For Fans Of
Full disclosure here, I hadn’t the foggiest on whom Superheist were when the Australian alternative/nu-metal band announced they were reforming earlier this year. As such, I went back and listened to some of the band’s older material, songs like ‘Bullet‘, ‘Seven Years‘, ‘Liberate‘, and ‘Step Back‘ and I must say, I quite enjoyed what I heard. The sound of the band’s first two albums fully embodies the nu-metal/hard rock sound that was littering radio stations and TV music channels over a decade and a half ago, and those songs still hold up well now! Which is interesting, seeing as that particular sound has been recaptured yet again here with ‘Ghosts Of The Social Dead‘ and it doesn’t hold up that well.
Recorded and mixed in L.A. this year, ‘Ghosts Of The Social Dead‘ (along with the band’s prior single,’Hands Up High‘) is the group’s first record since 2002’s ‘Identical Remote Controlled Reactions‘ and 2001’s ‘The Prize Recruit‘. In this new reiteration of Superheist, we have new vocalist Ezekiel Ox (many of which will know from his solo work, Full Nerve, and Mammal), guitarist and main songwriter DW Norton, bassist Drew Dedman, and the band’s tight new drummer, Benny Clark. Now, as we’ve already established, this record really is the nu-metal/alt-metal sound the group became big off early on, except now with a really polished mix and drum grooves and guitar riffs that are bigger than ever before. If that was even bloody possible. But even so, this it isn’t a bad record nor is it a great one.
‘Ghosts Of The Social Dead‘ is one of those “middle of the road” releases that is neither amazing nor accursed, and I find these releases to be the hardest to talk about but alas, I’ll try. (Yes, yes, there’s my pretentious writer excuse, fucking deal with it).
As much of a contradiction as it sounds, it’s easy to see that this album is Superheist progressing into both a heavier and a more “mainstream” sound, which is something they didn’t get a chance to do ten years ago when the band closed up shop in 2004. However, the quartet relies on such a rigid rock/metal formula that after a while, the crutch of this record loses any and all impact and the songs float in through one ear and out the other, save for a select few.
‘Back To Base‘, ‘The Running‘ and ‘Hang Your Head‘ are easily the heaviest songs on offer and are the select few that I previously mentioned, and it’s here that the band is at their best. If this heavier style was honed in more across the track listing and the radio-friendly moments were fewer, I can’t help but feel that this would have been a far stronger release all up. That would’ve shown a band returning with all cylinders firing and not coming back with a record that would have been severely average and generic by the alt-metal/nu-metalish standards of the turn of the century, let alone now in 2016.
To play devil’s advocate, I suppose that upping the heaviness to a crazy degree would have hindered the band’s initial musical intention and that it may have flown in the face of their legacy but goddamnit, so many of these songs are just so cheesy. Case in point is the album’s lead single and ballad – if you could call it that – ‘Fearing Nothing’ and it’s a real mixed bag. The chorus on this track is just fucking huge and Ox gets plenty of room to show off vocally, but the chorus’s disco drumbeat is kinda odd, and the intro spoken-word moment is a mess. But whatever you come to think about this song, just don’t watch the music video. That shit’s baaaaaaad.
‘This Truth‘ is the softest, most restrained song on the record and it’s… okay. It changes up the pace of the record somewhat but it feels so ham-fisted and disposable. As does the repetitive second half of ‘Flick The Switch‘, that follows the middle piano section that should have been the song’s outro, as it just feels so forced. If this second half had been ditched, we’d be talking about one of the album’s better songs by a country mile! ‘The Deepend‘ and ‘Sweat Swing‘ do nothing but reiterate the formula that opener ‘Wolves In Your Headspace‘ nailed, and after a somewhat unnecessary intro, ‘Let’s Get Out Of Here‘ is one of the more melodically and rhythmically driving songs on the album. It’s not bad, if a little forgettable, but it was by this point in the back half of the record that I came to realise why this album feels so lacking.
See, Superheist jumps between their lighter and heavier shades so damn quickly that just when you’re starting to vibe one particular element it jarringly gets tossed aside for another, neither one all that potent nor that original. Often, you’ll be grooving along to the tight rapping, heavy riffs, and punchy drums (i.e. the band’s better moments) and that will suddenly give way to a big, melodic chorus, usually accompanied by vibrato-filled vocals and the same old drum groove. Or, in some cases, the exact opposite will happen.
But no matter the sequencing, after a while, these ten songs all start to blend into one big average song. Now, that particular phrase gets thrown around a lot when talking about post-rock and instrumental albums (which this record most certainly isn’t) or immensely dull rock and/or metal albums that have fuck all variation (which only half applies to this record). But the difference with many of the aforementioned post-rock, instrumental records is that they flow as one, whereas this album just drags on as one and rarely do many of these songs stick with you.
Look, as someone coming in on the most recent stop for this Aussie band, I can’t really tell if this is the be-all end-all release for the newly reformed Superheist. However, as it stands by itself, ‘Ghosts Of The Social Dead’ is a… decent record with a few killer tracks that are held back by many average, run-of-the-mill alt-metal songs. While it’s good to have a solid Aussie rock band like these guys back in the game, I am kinda hard pressed to recommend this new offering. If you’re an older fan or a newcomer and you’re in the same boat as me, then I think it’s time to stick with ‘Step Back’, ‘Liberate’ and the older bangers for now.
- Wolves In Your Headspace
- Back To Base
- Fearing Nothing
- Running Away
- Flick The Switch
- The Deepend
- This Truth
- Hang Your Head
- Let’s Get Out Of Here
- Sweat Swing
‘Ghosts Of The Social Dead’ is out now via Dinner For Wolves. Also, calling me a wanker over Facebook will not help your case here, guys, cheers.