Ill Niño is still around? Holy shit. I think I last crossed paths with these nü-metal veterans back in 2003, when they were on stage opening for Anthrax and I was throwing coins and lit cigarettes at them [Ah, shit. Objectivity out the window after the first sentence. Also, you’re a fucking dick, dude. – AMG]. Now, all these years later, Ill Niño has a new album out called Epidemia, and I’m reviewing it. This is either proof that there is no god, or that Angry Metal Guy hates me, take your pick [It could also be proof that god is a wrathful god and that you’ve been a naughty, naughty, naughty boy. For example, one time I heard you were throwing cigarettes at an opening band like a real dick. – AMG].
Longtime fans will be relieved to know that the basic Ill Niño sound has not been altered. This is still 2nd-rate nü-metal/metalcore with bad vocals, along with the occasional bit of Latin percussion to keep it real. If anything, the band has exchanged some of the more blatant nu-metal elements for slightly more technical riffing and predictable “yelling verse/singing chorus” song structure, which I guess takes these guys out of 1998 and drops them squarely in 2004. Great.
Vocalist Cristian Machado is as two-dimensional as ever, the first dimension being your typical metal screaming, and the 2nd being heavily effected/AutoTuned clean singing. This dude is totally generic and non-noteworthy, other than his uncanny ability to sing through AutoTune and still sound out of tune. Judging by song titles like “The Depression” and “Forgive Me Father,” Machado is still singing about standard ’90s metal themes, despite being far too old to still have issues with his parents (unless they grounded him for 15 years). The rest of the band is faceless but at least competent at their instruments, which leaves Machado as both the band’s most recognizable member and their weakest link.
At a mere 37 minutes long, the album still feels repetitive, and these songs are all pretty much interchangeable. I may not care for this band, but it seems to me that they could play up the whole “Latin music” angle to come up with something slightly more interesting. I mean, if that’s their thing, why not try a song with flamenco guitar and blastbeats? A horn section maybe? That would at least be unique. There’s tiny hints of potential on a few tracks, like “Death Wants More,” and they work pretty well. But for all intents and purposes, Ill Niño is pretty much Chimaira with a few lyrics en español.
It’s interesting to notice that as time passes, the whole nü-metal era takes on a nostalgic value for some people. In the midwestern United States, I’d bet there’s a shitload of folks in their late 20s who would call in sick to their shifts at Walmart to go see bands like Static-X, Ill Niño, or Hed PE (who happen to be the support act on the Epidemia tour). This is fundamentally no different from the old-schoolers who still pay to see Dokken or Warrant, except with more stretched earlobes and bad tribal tattoos. Mark my words — there’s a whole generation of kids who grew up on this horrible shit, and their nostalgia will inevitably fuel a comeback of every crappy nu-metal band that ever existed. In fact, it’s already begun.
Okay, back to Epidemia. I can’t really say anything positive to recommend this album, other than that it sounds precisely like Ill Niño. I have to respect these guys for staying true to themselves — they began with a gimmicky, one-dimensional style, and they have stuck with it all the way to the present day. Most bands that played this kind of stuff have either gone full metal (Soulfly, Chimaira) or moved on to even more horrible subgenres (Korn, Linkin Park, Staind), so if you need your fix of boneheaded Ozzfest-era metal, Epidemia should tide you over until the inevitable Disturbed reunion.