Saturday, August 9, 2003

Review: Today I Died - History (2003)

Today I Died

It seems that along with the success of Ozzfest and bands such as Static-X, Slipknot, and Linkin Park  there has been an explosion of hardcore/emo/nu-metal bands that have latched on to the style of the genre's forerunners. Bands such as Memento, Shadows Fall, and Nothingface  have flooded the commercial metal scene, all bearing a striking resemblance to one another both in look and sound. Unlike many reviewers, I don't find originality to be the make-or-break criteria by which to judge the success of a band. While it is always a thrill to be knocked on my ass by some unique sound or style, I think it is equally important for a band to be able to rise to success through proficient musicianship and solid songwriting. So on one hand we have bands like Shadows Fall  who are clones to the extreme yet fail to do justice to their influences and instead spew elementary music that can't measure up to the lowest expectations, while on the other we have newcomers Today I Died - a southern California band teeming with energy, emotion, and (most importantly) talent.

History is Today I Died's debut EP and it is rooted solidly in the style of metal that I rambled on about in the preceding paragraph. Opening the disc with "The Day Before Tomorrow", guitarists John Robertson and Byron Forthman, along with Robert Bethel on bass, lay down the expected downtuned riffs and lines with commendable skill. Vocalist Craig Patin delivers the introspective lyrics with convincing emotion whether it be through snarled whispers, tortured screams, or clean vox. Where some singers in this genre mask their lack of vocal ability with constant screaming and "brutal" shouts, Craig displays true talent through his wide range of styles. Up next is "Simple", and here is a song that totally blew me away. This is by far TID at their best. Commencing with an unaccompanied riff that gives a feeling of calm before the storm, Bethel's bass soon joins in sounding like the occasional clap of thunder in the distance. Craig and drummer Fred Aguilera enter the mix and all hell breaks loose. The riffs chug like a runaway locomotive while Bethel's bass lines dance just below the surface and Craig alternates between impassioned singing and furious shouts. Toss in a bit of a psychedelic solo and you have what is to me the zenith of History. Being a departure from the textbook hardcore of the rest of the album, "Simple" defines what TID is capable of in terms of original composition and a tight, flawless execution thereof. The fourth track, "Better Days" is what I would consider to be the most radio-friendly song on the album with another nice riff and Craig's occasionally effected voice belting out the lyrics with ardor. A sense of familiarity comes with listening to this song, which makes it a candidate for success in the mainstream.

For those looking for something new and fresh, with few exceptions History is probably not the place to be conducting your search. If you're a fan of solid songwriting and excellent musicianship, whatever the style of metal, then Today I Died is a band worth checking out. Visit their page at IUMA, listen to their songs, and drop them an email. As of the writing of this review History was free for the asking, so pick it up and spread the word.

Track Listing
1 The Day Before Tomorrow
2 Simple
3 Paralyzed
4 Better Days
5 Grace

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