For Fans Of
After what was essentially a 1,500-word essay on Avenged Sevenfold’s ‘The Stage’ this past week, (a damned good record by the way) I wanted something less ambitious and something potentially shittier to write about. And by sweet merciful Christ, I have found it – Upon A Burning Body’s ‘Straight From The Barrio’. “Wait, Upon A Burning Body are still a band?” I hear you say, mentally recalling a list of other irrelevant metal bands from the past decade. Yep! They sure are and their new record is nothing but woefully lacklustre.
To start us off, I can only assume that the ‘Barrio’ in the title refers to the historic Hispanic neighborhood in El Paso, Texas, colloquially known as South El Paso. Which is important to bring up, as there’s a somewhat mariachi vibe to opener ‘‘Til The Break Of Dawn‘; from the twang in the guitars to vocalist Danny Leal’s vocal inflections and Spanish lyrics, and even some flamenco-sounding acoustic guitars. Honestly, these earlier moments leave a good first impression as it shows that the band has plenty of love and confidence in their own personal heritage and that they can do something actually fucking interesting with their music. Sadly, save for some of the guitars on ‘Already Broken‘, the brief bongo percussion on the title track and the even briefer instrumental flairs on ‘Media Blackout‘, those aforementioned elements are rarely present in the remaining songs. Which is such a huge missed opportunity that it physically hurts me to think about it, as exploring these ideas further could’ve really made this band stand out from the ever-growing cookie-cutter crowd. But no! That would’ve been a good thing and we just can’t have a good Upon A Burning Body album, can we? As such, with a lack of instrumental variety and very little cultural spin on their sound, it all results in this record falling into an immensely boring and horribly average pit of despair. (Christ, that didn’t sound over the top did it?)
I’m going to get this out of the way early on, but yes, occasionally do the band’s older deathcore elements shine through, like on ‘Walk Alone Again‘ for instance. But it seems that the sound of past records like ‘Red. White. Green‘ and ‘The World Is Ours‘ (and especially all of those blast beats) have forever been ditched in favour of this “new”, trendy metalcore sound. Sure, the band are still heavy but I honestly can’t tell if we’ve been spared the lesser of two evils or have simply been given a new monster to endure.
As from the vocal styles, the guitar chugs, the leads, the drumming, the breakdowns, and the song structures the band utilises, they’re just all so goddamn generic. Well, excluding the album’s finale, the emotional acoustic reprieve of ‘My Distorted Reflection‘ that is. Now, I don’t think that’s an absolute, smoking gun argument against a band or an album’s quality – as being generic doesn’t mean that it’s instantly bad – but the eye-rolling cliché and overly edgy lyrics littering this album are what really hammer the last nail into Upon A Burning Body’s terribly dull coffin.
See, this album’s themes and lyrics have supplied me with a hefty amount of ammunition that I could write hundred’s more words about the lyrics, like the far too expected line of “You can’t break me/cause I’m already broken” on ‘Already Broken’, or “You think you’re a rich boy/You’re just a bitch boy” from ‘Fake Plastic Smiles‘, among other such trite. But I won’t. I’ll spare you that mediocrity, as I don’t wish to put more effort into this record than the band seemingly has. However, the vile cream of this awful crop is the insanely cringe-worthy ‘B.M.F.‘, which by the way, stands for ‘Bad Mother Fucker’. And it’s just as fucking stupid as you think it is. Here, let me show you an example:
“Everybody else just looking for attention and mentions
But your intentions are to go the extra mile to troll my profile
You are the punch to my lines
Your nights don’t come close to mine
You wish that you could live this
Your vacation, that’s my whole life”
And this little bit of douchebaggery:
“Fuck the ones who doubt me, talk shit about me
You’re just a bitch and I’m a bad motherfucker”
This track, from both a musical, rhythmic and lyrical perspective, sounds like a watered down cover of an Attila song, just minus all of the stupendous personality and dumb charm that Attila has to their music. Oh, and the film clip for ‘B.M.F.‘ is just as bad, even if it is meant to be a parody of sorts, what with all of its phoned-in 90’s aesthetic. And yet, despite all of the generic metal instrumentation and anti-hater, anti-music media lyrics and the teenage levels of edginess found in most of these songs, there are actually a couple emotional and mature moments stashed away on this album. No, don’t laugh, I’m being serious!
Take this set of lyrics from one of the late-game songs, ‘The Outcast‘ – “I used to be just like you/Hated the thought of getting bullied at school/Insecure about the color of my skin/So sad I just wanted to fit in/Terrified of going home most nights/A broken home, this can’t be right“. That is some real, heavy shit right there, and while the song itself is a mixed bag somewhat with its typical hard rock guitar solo and its short but cheesy spoken work part halfway through, I cannot take away the fact that there is some actual substance there. The same goes for the previously mentioned acoustic track ‘My Own Reflection‘, which like ‘‘Til The Break Of Dawn‘ and while not revolutionary or amazing, proves that UABB can be more than a B-list metal band living in the shadows of the scene’s bigger acts. It’s just such a goddamn shame that they rarely capitalize on these moments and don’t further their music into more interesting, uncharted territories.
To label ‘Straight From The Barrio’ as being a poor man’s Attila is to imply that a) Attila are a good band to be copied and b) that this album is even close to being ‘good’ or even ‘okay’. Honestly, I can’t help but feel I am becoming very blasé with this particular metal sound and Upon A Burning Body do nothing but increase my distaste for heavy music with albums such as this. Although, I do give the band some points for not having a down-right idiotic marketing campaign for this record involving faux kidnappings, like 2014’s ‘The World Is My Enemy Now’ did. But then again, I suppose it’s not really a big positive if it just goes without fucking saying that you shouldn’t do it in the first place!
- ‘Til The Break Of Dawn
- Already Broken
- You Don’t Own Me
- Media Blackout
- Straight From The Barrio
- Leave The Pain Behind
- Walk Alone Again
- Fake Plastic Smile
- D.T.A. (Don’t Trust Anyone)
- The Outcast
- My Distorted Reflection
‘Straight From The Barrio’ is, sadly, out now and you should avoid it. Also, just on a side note, the band’s acronym – UABB – sounds like it could easily be a lyric from Disturbed’s David Draiman. Cheers.