September 23, 2014 Ill Niño – Till Death, La Familia (Album Review)
Since their inception in 1998, Ill Niño has worked to make a name for themselves as the kings of Latin Metal. Their powerhouse delivery, pairing classic Latin techniques with innovative Metal styling, garnered a lot of attention for them in the early years of their careers. So innovative and enthralling was their music that it gained the attention of Hollywood. Their single “How Can I Live” from their 2003 album, Confession, was featured in the movie monster mega hit Freddy vs. Jason (2003). Now, with six studio albums under their belt, these Metal maestros have embarked on a seventh venture and are bringing the fans along for the ride with their latest release, Till Death, La Familia via Victory Records.
Kicking off this journey into the family dynamic is “Live Like There’s No Tomorrow” with its soaring chorus and triumphant bass and percussion. This is how you start an album with a resounding anthem that rallies the troops and stirs the blood. “Not Alive In My Nightmare” hits on notes of hardcore with its sharp riffs and guttural screams which pierce the song with unyielding aggression. The guitar solo mid-song wraps in the classic smoky Latin element that has become synonymous with Ill Niño. The next track, “I’m Not The Enemy”, rolls in the spicy percussion a’ la Oscar Santiago and jumping bass lines via Lazaro “Laz” Pina, with beautiful string work from Ahrue Luster and Diego Verduzco. Bringing in the emotive and connective side is frontman Cristian Machado’s self-proclaimed favorite song on the album, “Blood Is Thicker Than Water”. This track rings with the plucking of heartstrings as it hits on the symbolism and reality of the family dynamic, both figuratively and literally. The lyrics and rolling drums pair with the echoic background vocals to create not only an ambiance, but a real tribute to what it means to be family, and the ways in which one is truly a reflection of those that love them.
Returning to the raw and unfettered Heavy Metal realm, “Are We So Innocent” pairs piercing screams with heavy breakdowns and upbeat percussive elements to create a layered sonic experience. One of the most pleasant moments on the album is the sultry Latin-inspired instrumental breakdown with the sexy guitar mini-solo. Much of this album seems to be the men of Ill Niño going back to the basics and kicking them in the teeth. They are rediscovering their roots and twisting the tops off with new spins on classic approaches that helped them garner so much fanfare in their developmental years. The balance between the Heavy Metal and the fiery Latin-infused instrumental elements only helps to further accentuate the power and passion behind every note.
Machado’s vocal vibrancy runs the gamut of sultry and seductive to cataclysmic and thunderous. Bringing in the thunder from the skins is drummer Dave Chavarri with his booming assaults on the kit that spike and kick these tracks into hyperdrive, giving the music that “little something extra” that helps the transcendence from Metal by numbers to infectious, danceable, headbanging tunes. This impressive collision and compilation of style is especially well demonstrated in “Pray I Don’t Find You”, “World So Cold”, “Dead Friends”, and “Breaking The Rules”. As all good things must come to an end, so must Till Death, La Familia, and Ill Niño chooses to do this with a high-energy power track titled “My Bullet”, which brings together all the things fans have come to love about Ill Niño: the new elements that pack that extra punch, and the melodic tones that elegantly wrap it all together. The sheer silkiness of the guitar solo is enough to make one’s body sway with the music, and carries them to the end of the song. Over in a flash, “My Bullet” creates an almost eerie harmony between subject matter, mood, and tempo diversity.
If there is one thing Ill Niño has always done well, it is rise to the occasion, and they have done that once again with Till Death, La Familia. Balancing their usual Latin Metal heft with more harmonious and melodic elements, the guys take fans back to the time of Confession with what is easily their best since that album. They play with their audience’s emotions and make them feel what they feel the way that they feel it. This we believe is the mark of a true artist. The album is definitely worth a listen for those who have ever been an Ill Niño fan, or for those looking for something new. By the time the album is all said and done, the listener will feel like part of the family, and wonder how they ever went so long with the kinship and devotion that comes with it. CrypticRock give Till Death, La Familia 4.5 out of 5 stars.