack by incorporating strong Latin music influences into their sound, coining the inclusive sub-sub-genre, Latin metal. Even when the tides were essentially turning against the band after they parted ways with Roadrunner Records (about the same time that nu-metal was starting to wane from its trendy status), Ill Niño would persevere, and after releasing their fourth album on the independent, Cement Shoes Records, they would end up getting a new lease on life by signing with Victory Records. Having already released two albums with the label since 2010, Ill Niño have now released their third album under Victory, and seventh album overall, "Till Death, La Familia."

In the previous album, "Epidemia," Ill Niño tried to harness a heavier sound in order to meet the standards set by the current trend of metalcore, though this investment was halfhearted, and by the second half of the album, Ill Niño had gone back to regular Ill Niño - this wishy-washiness was what earned the album generally lukewarm reception. In "Till Death, La Familia," however, Ill Niño have found a mix between the metalcore-inspired verses and friendlier alt-metal choruses that they're comfortable with. Though with the moments of sufficient heaviness in the album, from the breakdowns in "Are We So Innocent" and "World So Cold" to the brooding and brutal penultimate track, "Payaso," the album also has numerous moments: like the bubblegum metal moments in "Live Like There's No Tomorrow" and "My Bullet," the b-side blandness of "I'm Not the Enemy" and "Breaking the Rules," and the synth-rich "Blood Is Thicker Than Water," which doesn't show enough progression and intrigue to make it worth the almost-six-minutes it occupies on the album.

Along with the further investment in metalcore heaviness, Ill Niño put forth more sound elements in "Till Death, La Familia." There are the electronic elements, where synths play substantial roles in "Live Like There's No Tomorrow," "Blood Is Thicker Than Water," "Not Alive in My Nightmare," and "Dead Friends," which, while not being trailblazing or impressive, it's nonetheless a new element used by the band. More notably, though, is that Ill Niño bring back the joy of a guitar solo, which hasn't been heard by the band in quite some time, in "Are We So Innocent," "Pray I Don't Find You," "World So Cold," and most impressively in "Not Alive In My Nightmare," which helps invigorate the compositional integrity of Ill Niño the seventh time around. And of course, you'll find a whopping amount of Latin hand drums in the album, even protruding into a nuisance in "Dead Friends," but at this point, it seems Ill Niño are throwing them into nearly every track, not because it fits, but because as Ill Niño, they're obligated to, regardless of how stale they are. // 6

Lyrics: At the mark of Ill Niño's new record deal with Victory, frontman Christian Machado has added heavier substance in his lyrics - from the multiple cases of religious criticism in "Dead New World" to the even more religiously-centric "Epidemia," Machado is showing himself raising that bar. However, with "Till Death, La Familia," Machado regresses back to padding songs with formulaic statements of baseless bravado, from the hyper-aggro "Payaso," "Pray I Don't Find You," "World So Cold" and "Breaking the Rules," to the bumber-sticker-motivation song "Live Like There's No Tomorrow" - though he does take a couple sentimental breathers in "My Bullet" and "Blood Is Thicker Than Water," which also contains the most substantial usage of Spanish lyrics on the album, but the concept doesn't ring very distinct overall. "Are We So Innocent" also indulges in a brazenly confrontational demeanor, but also shows Machado being piercingly self-aware about the hate Ill Niño has received over the years and being unrepentant in the wake of it, and even takes a moment to feed into the racial slurs addressed at him.

The topic of societal racism is the realest issue Machado takes aim at in "Till Death, La Familia," an issue that seems perfect for Ill Niño to tackle. This resonates the strongest in "I'm Not the Enemy," where Machado articulates the reality of authorities discriminating against minorities, following in a similar vein as when classic hip-hop would address this type of systemic racism in order to bring it to light. But in the other cases where he lightly brushes on the issue by commenting on being personally undermined by racial slurs in "Not Alive in My Nightmare" ("I'm not just any f--king spic") and "Are We So Innocent" ("I'm just another outcast, wetback/piece of sh-t from way back"), it comes off more like a basic bone to pick rather than a principled stance against racism - if Machado chose to unfold the issue in a more focused and significant way, "Till Death, La Familia" could have wielded strong poignancy. In the words of a bona fide politically-outspoken frontman, Zack de la Rocha, "anger is a gift," but it also requires direction in order to be productive, and Machado doesn't show enough direction. // 5

Overall Impression: To get the glass-half-empty take out of the way first, "Till Death, La Familia" isn't going to win any awards or top any "Best of 2014" lists. In the world of metal today, the compositions displayed on the album place somewhere in the vast between of the remarkably good and remarkably bad. On the other hand, "Till Death, La Familia" is proof that Ill Niño still have some fight in them. Although still fulfilling the niche that they had since their beginning (which at this point, is tired), this album shows Ill Niño adapting to the heaviness wars and also reinvesting in other aspects that they haven't in the past few albums, such as the synth usage and re-establishing their art of the guitar solo. It may not win over people that have already signed off on the notion that, like any and all nu-metal, Ill Niño is played out, but "Till Death, La Familia" is an uptick in the band's discography. // 6

- Sam Mendez (c) 2014

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overall: 7.3
Till Death, La Familia Reviewed by: Charlie006, on january 09, 2016
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: This is Ill Niño's seventh record in their catalog, and their third with Victory Records. Ill Niño exploded in the nu metal scene in 2001 with their unique album "Revolution Revolucion," which eventually led them to superstardom and started strong with a lot of album sales, big tours and hit singles like fan favorites: "God Save Us" and "What Comes Around." Many people would think that Ill Niño were finished ever since their popularity began to decline after "One Nation Underground," when they displayed their Latin arrangements and beautiful instrumentation with influences of metalcore, which was popular in the United States and would be their last album with Roadrunner Records. Ill Niño would persevere and let nothing stand in their way and bounced back with "Enigma." Delayed several times and, while it showed potential with their sound in general, it lacked a hit single and did not help the album achieve platinum status like the extra commercial "Confession," which sold five hundred thousand copies.

