With every batch of CDs I get to review at PopMatters, there’s always a handful that promise some new amount of rock crunch. All too often I’m usually left disappointed by the discs, usually because the lead singer can’t stop screaming his head off and the guitarist knows nothing but speed metal power chords that were already old by 1987. However, every so often there is an album that truly delivers on its promise and actually surprises me. Alien Ant Farm’s latest release ANThology is one such album.
Dig it. It’s another heavy California group. But hey, the Ant Farm has been around for a little while. Their debut (Greatest Hits) was produced by Jay Baumgardner who has also worked on albums by Papa Roach, Orgy, Slipknot, and Coal Chamber. But if you’re not a fan of any of those bands (like I am not), don’t let those credentials scare you away. Alien Ant Farm manages to be heavy and accessible, allowing a good sense of strong songwriting skills and melody to come pounding through your speakers along with the crunchy guitars and beats.
Fronted by Dryden Mitchell on vocals and including Terry Corso on guitar, Tye Zamora on bass, and Mike Cosgrove on drums, Alien Ant Farm records a form of hard rock that can only be classified as 21st Century Rock. It’s too technically good to be a throwback to the ‘80s and too hummable to strictly be a rehash of hard rock from the latter half of the ‘90s. So welcome to the new millennium, kids. Alien Ant Farm has brought you the soundtrack.
What I like most about this band above all else is Mitchell’s singing. He really can carry a tune. There are no throat-shredding exercises, and you don’t have to have the lyric sheet to make sense of any of the songs. That’s a plus in itself. All too often the trademarked pattern for modern day hard rockers is to clearly sing the verses and then turn into some adept of Satan’s during the choruses and completely obliterate any sense of structure or melody. Who cares after a while? You do that for 10 songs over an album and you may as well have just recorded a single and saved the rest of your money. Bands like that are about as interesting as a stale fart.
But this isn’t the case with Alien Ant Farm. True, the opening track “Courage” doesn’t really give a thorough glimpse into the hidden gems locked away in the band’s signature sound, but by the time the second song “Movies” arrives, it’s all over. Corso, Zamora and Cosgrove lock down tighter than a chastity belt as Mitchell dolls up the party with his ever-expressive range. It’s hard to argue with rock this intricate and melodic. So don’t. Just sit back and enjoy it.
There’s 13 tracks here and they all kick solidly. Whether it be in the tense “Flesh and Bone” or the soaring “Sticks and Stones”, Alien Ant Farm never bend to the hard rock clichés that dog other bands in the genre. Of course, there is the oddball cover of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” complete with Jacksonesque whoops that needless to say crushes M.J.‘s original into a fine dust. It’s a nice surreal addition next to such great anthems as “Calico”.
In all, ANThology is a good collection of rockers applied to various instruments with a supple touch that never allows the music to become swamped in its own weight. Kudos to the band for being able to pull off such a great feat. So if you like your rock on the harder side, but often feel alienated (ha!) by a lot of the groups out there today that make you feel like you “just can’t relate”, then give ANThology the spin it deserves. Alien Ant Farm are here to stay. Over and out.