Album Review
by SashaS

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Ill Nino: 'One Nation Underground'
Ill Nino: rocking over typecasting

From the dumbest pop to the loudest Heavy Metal, it looks like musicians have been ploughing/harvesting the same ruts for far too long. Stagnation, confirmation and replication appear to be the currency of the contemporary musical output. It’s been a long while since Metallica really pulled something out of the bag [of old tricks]. It rather seems that the same set of influences is dragged out to be recycled again and then some.

But Sepultura and then Soulfly expended the HM rock vocabulary by dipping into their ethnic origins and infusing the genre with some richer sonic vein. Ill Nino took a leaf out of their example and employed it on their first duo of albums. Alas, the members still felt somewhat constrained by self-imposed limitations. So, for their third album, ‘One Nation Underground’, the band decided to act on impulse and do what ever felt natural, even if it seemed unconventional.

“We wanted to make a record that would make us happy as musicians first and foremost,” says vocalist Cristian Machado. They jammed in different Latin rhythms to produce the most intense and challenging album thus far. ‘This Is War’ begins as a remarkable brew of textural chants, propulsive riffs, scouring vocals and a memorable melodic chorus, then shifts into a Latin jam reminiscent of Santana. ‘Everything Beautiful’ starts with tribal instrumentation, then builds through a jagged riff and yearning vocal redolent of Tool.

Elements of Latino heritage, including tribal percussion, flamenco guitars and impassioned lyrics are still present but they’ve been breaking new ground by reflecting the savagery, rage, disillusionment, beauty and melancholy the band members felt within and could see around them. It is all mirrored in Machado‘s lyrics, now more socially aware.

“The easiest thing to do is write about relationships and your family,” Machado explains. “It's much harder to make observations about the world around you. This record is about society being controlled and divided through all sorts of different influences - both internal and external. It's about looking at the world around you and realizing that there are things that are going on that are hidden from normal people like you and I, so that's why record is called ‘One Nation Underground’.”

Still, not all of ‘One Nation Underground’ is accusatory or politicised. ‘My Resurrection’, for instance, is about figuratively washing away the sins of the soul and being born again. The lead single ‘What You Deserve’ is about the consequences faced when you think you know it all.

“It's about the circumstances,” Machado elucidates, “that come with believing we actually have the answers to everything. When we turn knowledge into a possession, and intelligence into a vanity, we leave no room for possibilities.”

‘One Nation Underground’ is Ill Nino at their most intricate, intriguing whilst balling out the carcass of predictability.


Ill Nino’s album ‘One Nation Underground’ is released 26 September 2005 by Roadrunner