The nu-metal explosion of the late 90s/early 00s may have been the strongest burst of heavy music into the mainstream since… well, ever. Linkin Park‘s ‘Hybrid Theory’ was the best selling debut album of the 2000s, ‘Last Resort’ by Papa Roch still regularly infests rock clubs across the globe, Slipknot‘s sophomore ‘Iowa’ could well be the heaviest album to date to hit #1 on the UK Albums Chart, and the rise of Limp Bizkit with ‘Rollin” back in 2000 saw red baseball snapbacks ala Fred Durst fly out like hotcakes.
Fast-forward to 2016, and nu-metal is seeing a steady reinvention and revival. Issues are splicing disc-scratching and rapped verses with their RnBcore mash-up, Hacktivist are taking similar inspirations against a djent-esque backdrop, and Islander sound like a refreshed Ill Niño. Louisiana’s Cane Hill are also harking back to the pioneering nu-metal influences of the past two decades, with a few styles dabbled on last year’s self-titled EP, but with their debut album ‘Smile’, they’ve planted their feet firmly into the disarray, distraught, and dark personal tormented roots of Korn, Coal Chamber, and Deftones.
The stench of ‘Life Is Peachy’ and ‘Follow The Leader’ era Korn is stretched throughout the album; Cane Hill are essentially Korn‘s little brother. Elijah Witt‘s jarring and almost mumbled croons could easily be confused with that of Jonathan Davis, a style that emits some form of catharsis in his craft, but his roars could sit comfortably between Corey Taylor and Dez Fafara.
‘You’re So Wonderful’ and ‘St. Veronica’ sound like they were both sculpted straight from the Korn playbook, the latter of which could easily pass as a missing cut from the band’s ‘Issues’ sessions, Witt singing the chorus line “I used to be an angel. / Now I’m angel dust.” with hints of despair. Following track ‘Fountain Of Youth’ and ‘Ugly Idol Mannequin’ are the band at their most aggressive, accelerated with riffs and a rhythm section that are very Slipknot-y. ‘(The New) Jesus’ also encapsulates a Rob Zombie vibe, especially in the fist pump encouraging pre-chorus.
There are a few spacious cavities that can be found when we’re greeted with this ‘Smile’, though. ‘Screwtape’ gets a rework and shows its face again, which seems like a lazy addition to the track list. The EP version sounds far more raw, with a more unsettling effect placed on the vocals within the verses, and this updated take just sounds subpar in comparison. It’s also a pity that the ideas in the heavily electronic ‘French 75’ aren’t really plucked, examined, and expanded upon this time around.
With ‘Smile’, Cane Hill have grabbed onto the darkest crevices of the nu-metal boom of the past two decades, bastardised their blemishes, popped their pimples, and wore them proudly alongside the sheer aggression and energy of today’s metalcore. This could be seen as a nice pit stop for those looking for their fill of Korn until they drop their twelth record, yet Cane Hill are doing something very similar to their aforemtntioned forefathers. Here you have pioneers of the nu-metalcore movement; smile and headbang along.
Written by Zach Redrup (@zachredrup)