Review: Ill Nino – ‘Enigma’

Posted: March 9th, 2008
Contributed By: Nick

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Release Date: March 11th, 2008 via Cement Shoes
Ill Nino is:
Christian Machado (Vocals)
Ahru Luster (Guitar)
Diego Verduzco (Guitar)
Laz Pina (Bass)
Danny Couto (Percussion)
Dave Chavarri (Drums)

Overview: If the JetBlue fiasco (where a full plane of passengers sat and waited and waited…and waited for almost ten hours for their plane not to take off) of February 2007 had a soundtrack, it would be Ill Nino’s latest album ‘Enigma‘. The band’s last full length to make it to the streets was 2005′s ‘One Nation Underground‘, but with little label support at the time, the album was swept under the rug and Ill Nino unceremoniously severed ties with then label, Roadrunner Records. It was not long, however that the sextet found a new label home with Dan Catullo’s Cement Shoes Records, and to tide fans over until their next opus, Ill Nino snuck an EP in stores entitled ‘The Under Cover Sessions‘ in November 2006. The band promised the new album was around the corner, even offering tastes and samples of various tracks from the forthcoming disc in subsequent months after the EP’s release. ‘Enigma‘, the branding of Ill Nino’s fourth album, has been “supposed to come out” for more than a year now, but maybe, and just maybe, March 11, 2008 will bring solace to everyone chomping at the bit in anticipation of the band’s new material.

The Good: From front to back, ‘Enigma‘ is Ill Nino’s most intrepid affair, as it takes the strongest, boldest moments from the band’s previous works and infuses them with a keen sense of growth and maturity. “The Alibi of Tyrants” gets the ball rolling, a blistering tirade that picks up right where Ill Nino left off and proves the band has not lost any of its bravado. “Pieces of the Sun” is a cutting blend of hulky and disjointed riffs, coupled with pulsating percussion work for a match made in heaven and “Finger Painting (With the Enemy)” is combative and pugnacious, with still enough sparkle and shine to make it digestible enough for anyone. Ill Nino apes on its former smash “How Can I Live” in the track “March Against Me”, with the latter tune boasting a much more ambient and reflective repertoire, and the band sneaks into your senses with brooding, yet deceptively catchy “Formal Obsession”, which showcases front-man Cristian Machado belting out his most violent and chaotic growls to date. Ill Nino takes a unique approach in “Hot Summer’s Tragedy”, an Arabian-tinged, marching inspired trip, which is followed by “Me Gusta La Soledad”, a folk-ballad done Ill Nino style delivered entirely in Spanish, complete with an enviable and enveloping sense of detail. “2012″ hastily erupts with a bang, but is quickly over matched by the song’s towering and mature canvas of melody. The back end of ‘Enigma‘ is galvanized tremendously by the sprightly and anthem patterned “Guerilla Carnival”, and the band retreats to its flavor of the week in “Estoy Perdino”, a smooth and impassioned date with epic, 90′s riffage (listen and you will understand). Machado jeopardizes the future of his vocal cords in the galloping, punchy “Kellogg’s, Bombs, and Cracker Jacks”, featuring some of his gruffest moments behind the microphone that makes one of the strongest tracks musically on the album glisten even more. ‘Enigma‘ arrives at its last stand by way of “De Sangre Hermosa”, a revelatory powerhouse that emanates urgency. The zenith of ‘Enigma‘ is blatantly obvious once “Compulsion of Virus and Fear” starts to take effect; the song, sounding as close to ‘Revolution…Revolucion‘ Ill Nino has gotten since its release, is a truculent, visceral shakedown that morphs into a whimsical Flamenco-laden bridge that would even make Santana put on a studded bracelet and Chuck Taylors and get in the pit.

The Bad: Of course, I could fault Ill Nino for making the wait for this album what it has been-agonizing. However, because the issue lies within record label politics, the band is off the hook. Despite being one fortress of an album, ‘Enigma‘ comes complete with a few soft spots. The most notable drawback to ‘Enigma‘ is the lack of sturdy and memorable choruses that standout above the rest of the songs, one of the primary niches for Ill Nino’s music; while some of the choruses are solid, most fail to hold up to the band’s previous works, and can cause the tunes to lose some of their punch. The middles of songs on ‘Enigma‘ tend to mirror each other at times, which could cause listeners to skip out on some of the tracks early and miss the arrival of some of the band’s most astute work.

Bottomline: They say good things come to those who wait, and that cliche is bolstered once again by Ill Nino’s fourth album ‘Enigma‘. The heavies are the heaviest Ill Nino has ever been, while the mellow moments are the band’s most serene and sultry. Being a drummer, I was elated to hear just how much more prevalent the drumwork of Chavarri and Couto is on ‘Enigma‘, as well as fluent use of Spanish over English in far more situations than ever before. Yes, it is safe to say that Ill Nino’s latest offering is aptly titled, as this is certainly their most enigmatic collection of cuts, proving their unwavering approach to their craft. ‘Enigma‘ is kind of like that Guns ‘n Roses album ‘Chinese Democracy‘…oh no sorry, people actually cared about and wanted to hear the new Ill Nino after such a lengthy wait, and rightfully so-this album is the tits.

Rating: 9 out of 10