Breed 77 (that\’s \”seven-seven,\” not \”seventy-seven,\” in case you were wondering) hail from the British territory of Gibraltar, an area which shares a land border with Spain to the north and takes its name from an Arabic term for \”mountain of Tariq\” – and no, I am not going to elaborate on the obvious \”Rock of Gibraltar\” joke. Founded in 1996, the group built up a steady underground following and a number of awards, including Kerrang! magazine\’s \”Best Unsigned Band\” in 1998 and \”Best New Band\” from both Kerrang! and Metal Hammer in 1999 before signing to a five-album deal with British label Albert Productions. IN MY BLOOD (EN MI SANGRE) is the group\’s third full-length release for Albert and in many ways appears to be a reflection of their homeland – a mixture of cultures, styles, and influences.
Before I go any further, let me say that if you are made violently ill by the mention of nu-metal or alternative-rock inflences, stop reading right now.
For those who are still here, Breed 77 – unlike any of a dozen or more cookie-cutter acts who infest the airwaves today – do offer something decidedly different in their approach, incorporating flamenco-style guitar, percussion, and rhythms as well as occasional North African/Arabic-influenced interludes into their metal-tinged alt-rock music. Produced by Rod \”The Saint\” Germain – the man responsible for production on such acts as Tool and Soundgarden – IN MY BLOOD delivers a clear, crisp blend of instrumentation and vocals that is sure to fit perfectly into the radio rotation occupied by the aforementioned acts. Album opener \”Petrolo (You Will Be King)\” starts off well enough with a flamenco introduction launching into a crunchy metallic riff before vocalist Paul Isola enters for the first verse and unfortunately throws a monkey wrench into the works. Isola\’s voice varies from aggressive roar to soft melodic falsetto on various cuts, but most of the time he sounds a bit like Layne Staley (Alice In Chains) in general tone and especially in the vocal-harmony construction of the choruses. This actually works out pretty well for much of the album, but in the aforementioned verse it just doesn\’t seem to fit. One thing that -does- fit surprisingly well is the use of Isola\’s bilingual lyrics, alternating between English and Spanish in many of the songs – and usually sounding better in the latter language.
Felice and López are both talented axemen, cutting loose with some killer solos interspersed amongst the songs, and there are the occasional heavy, driving riffs here and there, especially on tracks like the heavily flamenco-influenced \”Remember That Day\” and the angry \”Blind,\” but for the most part this is an album obviously aimed at being radio-friendly. Cuts like \”So You Know,\” the System Of A Down-ish \”Empty Words,\” and especially the rock-ballad \”Look At Me Now\” are sure-fire \”hits\” complete with big, catchy choruses and easily-digestible melodies. That doesn\’t mean they\’re bad songs, but they may be a bit too commercially-oriented for the palates of many metalheads. The subjects of the \”statement\” songs like the opener and the closing track \”Tears\” (which features a children\’s choir singing the chorus on the outro…depending on your point of view, this is either an effective reinforcement of the song\’s theme of how war affects us all…or a colossal mistake) tread a relatively familiar route, taking shots at the current U.S. administration and the war in the Middle East. And while normally I don\’t comment on appearances, I have to say the photos in the booklet really do make the band members look like they\’re ready to go on tour with Enrique Iglesias.
On the whole, I must admit I do like the album. The lyrics are good, the songs are well-written and well-executed, and the variety of styles incorporated into the mix provides enough variety to keep things from completely falling into \”safe\” territory. That said, this is an album that\’s bound to appeal more to alternative rock fans than it will to dyed-in-the-bloodsoaked-wool metalheads, so let the buyer beware.
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