[This review coincides with the re-release of ‘Cruel Melody’, which has an extra DVD tacked on it for your viewing, and their promotional, pleasure. It’s released on 23rd June.]
It must be difficult making the decision of going it alone in the music business. After spending years of his life with Limp Bizkit, selling over 30 million records and becoming generally known as that guy with the weird face, Wes Borland had to face a brave decision when he left the rapidly sinking ship that was Limp Bizkit. He turned his back on the easy money, he turned his back on being instantly recognisable, and he turned his back on the commercial success of nu-metal. Now, with a supporting cast that includes Josh Freese from A Perfect Circle and Danny Lohner of Nine Inch Nails, Borland is ready to start steering his own ship. But has anything really changed?
Opening track ‘Mesopotamia’ (I assume a word that scientists are set to use for a futuristic potato-related disease) gets things off to a good start, grinding along with a fair drive that sounds a fair bit like ‘Hotride’ by the Prodigy. It’s got a groove, and Borland’s vocals are surprisingly good, sounding a little bit like Josh Homme.
Unfortunately the quality of Borland’s voice never really remains consistent. At times he sounds great, taking strong cues from the likes of Trent Reznor, notably in ‘Animal’, but on some tracks his voice is just dire – ‘Coward’ is a pretty painful example, with some terribly drawn-out lyrics, sung in the kind of nasal tone you’d expect to hear from a school band. Perhaps he’s just trying different things out, experimenting with a whole new range of instrumentation, and he just needs to find that balance because there are moments on ‘Cruel Melody’ where his voice is genuinely impressive.
Borland still retains his love for the theatrical, with dark costumes cropping up in press photos.
Although Wes Borland is the name on the solo project, it is more than clear what the other members of the group have brought to the table. Some tracks, such as ‘Animal’ share more than a few resemblances to the industrial sound of Nine Inch Nails, thanks to Lohner’s influence, and Freese’s drumming remains borderline experimental. Unfortunately he does let the side down with some jarring drum fills and speed changes that either do not fit into the songs or just sound sloppy.
There is no doubt here that Borland has shunned his nu-metal roots. Although there are certain points where there are hints of the disposable Limp Bizkit sound coming through, such as the high pitched guitar tweaks on ‘The Mark’ and the detuned riff of ‘One of Yours’ that wouldn’t have been out of place on ‘Three Dollar Bill Y’all’. But for the most part Borland does explore new ideas and territory, and proves himself as a more talented guitar player than a lot of people give him credit for.
Cruel Melody is a fairly good album. It’s never going to be taxing on the brain, and the lyrical content is for the most part, laughable, but Borland has taken this opportunity to spread his wings somewhat and shrug off the reliance on big, catchy riffs. But the name of Limp Bizkit and those of its members are, unsurprisingly, dirt in the majority of music circles, and I think Borland is going to have a hard time reaching out to an audience that can overlook his past, a problem that is exacerbated by putting the name Limp Bizkit on the front cover.
The video for ‘Lie’.
It’s not a bad album, and actually has some intriguing ideas, but there is a lot here that can either be expanded upon or improved drastically. Quality control is just one thing, as towards the end of the album things really begin to drag out. To those who are intrigued, but are put off by Borland’s past I strongly suggest giving it a try as it does showcase a new side to the guitarist, and brings out some of his, and his fellow member’s, worthy talent.
This review is also published over at Sonic Dice.