28 December 2015

Sugarcoma - Becoming Something Else


So far, I've enjoyed this Nu Metal December. It's not only been a pleasant nostalgia trip but has also made me re-evaluate the genre itself and I'm actually surprised I never dived head first into it because it does have a lot of stuff I'd like - chugging guitars, bouncy rhythms, rap elements...I guess at the time I didn't have the patience to appreciate it due to trying to listen to lots of Death Metal and Grindcore or something, or maybe I didn't see far past enough the "brah sportswear" ensemble who seemed to make up the fan base. Ah well. I'll fire off another couple of Nu Metal blogs over the coming days before normal blog service will resume in the new year - that is, Eddie giving me other bands to review. And also reviewing the latest releases. My target is to have a Top 20 Fave Albums by December 2016. But I digress...

Sugarcoma were another of those bands who were featured a lot in the rock mags as the next big thing - no doubt encouraged by positive reviews for the first couple of E.P's they did as well as touring as support for the likes of Fear Factory, My Ruin, Machine Head, Soil and Will Haven. They also did a cover of a Britney Spears song called "Crazy" which ended up quite prominently on Kerrang! TV and other rock music stations. This turned a few heads initially as it was recorded and released at a time when Ms Spears was still a pop princess who could do no wrong and was the apple of everyones eye, not the train-wreck red-neck of later years. Seriously, I hope she gets her mojo back. Tbh, I was never keen on this song because a) I found it to be awful and b) it seemed like rock/metal bands doing rock/metal covers of pop standards were by this point reaching over-saturation and therefore it was starting to get annoying. Besides, there were better stuff on the Chartbusters series of CD's.

It's been hard to find out much info about the band other than "where are they now?" type interviews online as there is no Wiki page for Sugarcoma (Often written as SugarComa), and their Facebook page looks inactive, but from what I've read in an interview with the bassist, things fizzled out after this album was recorded and released in 2002 due to being dropped by then-record label Music For Nations. The band did do a couple of demos but ultimately it wasn't to be, although they did hold a reunion show in 2013, albeit with a different drummer. As for this album, I've not actually heard it despite having seen the band live three times back in the day so this is going to be a new listening experience, although I was familiar with some of the bands output due to Kerrang! TV and such. One other thing - I can vaguely remember comparisons with another predominately female Nu Metal band - Kittie. Whilst it is true that both bands had females in them, Kittie were heavier but Sugarcoma seemed to do melody better. Here goes...

1) Windings - Sounds like a gothic version of The Runaways. Not too bad and no doubt captures some youthful exuberance with it's punky rhythms and breakdowns. A perfect way to open the album. Alternating mix between clean singing and aggressive growling for vocals.

2) Come Up - Slows things down a bit with a groove-laden song. Nice guitar work which alternates between a meaty riff and some intricate melodies, particularly during the mid-section.

3) Last Orders - Oh yes, this was a good one! Still is, although it's pretty much a product of it's time. Quite a groove behind this while the lead singer (Jessica) roars at you about how she "won't take your orders!" More heavy guitars and another mid-section where things mellow out and get melodic. It doesn't last for long before erupting into the kind of fury I've been known to unleash when getting a negative football result! This song is a good one.

4) Shots - Another one that sounds slightly punky. Alternating between the melodic and shouty vocals (another trait which became part of Nu Metal - this was brought to the table by Burton C. Bell of Fear Factory although he'd 'borrowed' it from Justin in Godflesh). There isn't really much to day about this one other than it no doubt filled a hole somewhere. Kind of has a youth club vibe to it.

5) Stitch It Up - This one is bit of a plodding, lumbering song.I can hear they're trying to go for an atmosphere in this but it doesn't really go anywhere for me. It reminds me of a Therapy? song from , possibly "Lunacy Booth" but not as dark or as oppressive. Shame...

6) Just Like You - Another plodding one, slightly better than the previous one. In fact, this one is VERY good. Seems to be a lot of emotional hurt coming out of this song, Creepy bit before it all kicks off again.

7) Because September Ended - Nah, not feeling this one at all. Alternative flavours and a slight grunge influence but ultimately, it's not grabbing my attention at all. Shame, as it feels like it had potential as if there is a good song trying to bust out of there.

8) Lost Morning - Gentle opening and verses lead to raging choruses which manage to squeeze in some nice melodies. Quite pleasant but not much to write home about.

9) What Comes Round - This was quite popular back in the day, what with being a regular staple on Kerrang! TV, at least before the Britney cover. A song which was a personal fave of mine for a bit, it follows what I call the "Nirvana Formula" in that it has quiet verses and loud choruses. It would go down a storm live. This song is possibly the highlight of the album.

10) Gun - Grooves and thumping drums aplenty! Then we get a minimalist verse before a raging chorus. This one is quite decent. Very raging. I like it. Vocals are doing the alternating thing again - it's about now I'd like to comment on them. Whilst I can appreciate the effort the vocalist is putting in, the heavy vocals aren't tood good in my opinion. They sound too forced and even then there isn't enough force behind them. That's not to say that women can't do heavy, Angela Gossow from Arch Enemy is perfect at heavy vocals. However, the clean vocals are excellent. Melodic and sounding oddly cold as well. A bit like Sean Young in 'Blade Runner'.

11) Start Of The End - Another one of those punk things that isn't too bad, I guess. Nah, it's not landing.

12) (You Drive Me) Crazy - The Britney cover. Avoid. Not a good idea back then and even worse now.

13) Zero Star - Melodic intro which sets a sombre tone. Heavy choruses and melodic verses, just for a change! This also ended up on the music channels a few times as the video was quite elaborate, the band set for disintergration in a security facility but they escaped by posing as the guards or something. Slow mid section where the growls come out to play. They don't sound too bad here which suggests that Jess was starting to master them. A good song all round.

Well, that was interesting. On one hand there was a lot of promise shown on some of those tracks and on the other, it seemed like the band had ran out of ideas and were just noodling. One interview reckoned the label had forced them to drop half their set in favour of writing more chorusy, anthemic songs which would certainly explain why half the songs on here are like a tiger with no claws and the other half are ragers. It's a shame that record companies get involved like this but I guess they gotta protect their investment. It could have been worse - they could have roped in Desmond Child to write some sickly ballads and Bob Rock produced them! By all means, get this album if you're a fan of alternative stuff but I think it's best left back in 2002. Things may have worked out different and Sugarcoma might have became a band who conquered the world, but I personally cannot hear anything on here to suggest that scenario was ever to be likely. Sorry!

4 - Well it's alright, but still...

Chris J

Top Track: What Goes Round

This album is available on iTunes.

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