Album Review: Ill Nino - "Till Death, La Familia"

What would a heavy metal album be without some crazy sub-genre label? Nu metal, alternative metal, metalcore, latin metal - these are just some of the genres used to describe New Jersey band Ill Nino. I'm going to use one word to describe their newest record; intense.

Ill Nino has just released their latest album titled "Till Death, La Familia". As I mentioned, their sound has been described as "Latin Metal" which intrigued me to say the least. This record is heavy on the heavy with some spectacular Latin percussion throughout.

If you haven't heard Ill Nino before check out their album of cover songs where they did an outstanding version of Faith No More's "Zombie Eaters". "Till Death, La Familia" is all their own work and it is vicious in it's intensity.

Here's what you can expect from the new Ill Nino album; the sound is syncopated and the guitars are heavy, down-tuned to C or so. Occasionally, you'll hear an additional percussionist in the form of Oscar Santiago really laying down some Latin flavored drumming. This is in addition to the precision drumming of Dave Chavarri. I mean precision, thundering, booming drums.

"Till Death, La Familia" grew on me the more I listened to it. And by "grew on me" I mean the grooves are so contagious I found myself humming (or growling) them throughout the day.

Ill Nino likes to go back and forth between scorching metal rhythms and more melodic choruses as is the standard for a lot of metal bands these days (some prefer to call it Nu Metal). The difference is Ill Nino plays their heavy parts REALLY heavy. The vocals provided by Cristian Machado seamlessly alternate from scary aggressive to pleasantly mild.

The aggression contained in "Not Alive in My Nightmare" is amazing and made me want to go out and punch someone in the face. And isn't that what metal is all about? The best metal for me creates a feeling of inner power, a feeling of belonging to something bigger than yourself; the brotherhood or, dare I say, La Familia of metal. This is where Ill Nino brought me.

An anecdote; one of the ways I like to listen to music is while driving in a car. Many times I force my wife (who is only a moderate fan of metal) to endure whatever album I'm reviewing for the week. This time, we were driving around listening to "Till Death, La Familia" and she was actually enjoying it. When we got to track 4, "Blood Is Thicker Than Water" she didn't say anything. As it finished she asked, "Is he saying 'I'll put your dick in the water?'". He wasn't. He was saying "Our blood is thicker than water" but I fear I may have trouble not laughing when I hear that particular track again. But I digress.

At first, I was thrown off a bit by the juxtaposition between the super heavy parts and the more melodic parts. While it brings a commercial or pop sensibility to the songs the two styles just didn't seem to blend. Upon further listenings, however, it clicked and I understood the cohesiveness of the songs. That being said, I still like the heavy parts better but can enjoy the song as a whole instead of just half of it.

Tops on my list of songs on "Till Death, La Familia" is the powerful "Pray I Don't Find You" which is heavy and has a terrific percussion part beneath it all. It's followed up with "World So Cold" which brings more of the same.

The more I listen to Cristian Machado the more I love the quality of his "angry" voice. Much the same way Phil Anselmo's voice struck me upon hearing "Vulgar Display of Power" for the first time. Machado, on the other hand, has a much greater vocal range and the ability to crank out a lot of lyrics quickly, almost in a rap style as in "Dead Friends", and in a groovier fashion.

The production team on this album has really outdone themselves. Not only is the sound quality of each instrument top notch but they've also managed to add a basket full of effects subtly throughout. So subtle, in fact, that one barely notices them. The effects don't mask or hide shortcomings but they help to steer the feel of the respective songs. It's like the studio is being used as an additional instrument.

Turns out, I really like "Till Death, La Familia". I mean, I really like it, more so each time I hear it. And, Ill Nino is currently on tour with the Mayhem festival which just had a stop right near where I live. Did I go? Sadly, I couldn't make the time but now I wish I had if only to see Ill Nino. This is one of the best metal albums I've heard in a while and I encourage you to check it out. But please, don't punch anyone in the face.

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