Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Album Story: One Nation Underground (2005)

Writing the album: At the end of 2004, just after releasing the DVD "Live From The Eye Of The Storm", the band started writing new music for their 3rd full-length album on Roadrunner Records. Cristian Machado, songwriter for Ill Niño, earlier claimed that the album was going to be about controversial subjects, concentrating more on world politics. "We're home now writing new music for our third CD, which is sounding fucking brutal, and will be much heavier than our past two efforts," drummer Dave Chavarri posted on the official site. "We start recording in February 2005, and (the album) is to be released in the summer of 2005!"

Recording the album: In the third week of February 2005 the recording process for the new album started. All band members are claiming the new album is much heavier than both "Revolution Revolución" and "Confession" and still percussive, Latin and melodic. The band's A&R Rep, Mike Gitter, references Slayer and Mars Volta. "Sheer brutality melded with real Latin jams ala Santana at his peak," according to Gitter. "There's no chasing of trends going on here. No aspirations other than simply writing the best songs the band can, which means bruisers and anthems with plenty of bloody spice and bloodier sonic salsa!" Although the drums were recorded at a studio in Upstate, New York, the band recorded the other instruments at Hi-Fi Recordings in Union City, New Jersey, at Laz Pina's brother's recording studio. "It's probably the most "real" approach to making a record the band could have possibly taken," Gitter claims.

One Nation Underground was produced by Scrap 60 (Anthrax, Cradle of Filth, Bleeding Through), who were involved in the making of "Revolution Revolución" too. The album was recorded without any musical constraints or outside interference. "All of the Roadrunner Records staff has been giving us nothin' but love and are doing an amazing job," frontman Cristian Machado said. "We had complete control of our recording atmosphere. We actually got to pick the studio we wanted to record in, the producer we wanted to work with, and we were also allowed to create our own deadline. This gave us plenty of room to create the record we wanted to create. The actual recording process was a very positive and extremely creative experience."

Mixing the album: Because the band wanted to make the album sound more raw, the vocals and instruments are doubled at a minimum. "It’s like one vocal track and a backup track very low in the mix," Machado claims. "Same thing with the instruments. There isn’t like 20 guitar tracks on there, it’s like two rhythm guitar tracks and one augmented guitar track and that’s really what we wanted the record to be. We just wanted it to be more raw and more pure but more focused on the culture, aggression, and the originality of the band rather than how many tracks or you know, how many backing vocals there was or what not. We just wanted it to be more raw and direct, right to the point. This is what it is."

Musical direction: In June the album was as good as finished. "Dave (Chavarri), Eddie (Wohl), Dan (Korneff), and I have literally been working 15 hour days to make sure this record is the most intense and conceptual Niño release to date," Machado claims. "On this record we fucking exploded." The band didn't care about anything other than being "what Ill Niño should be: Brutal, intense, cultured, obscure, and slightly demented." Bassist Laz Pina: “On this album we were able to get across the aggression a little bit better. This is the type of sound we were looking for. We wanted to write a much heavier and raw record that still emphasized out Latin roots. (...) I think that our first two records were on our path to getting things right. If you put both of those records together and add in what was missing, you’ll get what we did on this new record." Machado: "Eddie Wohl produced the record and I wouldn't be able to say that he was anything other than spectacular at producing "One Nation Underground". He trully made us feel very comfortable yet pushed us to the limits of our creative universe. "One Nation Underground" is a phenomenal record."

"Opening with “This Is War”, the album quickly shifts in a driving metallic thrash that is capped off by Machado’s guttural growls, “La Liberacion Of Our Awakening” showcases the band’s aggressive and melodic sides with destructive results, while the delicate beauty of “This Pleasant Torture” completes the album." The album also features a guest appearance by the godfather of hardcore, Jamey Jasta, who turned in a Hatebreed style vocal beatdown to “Turns to Gray”. “He was home when we were recording the record," Pina said, "so we called him up and he came down to the studio to hang out and lay down his part." For Ill Niño it was the first time they had a guest vocalist having an own part in a song. Pina: "It was kind of cool and I think Jamey Jasta had that aura for that section there. It turned out that was just perfect for him to sing through because it came so natural for him when he came into the studio. It went down real quick, he knew exactly what he wanted to put and exactly how he wanted to phrase it. It turned out to be amazing." Incorporating an Ill Niño song with the NYC Hardcore wasn't really difficult for the band. "When you incorporate the melodies with a hardcore style of voice like Jamey Jasta and the result just seemed to work, it makes you feel like you can do anything. If you do it right, things will make it work. I think "Turns to Gray" was another song that just fucking worked."

