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AFM (2012)
Rating: 6.5/10

Part of the second wave of nu-metal bands, Ill Niño hit the big time with their debut album, Revolution Revolución (2001), and its follow-up, Confession (2003). After having sold over three million albums, the New Jersey band took a stab at a heavier sound, moving slightly away from their tribally integrated early sound. On Epidemia we get a healthy dose of both sides of the band’s musical personality.

The album kicks off with its undisputed highlights, ‘The Depression’ and ‘Only The Unloved’. ‘The Depression’ is more of a blend, featuring low growls and angry guitars intermingled with bright, salvation-is-here, big anthem choruses. The drums just drive this song to a whole new level though, sounding huge and world-influenced without completely embracing the influence.

‘Only The Unloved’ takes everything that is good about the former and turns it up a notch. Everything is a bit bigger, a bit pissier, and a bit brighter in all the right spots. Again, the drumming pushes everything over the top. ‘Death Wants More’, ‘Escape’ and ‘Forgive Me Father’ fit perfectly alongside the opening tracks but, unfortunately, come later in the album, pulling you back in from the land of mind-wandering.

So that begs the question as to why your mind would wander after the first couple of tracks, right? For me, it’s the other side of the band’s musical personality. There are a lot of moments here where the band tries to be way more extreme than they are capable of. ‘La Epidemia’ is the prime example here. It’s thick, angry, and features a back and forth vocal between cookie monster and shrieking with the occasional spoken piece. Normally I don’t mind any of those things but Ill Niño just aren’t any good at it.

‘Time Won’t Save You’ doesn’t fare much better, and ‘Eva’ comes off pretty well until the downright terrible break mid-song that sounds like a nu-metal band trying to cover a Behemoth track in the middle of a radio-friendly rock song. I’m still scratching my head.

Overall, if you could knock about four tracks off of this it would be really solid. The band still have their feet planted firmly in the nu-metal scene but, at this point, that’s where their fans are (and hopefully their heart too). If you didn’t like Ill Niño before, you aren’t going to be won over by Epidemia. With that said, this is significantly better than their last two albums and longtime fans will have a lot more to enjoy than they expect.

Mark Fisher

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