2003 Abacus Recordings
1. Silence Fiction
2. Tick. Tock. Tick. (MP3
3. Love Through Tapeworm Hooks
4. When Animals Attack
6. John Vs. The Elephant
7. Magnolia Act I
8. Magnolia Act II
I'll presume that most of you are rather unfamiliar with Radiation 4. Hailing from California, the group self-released an EP (from which they've progressed nicely) before becoming one of the first acts to sign with Century Media's new imprint, Abacus Recordings. Strictly speaking, this band doesn't play hardcore. They don't play metal. They don't play metalcore. They don't play rock. Actually, I'm hard-pressed to classify their output, which is generally a "plus" in my book. Much like bands such as Mr. Bungle, Radiation 4 rolls up many stylistic nuances into one big ball of aggressive weirdness. They are not as talented or diverse as Mr. Bungle, but then again, who is
If you're one of those people that relies on the first 60 seconds of an album to serve as an indicator of things to come, then you'll find little comfort in this album's opener, "Silence Fiction." With a foundation of electronic loops and interspersed doom riffs, the track features some oddly hypnotic vocals, tantamount to an opera gone awry. Quite interesting. Things quickly get into gear on the next song, "Tick. Tock. Tick.," which is actually rather indicative of Radiation 4's musical product; frenetic metal-rock, with a touch of death, a dose of tech, a dash of strange, and more than a few nods to Mike Patton.
The hardcore and metal scene is currently teeming with dozens and dozens of acts that are nearly indistinguishable from one another. I don't necessarily think bands are less original; there just seem to be more bands. Whatever your perspective, originality isn't likely to be focal point for detractors of Radiation 4, with the possible exception of the aforementioned Patton influence. Any writer reviewing this album would be remiss in not bringing up Mike Patton, plain and simple. The vocal stylings of singer Chris Negrete are clearly reminiscent of Patton's, replete with the shrieky screams and throaty lounge singing. I wouldn't label it an obsession though, rather an inspiration. As a whole - it works - and ultimately, Negrete adds enough of his own identity to the mix, rendering any talk of blatant imitation invalid. Particularly effective are his operatic tendencies, with dramatic vibrato and a keen sense of melody. Check out the eerie crooning halfway into "Love Through Tapeworm Hooks" to see what I mean.
As a band, competent musicianship is a true hallmark of this release. Some bands have chops and feel the need to display them at every turn. Other bands don't have chops and try to mask their inadequacies via songwriting, dumping bits of technicality down the proverbial shaft and hoping for the best. Thankfully, Radiation 4 does neither, striking a nice balance between technical prowess and effective songwriting. They're particularly compelling when infusing caustic passages with hints of subtle melody, as in "Magnolia Act I" and "Prize." At times the band seems overambitious, or perhaps self-indulgant, with some of their arrangements, attempting to take things in too many directions simultaneously, but they never fall completely flat or leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Production wise, everything is as it should be - the mix is trouble-free and all instruments are represented nicely. The layout is really cool too, evoking a circus/fantasy theme, perfectly befitting an album entitled "Wonderland."
Bottom Line: This release is solid, from start to finish. And although Radiation 4 are not without flaws, they are able to quickly stanch any problem areas, maintaining an admirable level of maturity and consistency seldom found in bands this young. This is a great full-length debut, and I'll expect nothing less on future releases.