November 1, 2019 American Grim – Ultra Black (Album Review)
Girls and ghouls, it is time to challenge the status quo, shake up cancel culture, and break free from the bonds of ignorance. The rockers in American Grim urge you not to despair within our dystopia, and they do so in the form of Ultra Black, which arrives November 1st, 2019 via eOne Music.
This New Jersey trio stand against those who would exploit our insecurities and exacerbate our social media driven hunger for validation. Creating anthems for the downtrodden, the dismissed, and the dispossessed, they champion independent thought, individualism, and above all else, freedom of creative expression. Sonically blending Shock Rock factors with Industrial, Rap Metal, Punk, and a zillion other influences, the threesome are the proud artists of a sound that is wholly unique and yet rooted in some of the finest of the early 2000s (Orgy, Powerman 5000, Linkin Park) and beyond. For evidence, check out their 2017 debut, Freakshow.
Building their empire from the ground up, American Grim—Brothers Ryan Grim (vocals) and Tres Sins (drums), along with Mike Morello (guitar/programming)—are now poised to deliver their sophomore disc, Ultra Black. Produced and engineered by Morello, the 13-track collection is a cohesive record with a unified theme, one of turning despair into triumph. Monstrous music for a monstrous time, American Grim unite their listener in darkness and ferocity to fight toward the light at the end of every tunnel—and music is their weapon.
Ultra Black opens to the infectious “Ghost,” coupling sultry, hip-shaking Industrial verses with bratty, Punk Rock-tinged choruses. A good introduction to the band, it has the cinematic echoes of Powerman 5000 alongside a Punk attitude worthy of The Sex Pistols. This continues into “Nightmare,” weaving a gritty rocker that builds to infectious choruses that celebrates living life in the middle of a dystopian daydream.
Infusing more synths into the mix, “Tell Me” dips low to weave its spell before they get heavier for “Living Terror.” Tossing in a killer guitar solo from Morello along the way, the track marries the band’s cinematics with an edgier vibe, simultaneously creating a clear stand-out that represents American Grim at their finest hour. Meanwhile, for the album namesake “Ultra Black,” the threesome explore a sludgy sensuality to craft an anthemic groover that’s perfectly suited for all the vampire freaks out there.
Pairing Active Rock with some Punk edges, “So Sick” opens to Morello’s guitar work, paving the way for “Paralyzed.” Another stand-out, here there’s something Linkin Park-esque about the synths that anchor the track before the band explodes into a full-throttle frenzy of frustration. This serves as the perfect segue into the frenetic flailing of “Asylum,” which layers a few too many electronic sounds over its repetitive lyrics, muddying its impact. In a sense, this stands as a representation of the less impactful moments of Ultra Black, where the young band simply miss the mark despite their aim being true.
Evoking a powerful inferno of sound, they go for a catchy Metal moment with “Gods and Kings,” another stand-out. Next, they spit angst on “Breathe” and then go for a Limp Bizkit-reminiscent, Rap moment in “White Walls.” Amping it back up with anthemic rocker “Follow Me,” they ultimately conclude the collection with the haunting rap-rocker “Alone (Hate Me).”
In an industry over-saturated with mindless copies, American Grim are setting some lofty goals with Ultra Black. Tracks such as “Living Terror,” “Paralyzed,” “Ultra Black,” and “Gods and Kings” show the band’s truly diverse range, and the epic promise of what’s to come from these New Jerseyans. While the band haven’t fully reached their potential just yet, they inject a dose of excitement into a bland sea of look-alikes, showing exceptional promise and a passionate love and respect for the dark arts of Rock, Metal, and Industrial. For this, Cryptic Rock give Ultra Black 3.5 of 5 stars.