Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Album Story: Confession (2003)

Writing the album: "It's going to be more of everything. More heavy parts, more commercial parts, more singing, more screaming, more acoustic guitars, more samples," drummer Dave Chavarri said in an interview in 2002 about their upcoming second full-length release. The band started writing new material on their Revolution Revolución tour, which lasted for 20 months. In late 2002 the band recorded the first demos, "About Them", "Every Day", "Make Me Feel" and "When It Cuts". All 4 songs leaked to the internet. Vocalist Cristian Machado doesn't really think it was a bad thing, but wished that the band "would be able to put something out that we feel that is final at least. And then we would even go as far as releasing it on the Internet ourselves." Machado claims that the demos were experimental, the band "would never release these demos publically, because obviously a lot of things on the demo weren't things we were into. You might get the wrong representation of the band."

The pre-production process: In early April 2003 the band started pre-production with Bob Marlette (Saliva, Black Sabbath). "It was great with Bob," bassist Laz Pina claims, "he really helped the band to stay focused and really wanted us to express ourselves individually." Roughly 26 songs/ideas were written. Chavarri: "we let every individual member go home and create on their own what they're feeling and what speaks to them musically and what makes them do music for the art of it. After that we’ll get together and jam together and have all the riffs and ideas surface and we’ll start putting the songs together and start creating jams. Jam on one part, jam on another part and see what works and what doesn’t work." In the end the band was bringing the number of songs down to 15-16. Recording officially started on April 15th at the Water Music Studios in Hoboken, New Jersey. In May (05.09) the band announced the departure of guitarist Marc Rizzo and percussionist Roger Vasquez. "We're parting as friends," Chavarri stated. "In fact, Marc is playing guitar on the record totally living up to his commitment to the band." Pina: "they discovered they needed to leave the band. Unfortunately, they told us two days before we were due to enter a studio!" A month later (06.23) the new members were announced: guitarist Ahrue Luster (ex-Machine Head) and percussionist Danny Couto (ex-Point4Hope).

Participants: After three months into songwriting, Ill Niño had to stop and look for new members. "Everything changed and that influenced some of the writing on the record," Pina claims. Rizzo still recorded guitar parts for 10 songs. Luster, who didn't come in until the last part of the recording process, recorded guitars for the songs "Te Amo...I Hate You", "Cleansing" and "Have You Ever Felt?". Couto and Joe Rodriguez (The Brew) did all percussion on the album. Omar Clavijo did all programming, turntables and keys for the album, the piano tracks for "Numb" and "All The Right Words" were done by producer Marlette. Guitarist Mikey Doling (Soulfly, Snot) and vocalist Max Illidge (40 Below Summer) were additional members on respectively "Two (vaya con dios)" and "Have You Ever Felt?"

Mixing the album: The mixdown of the album started in late June with mixing vet Michael Barbiero (Anthrax, lostprophets, Guns'N'Roses). All songs except "How Can Live" where mixed at the Soundtrack Studios in NYC. "How Can Live" was mixed by Jay Baumgardner (Coal Chamber, Papa Roach) at NRG Recording, No. Hollywood, CA. On 07.21.03 Roadrunner Records announced that the mixing and mastering was done for the album and that it would be in stores September 30th. There were no delays this time and the album was officially released at September 30th 2003, with a standard bonus track; a Spanish version of "How Can I Live".

Musical direction: "On this record the Latin stuff is a lot more Latin," Luster said, "the heavy stuff is heavier, the melodic stuff is more melodic. I think that the sounds blend together more on this record." Pina claims that the new album "has more Latino tribal rhythm. It’s got a little bit of everything while still maintaining the integrity of what the band is." Musically, the album sounds different from Ill Niño's first full-length. Pina: "We didn’t want to do the same record twice. We wanted a new record and we wanted to keep it interesting. We just feel that we have a lot to offer in music and we wanted to bring that out."

Meaning of the lyrics: The album title reflects Machado's lyrical confessions in the songs. "A lot of things and experiences that I've gone through in my life, it's good to get them out and just write about them and past that point in my life. And it's a lyrical concept also. If you gonna write about something, it's good to write about something that's very interesting and I found my life to be a pretty interesting thing." Machado's lyrics are deeper and more personal on this album: the lyrics are “about coming clean with your thoughts, your past experiences, and within yourself. It’s about telling the truth, not only to others, but also to yourself.” Good examples are "Unframed", which is about Machado's real father he had not known for almost 20 years after his birth, and "Numb", which is about a groupie Machado fell in love with.

The cover art for Confession shows hands holding a rosary. "When you look at the hands," Machado said, "the hands are praying and they're being put together, but the index fingers are crossed. (...) With crossing your fingers you hope that luck is on your side. It's supposedly from a religious point of view luck doesn't exist, everything is not to be. So it's a praying with the hoping that luck is on your site, it's like belief and disbelief. It's an opposite of what it's really supposed to be. It's kinda like what I did lyrically."

The success: Confession sold 27,863 copies its first week and debuted at #37 on the Billboard Top 200 chart and #8 on the Hard Music chart. The first single "How Can I Live" was #28 on the Mainstream Rock charts, #31 on the Active Rock charts, and #30 on the Heritage Rock charts. In the December issue of Guitar World, Ill Niño was a part of the "Masters Of Brutality: The 10 Metal Bands You Need To Know...Now!" list. The second single for the album was "This Time's For Real", which did well too. Eventually, the album nearly reached the "Gold" status, selling almost 500,000 copies. In late 2006 more than 550.000 copies were sold.

B-sides: After the official release, a French version of "Confession" was released with 3 bonus tracks, b-sides "I'll Find A Way" and "Someone Or Something" and a mix of "How Can I Live".

• Passages of Album Reviews
"Bombastic journalist criticisms aside, Ill Nino have created an extremely solid numetal release in Confessions. Any supporter of the modern popular metal scene should do themselves a favour and check the album out. In the phantasmagoric numetal arena, Ill Nino stands clearly above all challengers, having successfully created an extremely unique and palatable forty-five-odd-minute release."
- The Hobo Review (Rocknworld)

"If you were a fan before, then Confession will be your ideal album. If you weren’t convinced before, then you won’t be now."
- Justin Donnelly (Blistering)

"Confession takes ill niño to the next level; and it’s a stratospheric experience for any listener."
- Del Harvey (fmSound)

"One thing with metal bands is that so often their live shows add a whole new dimension to a recording and having been lucky enough to have seen Ill Niño live myself, I know that this band can tear any venue apart when they play there and listening to an album simply doesn't compare, but this still is a brutal album with killer riffs and some powerful production and it's about as good as you can get in recorded form… and besides, it closes with a nod to their Latino roots by repeating the second track, 'How Can I Live?' in Español!"
- Tim Cashmere (Undercover)

"While Linkin Park could be seen as a favourable comparison, it is not when you look at Ill Nino's previous album. 'Revolution Revolucion' was bursting with passion; punching you in the stomach with a silken boxing glove. 'Confession' in comparison is an insipid, tinny and watered down version of their former sound, following a neat tried-and-tested recipe, all the time becoming a part of the rock mainstream. This might have a wider appeal but existing fans may be disappointed with this dull album."
- Nicola W (MetalUK)

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