Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Papa Roach "Infest" (2000)

In my youth, somewhere between Metallica and then Dimmu Borgir being both favorite band and attachment to my youthful identity, Papa Roach took the spotlight for a while as the classic Last Resort took the airwaves over like a virus. It was on MTV that I first heard the song. My sister insisted I should come to the living and check out Last Resort which would end up being played every hour it would seem. I was immediately hooked, heading to the record store I got my hands on a limited edition metallic case of the record! Infest then became a total and utter binge record.

Every moment and lyric of this record is engraved in my mind but it hasn't aged well. Infest is probably the embodiment of a relatively average band hitting the nerve of a trend. This is quite possibly the most cast molded, atypical Nu Metal record I can think of. Capturing the angsty tone of the times and with a few well written songs, this album simply reeks of Nu Metal, both the best and worse aspects of it. Being from a particularly difficult and depressing point in my life, it has that mental attachment to baggage I'm done with. Whats left is the same tone, mood and emotion in the music itself. Quite possibly a clear reason I bonded with it so much at the time.

Stumbling onto Vice's documentary about the hit song, it had me thinking back over this record and so I wanted to get these words of my chest. The album itself is well formed, fantastic production has the guitars popping with a dense, warm distortion that is very accessible. Drums and bass mix in well around them as a focal point for melody and rhythm. Bass lines often offer up good iterations and soft harmonization. Guitars have great dynamics with overlapping slabs of syncopated Drop D power chords and lead melodies. Its straightforward songwriting but again well formed.

Where the criticism lands is in front man Jacoby Shaddix camp. His singing and screams are pretty darn fantastic in the right stride, the Rap Metal incursions however are definitely dated and lacking lasting power. Its the depressive, angsty lyrics, a moaning of teenage growing pains that inject a dark and self defeating message into the record. Every song is downtrodden and burdensome, no light or relief comes along. This is the art of wallowing in self pity. Hard to tolerate from a matured frame of mind and personally dark for how reflective and identifiable they were at the time.

That tone is what takes the record down a couple pegs for me. Sounding like a broken record, it again comes with dated, of the era moments, particularly in the Rap Metal camp Nu Metal was adjacent to. Shaddix's raps are competent, kinda of fun but lyrically unimpressive. Listening again, weak moments in the music arrive mostly from the lyric sheet and also with these raps. Injections of turntable scratches and a couple moments where they emulate the trend in someone else's name do sour in reflection. The breakdown rap section on Revenge is a complete ripoff of Korn's lead guitar style. Somehow I never spotted it at the time.

Putting the best in the front, tracks two to six represent the best of the band, Between Angles And Insects being one fantastic song that holds up. After that the weaker tracks experiment a little, offering similar concepts not so well executed. The nine minute self loathing indulgence of Throw Away stands out for its pivot into a Reggae tinged slowdown with a line that embodies everything about the records tone. "We are the future, the twenty first century, dyslexic, glue sniffing cyber sluts, with homicidal minds and handguns". Oh how do I wish I'd found Rollins Band instead of this indulgence in self defeat. Its a bittersweet record for me, the instrumentals are wonderful, bounce, soft grooves, aggression and melody meld well, yet its angsty lyrical premise is so tired on me. This might be the last time I ever listen to it in full again.

Rating: 6/10