After six records, one would think they changed much, but the formula is still pretty much the same, even though each record sounds different in thir own way. Last record, "Epidemia" bought some fans back after unleashing a shorter, but very interesting record with darker religious themes and consistent songwriting, which brought them back to their roots and closer to what they had success in the beginning of their career. The thing that Ill Niño always had on their side is the Latin instruments that made them stand out a little bit more from other nu metal bands. Now Ill Niño return with electronic elements to stay relevant today. Nothing new, but they manage to use it in a decent way without tarnishing thir sound.

Always criticized for ghaving uneven albums and no lyrical depth, kind of makes a point as to why Ill Niño keep making albums every two years and have a steady fanbase. The album starts with "Live Like Theres No Tomorrow," that displays electronic substances and soft beats before the chorus comes in early and the track never let's go with its bubble gum pop energy. It definitely sets the tone for the album. Those afraid all the other tracks will follow this tone, not to worry, one can almost forget the soft bland song after "Not Alive in My Nightmare." This track starts things fast with some djent and shows how good Ill Niño can be with the heavy staccato riffs, powerful growls in the verses and Christian Machado's clean singing and witness the best solo they have ever done in their career. Another standout is "I'm Not the Enemy," comes showering with bongos and bouncy drums in a way that show how distinct Ill Niño can be with a memorable chorus that shows some highs from Christian Machado's vocals. Every band has to have the immediate ballad and, well Ill Niño are no stranger to having a softie as well. However, "Blood Is Thicker Than Water" is a nice surprise with synth rich passages with softer guitars highlighting the outstanding clean singing throughout the song, and has Spanish lyrics in the bridge of the song, which gives it an emotional tone.

Christian Machado's vocals are definitely improved on "Till Death La Familia," both the screams and clean singing are great in the production. Next track "Are We So Innocent," reminiscent of "One Nation Underground," explodes with rapid thunderous riffs and strong growls and screams that peel away your face before unleashing a nice accessible chorus and a short moody guitar solo that gets fans wanting more. Witness the impressive "Pray I Don't Find You," which starts whispering for almost a minute and slowly changing styles and death metal growls coming from nowhere and melodic death metal inspired riffs dominate the track with a solo and an energy that we had not heard from Ill Niño in some time. The album finishes with "My Bullet," an almost inspired catchy number with synth beats a little similar to "Live Like Theres No Tomorrow," but done right with an emotional chorus, substantial lyrics and blends the harsh/soft style in a fashionable way. The only bad thing about "My Bullet" is that it ends too soon. // 7

Lyrics: Ill Niño always had the problem with the lyrics, being too much about being angry at someone or something without any substantial meaning and that's always their flaw as a band. The lyrics are hit and miss, and they miss more often than not. "Live Like Theres No Tomorrow" has a dumb fun chant: "Live like theres no tomorrow , die like we'll never follow, let's get high like we don't give a fuck," enough said. Elsewhere "Are We So Innocent," as catchy as it is, it doesn't show any substance whatsoever with things like: "I'm just another outcast, wetback/piece of shit from way back")and other lines like ("now your style is old and dates, highly loved but largely hated" criticizing the hate Ill Niño has received over the years. "I'm Not the Enemy" and "My Bullet" show more direction in how discriminating kids and how violence dominates the streets tell something more about society and are themes that fans may relate to more. At least "Blood Is Thicker Than Water" also tells a tale of a lost loved one in a passionate and desperate way ("I'm out of my head all I hear is your laughter / I'm caught in a web of this tragic disaster, / Seeing your face is a constant reminder / Of how much I love you when no hearts can find you"). In all the other songs basically Ill Niño returned with a nu metal style of lyrics, and that may anger fans, but at least Christian Machado's voice is worth the price of admission. // 7

Overall Impression: Lyrics aside, Ill Niño have improved on most of the elements here, showing more immediacy in the passion of the songs. The electronic substances are good overall, nothing outstanding, and they try to distinguish themselves a bit with the electronic substances and still have something to say in the metal community as they head slowly towards mainstream. The most impressive songs are: "Not Alive in My Nightmare," "Blood Is Thicker Than Water" and "Pray I Don't Find You," which all of them have different styles and are catchy as hell. I love all of the songs on the album, except "Payaso," which has a nice distinct lead riff, but its too short to make an impression. Personally, this is like my third favorite album of them after "Revolution Revolucion" and "One Nation Underground" of course. The album has its flaws, mainly in the lyrics and they haven't changed much, but this album is experimental and it will be interesting what direction they may take in their next album. If it were stolen or lost, I would certaintly buy it again. // 8

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