Sunday, 17 December 2017

American Head Charge "The War Of Art" (2001)

Released amidst the peak of Nu Metal's popularity and over-saturation, American Head Charge's sophomore album and major label debut exists in a small bubble of records that haven't aged poorly from the short lived, controversial wave of Metal music. With the backing of industry giants, bands like Limp Bizkit and Korn helped thrust the music into the mainstream where it died and vanished swiftly. The War Of Art is actually a record Id never heard of until recently and given my curiosity with the music of my youth I was rather astonished to hear a really solid album considering the amount of band wagon hoping garbage that came out around the time.

American Head Charge were at the time a seven piece outfit from Minnesota who got signed to Rick Ruben's American Recordings label, subsequently recording with Ruben in his Houdini Mansion, the same place Slipknot recorded their Volume 3 album. The War Of Art rumbles out the gates growling, establishing its mean tone swiftly. Big bombastic riffs bump back and forth loaded with palm muting and harmonic squeals. Singer Heacock arms the onslaught with angry, violent screams and fantastic breaks into harmonious vocals, carrying a note yet still feeling grounded and gritty, full of the mood. A string of songs keep the anger soaked, fist pumping adrenaline going before changing pace.

With two musicians credited for electronics and sampling, the record is tinged with an Industrial flavor as the already noisy guitars are stacked with decorative samples, the sounds of sirens, synths and vinyl scratches creep into what little space is left around the guitars. Every song is loaded with subtle nuances to spot, more obviously emerging as complimentary noises in the guitar breakdowns but very rarely making itself the focal point. It doesn't feel dense, deep or overloaded but the two add a texture that is there for the attentive ear, otherwise it slips into the experience.

Despite the tropes of the time making for much forgettable music, AMC's typically Nu Metal riffage finds itself coming of better with strong influences from Groove Metal, mainly Machine Head, landing many riffs in solid territory. Tight choppy grooves and big bouncing dropped power chords are formed into decent songs that Heacock can bring to life with his clean vocals. The slamming drums of Chris Emery holds it all together for a cohesive sound that powers through with a steady intensity.

The song "Just So You Know" strikes me as a track that summarizes the album best, its got that teenage angst, moody self indulgence vibe so cliche of the times. Its guitars drop out for sad and downcast links between the riffs yet even being a blueprint for disaster the musicians pull it through to a memorable place. At eighty minutes the album is unnecessarily bloated. Although it doesn't have any stinkers its best songs could be refined into a shorter, to the point record as it tends to outpace the listener, or at least my appetite. Great record! A curios retroactive listen given I never heard of AMC or this release at the time.

Rating: 6/10
Favortie Tracks: A Violent Reaction, Pushing The Envelope, Never Get Caught, Just So You Know,