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Menace

Impact Velocity

(Season of Mist; US: 18 Mar 2014; UK: 17 Mar 2014)

Solid Band, Dull Vocalist

There are some good songs on Impact Velocity, the debut full length from Mitch Harris (Napalm Death) side project Menace, but there is also plenty of well-worn cliché, empty posturing and tiresome sad-guy blather. In other words, it’s a heavy metal record designed for disillusioned 15-year-olds (is there any other kind?) and as such, it delivers as expected. There is no boundary-pushing here, either musically or lyrically, and that’s fine. Sometimes you want to rock out and not think about it too much. Impact Velocity is the sonic equivalent of a comfortable shirt that you’ve worn so many times it’s nearly worn through, and you really ought to donate to Goodwill. But what the hell, it’s so reassuring and familiar, you slip it on one more time.


Opening track “I Live With Your Ghost” is the strongest tune here, possessing a snappy, sizzling guitar line, some nice double-time drumming, and lyrics that would make a high school sophomore proud: “I live with your ghost, I live with your ghost / Just like a virus infecting its host.” If that rhyming couplet doesn’t do it for you, well, maybe you should move along to some Bon Iver or something.


Follow-up tune “Painted Rust” slows the tempo and brings in the synths, for no apparent reason. It’s a little early in the album to bring in a slow tune, but hey, Menace is out to usurp your expectations in every way. Just kidding. Lyrics here continue along the lines of “I’m really unhappy”, which seems to be a theme throughout the record. Just check the song titles: “I Won’t See the Sun”, “Drowning in Density”, “Malicious Code”, and of course the bonus track “Insult to Injury”.


There’s more than a little nu-metal influence here, which is too bad, as nu-metal sucks. But the influence is mainly heard in Harris’s whiny vocals and a certain reliance on scratchy guitar tones to indicate, oh hell I don’t know, intense emotional pain or something. When Harris stops whining about how bad he feels about everything, and the band let themselves rock out a bit, things get considerably better. Besides the opening track, this happens most noticeably on “I Won’t See the Sun”, which benefits from a straightforward, bash-on-the-trash-cans rhythm and a muscular guitar riff. Even better is “Drowning In Density”, whose snaky guitar line sounds an awful lot like a rock band should, at least when it’s not being derailed by the vocalist’s incessant self-pity.


There are few if any lead breaks in these songs, so six-string freaks will need to look elsewhere for their daily dose of guitar noodling. On the other hand, the songs are constructed of great slabs of distorted riffage, so there’s plenty of that to go around. The band does itself no favors by including 13 tracks on the album, as listener fatigue sets in halfway through, and the back half of the record brings nothing new.


It’s too bad about Harris’s vocals, because the other musicians here have skills enough, but the whole effort is dragged down by the frontman’s one-note bleating. It’s tough to recommend Menace to listeners seeking an interesting and inventive foray into heavy rock and metal. Pissed off 15-year-olds might like it, though.

Rating:

DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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