Friday, July 7, 2017

Album Review: Corroded - "Defcon Zero"

It’s entirely possible that you may have heard Corroded without ever knowing that it was Corroded.  The band came to some fame after writing some music for the Battlefield series of video games, and once you pop in their new album “Defcon Zero,” the mental links start to get made.

Corroded lives at the intersection of Disturbed, Rob Zombie and Texas Hippie Coalition, an intersection of roads that has found itself mostly populated by tumbleweeds and dust in this new millennium.  There was a time when this straight-ahead, accessible and thumping brand of metal was all too common and all but ruled mainstream alternative radio.  Somewhere along the road there was oversaturation, too many one-offs and one-hit wonders like Drowning Pool and Union Underground, and ultimately a glacially slow, agonizing death at the hands of bands like Puddle of Mudd and P.O.D.

There have been blips of hope that the once proud and downright dominant style may not lay dormant forever.  The Showdown, Meldrum, the early days of Five Finger Death Punch, even Volbeat and PAIN have tapped back into the vein and allowed just enough blood to flow to keep the heartbeat low but detectable.

Corroded, releasing their first album in five years, is helping to keep that heart beating.

The first five songs of “Defcon Zero” by these ambitious Swedes are all capable of burrowing into your brain and demanding that your foot tap their easy beats while you’re working or studying or drinking coffee or whatever.  Each one may not seem like an aggressive earwig when you first hear it, but allow your brain to settle and don’t be shocked when the riffs and hook-laden choruses come flooding back.

The record begins with “Carry Me My Tired Bones,” which plays into a lot of stereotypes of melodic metal, but executes them well and proves why they’re stereotypes.  There’s a gentle, fragile acoustic opening that flits along for almost a minute until the first signs of a dark-clouded riff loom in the background, eventually overtaking the melody with driving percussion and a muddy guitar sludge that slops out notes.

Jumping past the next two cuts (only for time, not because they’re not worthy of comment,) we land on “Fall of a Nation.”  The song is the album’s battery, even among an album of batteries.  The action is nonstop, the vocals of the chorus are delivered with a wry precision that recalls an amalgam of several different familiar vocalists, and we hear throughout the track a slow double kick which does not seek to blow us away with tempo, but instead provides the song an intelligible and infectious heartbeat.  The medium-paced double kick is an often-overlooked tool in the metal arsenal, seemingly mastered and employed only by Overkill, though now Corroded demonstrates that they also understand its value.

Rounding out the first five cuts, the album arrives at “Vessels of Hate,” which comes equipped with a ready-made chanting chorus and a simple riff that allows enough open space for the chords to breathe and create an atmosphere of energy.  The song is really just a vehicle for the lofty chorus, but as lofty choruses go, it’s a strong entry.

Backing off the praise momentarily, here’s the other side of “Defcon Zero”: Corroded does such an impressive job of building momentum and carrying it through the first five songs that the rest of the album can’t possibly maintain that pace and execution.  “Day of Judgment” takes its foot off the gas for just a moment, and the album’s stride stumbles.

This gets paired in tandem with the earnest but frankly mundane and comparatively tame power ballad of “A Note to Me,” and after that “Defcon Zero” never really recovers.  The songs that come after attempt to pick up the pace and re-assert the album’s strength with some success, but the damage of “A Note to Me” has been done, especially in light of the fact that the last four cuts are fine, but not superior to the first five.

Anyway, let’s be clear, and let this be the takeaway – “Defcon Zero” is an album with five absolutely badass songs on it, and that’s more than enough to declare the album great.  It just so happens that all five songs are stacked at the front of the record, which makes for an efficient listen if nothing else.  While the songs aren’t revolutionary, they don’t need to be, either – their resurrection of an almost dead style, however momentary, is reason enough to celebrate.

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