Thursday, February 07, 2008

Once Nothing - First Came the Law CD Review

Recently there really hasn’t been anything coming out of the Solid State Records camp to get hyped up about. Demon Hunter put out the quite underwhelming Storm the Gates of Hell. Oh Sleeper weren’t really anything to write home about and didn’t possess anything unique. Cry of the Afflicted showed that they don’t know how to do anything more than blatantly rip off Saosin. Haste the Day’s latest was a joke. It’s simply been a tough time for the Tooth & Nail Records imprint. Trying to break out of their slump, they’ve put out the debut album from Once Nothing -- First Came the Law.

It’s totally understandable if you really don’t have any burning desire to give these guys a chance considering their label’s recent track record, but you’ll really be missing out on a great album if you let this one slide by. Truthfully, Once Nothing are doing nothing utterly unique or ground breaking, but it’s readily apparent that they know this. They know the confines and stigma attached to the genres that they’re blending together into a potent mix of southern rock and crushing metalcore spiced up with some Botch and Norma Jean influences. Because they are quite self aware of what their musical climate is, they are able to play to the strengths of having that knowledge.

Southern metal, arguably, has been done to done to death lately, with the genre even influencing some decidedly un-southern bands (check out Still Remains' latest for a prime example), and there have been some great albums to surface in the last year that take the southern metal genre to their pinnacle, like the latest albums from Maylene and the Sons of Disaster and Down. However, this doesn’t stop Once Nothing from giving it a go and giving us one hell of a ride.

Throughout most of the album, you’ll hear a band that has a swagger, a lot of confidence in themselves, and the ability to drill through you with some heavy as hell breakdowns & riffs. Some of this is no doubt due to the immaculate production that is a staple of Solid State releases. Every level has been perfectly set and when songs are supposed to hit you, they freaking hit you.

Now, having said that, this album does have a few weak points, foremost being the fact that many people will think that this is nothing more than a band hopping on a popular trend. If that’s why the band came together and wrote this album, well, so be it. That doesn’t change the fact that they know how to write some quality southern metalcore, especially when it comes to getting the vocals down. There’s no clean singing here. It’s all gritty, whiskey soaked and loud. Well, except on “My Sweet Medusa”, which happens to be another weak point. The song is an acoustic number complete with harmonica and sung vocals… placed right in the middle of the album, totally destroying any pace the album had going for it. The final track, “…And Then Came Grace”, is also extremely weak, but outside of those two tracks, you’ve still got 10 solid tunes.

And how solid those tracks are. Really, when I think about it, this is what the latest record from The Showdown should have sounded like instead of the watered down tripe they called a sophomore effort. Seamlessly switching gears between bludgeoning metalcore breakdowns and groovy, thick southern rock licks is what this band does best. They may telegraph their transitions, but it's done it a way that actually helps the songwriting instead of hindering it. If only more bands could be this solid on their debut albums.

Southern metal hasn’t quite reached its saturation point yet, but it could be getting there soon. Before that happens, however, make sure to give Once Nothing a listen. They know what they’re doing -- creating huge songs that will keep you spin-kicking the night away, all while wearing a cowboy hat and set of spurs.

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