Meaning of the lyrics: For "One Nation Underground" songwriter Machado challenged himself to look outside of himself for inspiration for the lyrics. Chavarri: "You can tell Cris Machado has taken a big step up both as a singer and lyricist. As much as the music has matured, the same is more than true of Cris' side of things." Previous efforts had focused exclusively on Machado’s relationships and personal struggles, but the lyrics on this album deal with deeper subject matter that tackles what is going on in society today. Machado: "The one message that I would think that the music is definitely trying to portray is in the song "La Liberacion Of Our Awakening", there’s a small part that says, "with open eyes we stare into our enslavement" and that’s pretty much what I think we are all doing. You know, to me I’m lucky to have music and to kind of have that release or at least that attempt at trying to get through to the youth of the world because I really think that the youth of the world is in charge of where we are going to be 50 years from now. So that was pretty much my attempt at perhaps making people open their eyes and realize that we are all being led down the same path and it really just depends on what country you live in."

The album is "a simple statement about what has become our social decline, our deconstruction of cultures, a unified world population in silent rising," Machado claims. "Overall, I think I read so many books over the last 2 years that I couldn't hold back from writing about topics that really affect our world and also affect the world our children will grow up in. Do we, as a common people, have any control over our world affairs? I don't think so. We have been raised to believe in standards that are created by our governments for the benefit of their own military growth; for the benefit of politically influenced corporations. I trully believe that this world is dominated through control and division of the masses. Governments don't want world unification because that would strenghthen the actual control people have over their countries. "One Nation Underground" could be the record to open the eyes and ears of those people who no longer want to be a silent member of society."

The album title: “Chris was thinking about a title that could mean a lot of things. We wanted a title that people could have their own interpretation of,” Pina said. “The fact that years have gone by and we’re still here on our third record in the underground; that was an inspiration on this album. This is a more underground approach musically and we are still an underground band. We’re six guys just creating music for the love of it.” Machado: "This record is about society being controlled and divided through all sorts of different influences both internal and external. Its 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."

The album cover is a representation of things you see in the urban environment. "When someone gets shot or dies in the street usually a friend or some family will put up a little memorial of where that person had their last breath," Pina claims. "They’ll put down candles and a couple of flowers at the memorial symbolizing the death of someone in the street. On the cover is a little boy looking down at this which is something very common. When people fall into crime and doing the wrong thing it starts normally at a early age. It comes from anger, it also comes from anger. When they get older they start to follow that tradition. (...) The process continues and that becomes a way of life and people should be aware of that. (...) Our kids should not be dying they should not be fighting, they should not be killing each other and they shouldn’t be playing with guns and weapons."

The success: Machado claims that the feedback for their third record had been amazing. "I think all the fans and most of the press that we have been getting back has been saying that they agree that it is the best Ill Nino record that has been put out so far." Pina: "Even if this record only sells five copies, I will still be the proudest of this record.” Eventually, the album sold approximately 250,000 copies.

• Passages of Album Reviews
"Overall I think Ill Niño managed to create another great album which, for a lot of people might be much better than their last one. Just check it out!"
- Erik Boekhoven (Metalrage)

"This is their epoch in every sense of the word and they came out swinging with every possible limb made available to them. No, we won’t get into which songs were great and which ones weren’t because honestly, every single cut on the disc will have the muscle and relevance to be played repeatedly. One play and you will see what we mean."
- Brodie Holmen (East Coast Romper)

"Nu Metal band Ill Nino return with their 4th full-length album One Nation Underground. This album has blown me over with its shear class. The percussion and Latin influence that Ill Nino incorporates into their Metal makes for an intriguing listen and while I tend to say away from the whole scream and sing scene , its hard to fault Ill Nino as they are so dam hot. Sure there are some songs that are way too polished for my liking, but the shear musical talent of Ill Nino over ways these moments. Ill Nino has really won me over with their album, One Nation Underground. Well worth your money."
- Asher Earache (Hard and Heavy Net)

"One Nation Underground stacks its hits up early, leaving the second half of the album to sag a little bit. But overall it sounds great (another excellent =and dense Scrap 60 production job), and comes off a lot stronger than you might expect from a band sometimes dismissed as a third-stringer in the current metal resurgence. Their overt commerciality (see "La Liberacion of Our Awakening", "What You Deserve", "All I Ask For") will alienate more underground types, but they weren't exactly lining up to support ILL NINO anyway. This is hard rock for the masses, accessible and polished, and for what it is, it's very well done."
- Keith Bergman (Blabbermouth)

"If Ill Nino somehow could've taken the anger in the verses of closer 'Violent Saint' and spread it over the rest of the album, One Nation Underground may at least have achieved "background music" status. Still, when stacked up against the unexpected credibility of the new Soulfly, the fury of Ill Nino couldn't level a house of cards. One Reviewer Underwhelmed."
- RebelX.org

"...Perhaps I wouldn’t be so harsh on this album if it wasn’t so evident in places that this band would be more than capable of tearing it up. I realise this may not have been the desired effect or point of the album, but I can guarantee that if Ill Niño had thrown in a bit more of the grunt and less of the emo, it could have been a pretty hard-hitting album. Unfortunately, the end result is anything but."
- Zero (FasterLauder)

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