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New Sonic Territory
By Hunter Embry
Despite the emergence and subsequent free fall of rap-metal, a subgenre that 311 helped to create, 311 has managed to fare better than its contemporaries. By mixing reggae, rap, metal and rock, 311 has kept a steadily ambitious tour schedule since the mid-Nineties, while recording nine studio albums. The bands most recent effort, Uplifter (Volcano), is a heavy, but polished addition to the catalogue that has its tendencies.
The album opener, "Hey You," is Uplifter in a nutshell. The track begins with a surging guitar riff fighting against a peppy, crisp, snared drumbeat before breaking into a deep-voiced reggae-styled verse that's grooved by a swerving bass line. The transitions are flawless and fitting, but the chanting chorus sends the song into a seemingly forced pop realm. Throughout Uplifter, the musicianship is left to save the too-close-to-corny vocal styles.
"India Ink" is the heaviest 311 has ever sounded. The thick-toned bass and almost clean guitar tone crunch hit hard taking turns with the hollow snare, while the vocals revert to the late '90s white boy flow with words pronounced carefully and fast. It's eye-rolling at best, but the chorused choruses and psychedelic breakdowns make it the earlier vocal ramblings excusable.
Despite the frequent vocal fallbacks, Uplifter is a stellar album and forward movement into a new sonic territory that's befitting and engaging. It's '09 mixed with '99 vocal techniques.
Check it out over at 311.com.