Quirks of fate hit us in all directions and with these Stateside Nu-Metallers from across The Pond, this is no exception. Many of you I'm sure will have undoubtedly heard of their take on a Michael Jackson classic Smooth Criminal and apparently, it was never intended to hit the recording studios leave alone launch a band into stardom. Initially Alien Ant Farm only used the song as a test riff during their pre gig soundchecks, but the few fans that were in the auditorium early loved it so much that they insisted the band played the song in full. So cue a band making moment. Obviously Dryden Mitchell can't sing the kind of super alto notes of the Prince Of Pop's but many songs stick well, and it also opened up the general consensus that just about any tune can be given a metal makeover.
Their destiny meeting with fate arrived too soon seemingly, and they split not so long after Smooth Criminal, albeit for three years or so, and then they reformed almost as quick. Based on a couple of observations and on their discography and styling, Alien Ant Farm don't look like they take themselves too seriously. Maybe not quite the heavyweights of Nu Metal in the realm of Slipknot or System Of A Down, more in the Andrew WK bracket is what I would best describe them as. As Eddie Carter has pointed out so eloquently, there are one or two Nu Metallers far too heavily reliant on the sound effect backdrops and not focusing on the original written material to give it any substance. Hopefully AAF haven't fallen into this trap.
Last album release was in 2006 with Up In The Attic, so plenty of time elapsed for the followup and if anything, ample time to come up with something a little different. However, opening track Yellow Pages leaves me thinking a little, riffs are not terribly inviting and undersold although it doesn't take too much time before its lively head raises up. Next up is Simpatico and the rhythm just feels all wrong and disjointed, the emphasis is more on what Mitchell's written on, so not the disaster scene I was half expecting. Burning I regret is a let down for me and it's just a little too mundane and stuck in the peat. So far the album could do with some chillis shoved down its trousers and almost on cue is the bad ass Let Em Know. First I bemoaned earlier that even Nu-Metallers shouldn't rely too much on some electronic wizardry but it does really fit in here this time, and some equally bad ass lyrics has regained much potency on Always And Forever.
Even with the previous number, (contender for best track incidentally) I haven't really warmed to AAF yet, so things are on the up thankfully, and now we come to Our Time. Now I should hate this as it's lending itself a little too much to Muse but I actually enjoy it, Our Time is very addictive, especially the chorus, the melody, it's an eight out of ten and on a par with Let Em Know. Now it's Homage, it says it all, basically a Tenacious D Tribute to their heroes, well written, but if it feels a little too much like Mr Brightside. At least Dryden Mitchell has a handy ace in the deck with his voxbox. Now Sidelines is very Ska and old Skool if a little embarrassing and more seemingly targeted towards the adolescent bracket. There's at least three hooks on Little Things (Physical), a sign that the Ant Farm Mob want to branch out a little. Listenable I guess, perhaps nothing more than an agreeable filler.
My fear is that we've hit the peaks, now we're diving back down, and Crazy Love lamentably is much too soft rock, poppy and repetitive. It's also instantly forgettable for me, thankfully American Pie (not the Don McLean classic) is an improvement on proceedings. Keeping the soft rock layers, but it's much better thought out, then thankfully it's a welcome return to some metal riffage with Godlike, it reminds me what made this band earn their success. Better Weather reminds me a little of Ozzy Osbourne, it is a little late 1980s pastiche and certainly not a world beater. Final track is Dirty Bomb and mischief is certainly abound with its suggestive lyrics and the "I dated the wrong girl yet she's so good" theme.
Having listened only to Smooth Criminal and maybe a followup single or two before this, I wasn't expecting too many pyrotechnics firing in all directions from Alien Ant Farm and this latest release. Alien Ant Farm are certainly in no way pound-for-pound metal heavyweights and Always And Forever was never destined to be the spectacular showcase. There are one or two notable highlights and prevents the album from getting bogged down too heavily. Thankfully, I've heard much worse in the past, and there are some avenues in life you follow that aren't advisable. For instance AAF's long time bassist Tye Zamora among things chose to leave the band in order to be a bass tech for Limp Bizkit. Could things be any worse....?
4 out of ten. It could have been a bit better.
Best Track : Our Time
Buy the album here on Amazon
Listen to Always And Forever here on Spotify
Deezer listeners can alternatively click on this link
Official Alien Ant Farm Facebook Page here
Official Alien Ant Farm website here