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Well...this sucks. - 65%

GravesOfTheFathers, October 7th, 2007

The genre of southern rock-infused metal and metalcore has become more popular in recent years. Between The Buried and Me tend to have at least one southern rock-influenced part on each of their albums, Every Time I Die has been a pioneer of the style for seven years, and Lamb of God capitalized on Pantera's version of it with Sacrament. However, most of these bands went to shit when their members realized that you can only do so much with a few groovy riffs and blues solos combined with screaming and flashy guitar work. While ETID and LOG are gaining popularity because of their progression and willingness to experiment a bit, ALOL is doing the same thing they've been doing all along, albeit worse.

While their last effort, Hunter, retained a sort of charm because of its unapologetic Meshuggah and Pantera worshipping, Iron Gag is simply a mixture of ideas that don't work. The first track, Firewater Joyride, is something that could've been on Down's NOLA, minus the vocals. This track, unlike most on the record, is groovy, fun, and packs a punch. Bob's vocals are at a significantly lower register tha on Hunter, which unfortunately limits both their ability to cut through the mix and unique quality. Here, he just sounds like the mediocre lovechild of Phil Anselmo and Jens Kidman. Gone are Hunter's raspy, tormented screams. The vocal work here is messy, boring, and far too low in the mix.

Just when you thought the production from Hunter couldn't get any worse...it did. The mids of the guitars are WAY too fucking high, and although the solo tone is nice and pretty, the guitars dominate the mix far too much. Of course, given Bob's vocals, this might not be a bad thing. The bass drums are clicky as hell and far too quiet. Two thumbs way, way the fuck down.

As for the songwriting, here's the formula: decent (not mindblowing) riff 10X, boring chorus, more of the riff, solo, end. It sucks. Even Firewater Joyride and Ill Will, the best songs on the album, couldn't be saved from the crappy formula. Oh, and that reminds me: the riffs are lame as hell. Instead of the blues-tinged polyrhythmic chugging present on Hunter, we're left with a bare-bones copy of Pantera and Lamb of God. The solos are much, much better, but an overabundance of whammy bar and stupid Dragonforce-esque "noise" almost ruins them. Some of the riffs are far too rhythmically oriented for my taste, often bordering on nu-metal.

Pretty much every song except the first and last track are filler. If you're an ALOL fan, buy Firewater Joyride and Ill Will (if anything) from iTunes and skip the rest. Let's hope the band gets their shit together for their next release.