Opiate for the Masses: Manifesto

Do you remember the hard-rock hits of the '90s? So do Opiate for the Masses, and they sloppily rip those hits off and spit them back out for you on Manifesto.

Opiate for the Masses


Label: Century Media
UK Release Date: Available as import
US Release Date: 2008-07-08

Opiate for the Masses would like you to believe they're a forward-thinking rock band, combining programmed electronics with the hard-hitting punch of heavy guitars. In fact, they're a throwback to the '90s, using tired, chunky riffs with half-hearted electronic effects and trying to sell themselves as industrial music. Not to mention that at times they seem to be ripping off specific hard-rock hits of that decade.

Take the opening track, "21st Century Time Bomb". With its disco hi-hat and vocals that go from whisper-speak in the verses to full-on shout-singing in the chorus, it immediately recalls Powerman 5000's "When Worlds Collide". Then there's "The Habit". It's a slower-paced song that has vocalist Ron Underwood using an actual singing voice, and it's not bad. Until I realized that the pulsing programmed synths in the background and the melody were reminding me of Stabbing Westward's "What do I Have to Do?" Sure, the Opiate for the Masses song has a decent guitar solo from Jim Kaufman and doesn't go for the big rocking finish, but the resemblance is still there. Following right after, rocker "Hold On" bites the bassline from the bridge of Helmet's "Unsung" and combines it with a shouted chorus straight out of the Linkin Park playbook.

The spacey, depressing lyrics of Portishead's "Wandering Star" and that band's penchant for pulsing electronic beats may have made it seem like a good choice for Opiate for the Masses to cover. It's certainly a ballsy idea, however misguided it may seem. Ron Underwood is a decent singer, using several different styles fairly successfully throughout the album. But holding himself up in direct comparison to Beth Gibbons is pure folly. And adding crunchy guitars to the main groove eliminates the feeling of space that the original had. On the other hand, there is now empirical proof for something that would seem self-evident: hard-rock bands shouldn't cover Portishead.

As uninspired as it feels, Manifesto isn't quite a total loss. "Black Book" is a decent track that recalls Rob Zombie in both lyrics and singing style, but at least it doesn't echo any specific song. "Naked" resembles late-period Faith No More, albeit with a more standard hard-rock style. Album-closer "Manifesto" is at least catchy, even though the actual manifesto being discussed is clichéd drivel. "Lie" has a kick to it and doesn't have to resort to Underwood shouting his way through the chorus to do it.

Actually, those shouted choruses may be the disc's biggest annoyance while simultaneously being its biggest commercial asset. When Underwood cranks up his voice to full-on shout, he sounds almost exactly like Linkin Park's Chester Bennington. It's probably no coincidence that first single "Burn You Down" is the song on the album that sounds the closest to that mega-successful band. So if you're looking for an album that reminds you alternately of medium-sized hard-rock hits of the '90s and Linkin Park, Manifesto may be the album for you. If you're looking for something that rocks but is also creative, well-written, and interesting, you should probably give this one a miss.





Laura Nyro's "Save the Country" Calls Out from the Past

Laura Nyro, a witchy, queer, ethnic Russian Jew, died young, but her non-conformist anthem, "Save the Country", carries forth to these troubled times.


Journalist Jonathan Cott's Interviews, Captured

With his wide-ranging interviews, Jonathan Cott explores "the indispensable and transformative powers of the imagination."

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Coronavirus and the Culture Wars

Infodemics, conspiracies -- fault lines beneath the Fractured States of America tremble in this time of global pandemic, amplify splinters, fractures, and fissures past and present.


'Switched-On Seeker' Is an Imaginative Electronic Reimagining of Mikal Cronin's Latest LP

Listeners who prefer dense rock/pop timbres will no doubt prefer Mikal Cronin's 'Seeker'. However, 'Switched-On Seeker' will surely delight fans of smaller-scale electronic filters.


IYEARA Heighten the Tension on Remix of Mark Lanegan's "Playing Nero" (premiere)

Britsh trio IYEARA offer the first taste of a forthcoming reworking of Mark Lanegan's Somebody's Knocking with a remix of "Playing Nero".


Pottery Take Us Deep Into the Funky and Absurd on 'Welcome to Bobby's Motel'

With Welcome to Bobby's Motel, Pottery have crafted songs to cleanse your musical pallet and keep you firmly on the tips of your toes.


Counterbalance 23: Bob Dylan - 'Blood on the Tracks'

Bob Dylan makes his third appearance on the Acclaimed Music list with his 1975 album, Blood on the Tracks. Counterbalance’s Eric Klinger and Jason Mendelsohn are planting their stories in the press.


Luke Cissell Creates Dreamy, Electronic Soundscapes on the Eclectic 'Nightside'

Nightside, the new album from composer and multi-instrumentalist Luke Cissell, is largely synthetic and electronic but contains a great deal of warmth and melody.


Bibio Discusses 'Sleep on the Wing' and Why His Dreams Are of the Countryside

"I think even if I lived in the heart of Tokyo, I'd still make music that reminds people of the countryside because it's where my dreams often take me," says Bibio (aka Stephen Wilkinson) of his music and his new rustic EP.

Reading Pandemics

Pandemic, Hope, Defiance, and Protest in 'Romeo and Juliet'

Shakespeare's well known romantic tale Romeo and Juliet, written during a pandemic, has a surprisingly hopeful message about defiance and protest.


A Family Visit Turns to Guerrilla Warfare in 'The Truth'

Catherine Deneuve plays an imperious but fading actress who can't stop being cruel to the people around her in Hirokazu Koreeda's secrets- and betrayal-packed melodrama, The Truth.


The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.