Noise Pollution are an Italian band with a tenuous grip on the English language and an equally shaky understanding of good music. And honestly, if this is what you’re going to call your band, it better be tongue-in-cheek and your band better not suck, or you’re just asking for it in a review. Billed as a “Hard ‘n’ Heavy” band, the promo material for these guys is entertaining. They’ve been around for more than ten years but are “interesting newcomers,” and apparently have found themselves in “stage sharing situations” with bands like Black Stone Cherry and Airbourne. Whether that means they rushed the stage at concerts or opened for them at some point, I have no idea, but apparently, we can expect music along the same lines as those bands.
What it actually means is that on Unreal, Noise Pollution’s second album, the band are trying to mine the same grooves and vibes as bands like Five Finger Death Punch and Black Stone Cherry. The album opens with “Breaking Down,” a groove-heavy number that introduces us to the first of the nonsensical song lyrics. “Do you want it, you feel it, your life is breaking down,” the singer whispers menacingly over a rising synth line. I don’t understand. In fact, I don’t understand most of the lyrics on Unreal, when I can even decipher them. The singer’s thick Italian accent coupled with the obviously phonetic pronunciation means most of the time the lyrics come across as pure gibberish. Just sing in Italian if you don’t know English guys, nobody will hold it against you.
Okay, sorry about that rant. Back to the music. Noise Pollution go for thick, downtuned groovy riffs throughout, and song openers such as “Breaking Down,” “Shame,” and “MAD” show that the band can produce some decent, if generic, leads. Sadly, the songs are never as interesting as the openings promise, and we’re left with a feeling of sameness [Watch it, buddy…. – Steel Druhm] due to the lack of imagination in the arrangements and lack of skill on the instruments. The songs aren’t completely awful, and in fact border on okay, but Unreal as an album just can’t maintain what little momentum the sporadically decent riffs generate. Heck, the title track is a power ballad with no charisma, and album closer “Full of Dreams,” with lines like “I’ve never tried to be better than the others, I’ve always tried just to be the best,” is an even worse ballad, bringing Unreal to a merciful conclusion ten songs too late.
Much like the promo spiel and song lyrics, the production, mix, and arrangement are all puzzling. Take “Breaking Down” – what starts as a heavy, groovy number (and makes one think this might be an unintelligibly good record) suddenly has weird keyboards playing around distractedly in the background. “MAD” pans the guitars and toms hard left and right in a gimmicky fashion much like a first-time mixing engineer would do. Vocals on “Gone Forever” are at least twice as loud as anywhere else on the record. Nearly every song features horrible drum samples too, although they do differ from track to track, the worst being the incredibly cheesy and dated sounds on “Full of Dreams.”
A half-dozen plays through, Unreal just makes me giggle more than it did upon first listen. The band is trying to find that modern metal radio-friendly groove that a zillion other bands aim for, and for brief moments at the beginning of some songs they show us that groove, but the overall performances combined with the ESL lyrics and sketchy production leave the record sadly wanting. My fiancée says “well you need to give them a 1.5 for even trying,” but I just can’t bring myself to be that generous. Anyone can put out a shitty album without trying.