Thursday, August 8, 2013

iwrestledabearonce - "Late For Nothing"

We've come full circle on another band, ladies and gentlemen. One of the earliest posts on this blog was my review for Ruining it For Everybody - the second full length album from avant-garde metalers iwrestledabearonce. It's now my pleasure to once again revisit the band and see what they've been up to in the years between with their latest album Late For Nothing.

As a preamble to the rest of my review, I have to say that there have been some pretty significant changes in the past year-and-a-half. Most notably, Krysta Cameron is no longer with the band having amicably parted ways in order to focus on her baby boy - who, by all photographic evidence, is completely adorable. In her place is Courtney LaPlante, who joined forces with the band to complete their Warped Tour 2012 obligations and ultimately became a permanent fixture in the lineup. Secondly, and much to the chagrin of YouTube commenters everywhere, the music of Late For Nothing is definitely a bit of a departure for the band and strays into some of the most organized and non-wacky sounds of their career. But I'm getting ahead of myself; let's break it down, Camacho!


Any lineup change is a potential risk, especially if the change is drastic. Fortunately for IWABO fans everywhere, Courtney LaPlante is a fantastic fit. In fact, she and Krysta are completely comparable as vocalists. They each have distinguishing strengths and weaknesses of course, but LaPlante's style isn't radically different from Cameron's and that's a good thing. If I had to make a distinction between the two of them, I would say that LaPlante's cleans are stronger than Cameron's by the same margin that Cameron's screams/growls are stronger than LaPlante's. If you're a longtime fan of the band, you'll definitely catch the shift between these two; but casual listeners or newcomers won't likely be as quick to notice the major differences.

As I mentioned before, Late For Nothing marks a considerably less "wacky" release for the band - at least comparably speaking. That's not entirely a bad thing, because IWABO has always had a knack for writing catchy hooks and choruses. The difference here is that there's a lot more "catchy" than "chaos" in this album. To that end, a small handful of the tracks really stick in your head with the first listen-through, and thankfully they're good tracks. "Boat Paddle" and "I'd Buy That For a Dollar" play around with melodies that alternately soar and glide in and around the signature double-bass schizophrenia and guitar work. The legendary Steve Vai even stops by during "Carnage Asada" with the kind of guest-solo face-meltage for which he's renown.

And before all this talk of comparatively tame music gets you down, Late For Nothing still contains IWABO's signature sound. Breakdowns alternate between low-end chugging riffs and high-end dissonant semitones, songs occasionally make a hard left into breezy, laid-back interludes only to explode again with ferocity seconds later, and - my favorite - the "spider riffs." That's a term I made up because of how distinctly visual it sounds to me, but one of the guitars hammers out a palm-muted riff while the other swiftly ascends a cacophonous scale of wicked sounds that flurry together in a kind of menacing web of aggression. Ya know, the delightfully deranged musicality for which this quintet is known.


I'm not going to dwell too much on this, but it bears mentioning: Late For Nothing does not contain the full-on insanity that made their first two albums stand out so noticeably. The album still stands out against your average run-of-the-mill metalcore release, but less so than their previous outings. As I mentioned in my review for Ruining It For Everybody, this is a trend that metalheads the world round just seem intrinsically unable to forgive. Once their favorite heavy band goes too "mainstream," it's time to break out the bad attitudes. Late For Nothing is not a mainstream album by any standard, and still contains some of the most intense moments in their discography. But, as I mentioned before, what endeared me so much to IWABO was how relentlessly hare-brained and truly avant-garde their music is - and I'm not "hating" on the band to say that Late For Nothing isn't really an avant-garde album.


Despite the journey into more accessible territory, I still enjoyed the hell outta this CD. Maybe I would be more butthurt by their musical evolution if I didn't see it coming, but before the release of Late For Nothing guitarist Steven Bradley said: "We didn’t want to make another weird IWABO album or whatever people were expecting.  We set out to make something different and better than anything we’ve ever released.  It’s a more evolved version of the band.  We explored new styles and genres as well—especially in terms of the more spacey, epic, and beautiful parts. It’s got the most melodic moments of our career as well as the heaviest." Couldn't have said it better myself...says the blogger who spent an entire review trying to anyway.

Going into the album with that in mind, the comparatively restrained approach didn't catch me off guard, so I was able to take it in stride - despite my hunger for a little more of the maniacal and psychotic IWABO. And while it doesn't have any bearing on the music specifically, the liner notes of this CD are a minor riot in themselves to read through. Guitarist John Ganey concludes his brief thank-you's with "PS. I'm Batman.".... Drummer Mikey Montgomery thanks "...God for all the health problems I inherited and the FDA for being sacks of shit and giving me more. Thanks to President Obama for flushing this country further down the shitter. Last but not least, thanks Chipotle. See you later today. Give me all the burritos." And "Ricky" (who I assume is bassist Mike "Rickshaw" Martin) concludes his thanks by saying: "A final 'thank you' goes out to weed, beer, whiskey, cheap bars, sexy women, vapes, PS3, XMEN, and the new girl."

Personally, I took some comfort in knowing that the band's evolution wasn't a move to get "more serious" or somehow shed the deranged image they had initially constructed. So while Late For Nothing isn't nearly as challenging or diverse an album as Ruining It For Everybody or the downright psychologically fractured It's All Happening, it's still far from boring and it's still undeniably iwrestledabearonce.

The moral of the story: go out and buy this album.

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