Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Album Story: The Undercover Sessions (2006)

Signing to Cement Shoes Records: After five years of being signed to Roadrunner Records, Ill Niño and the label parted ways. The band signed a contract with Cement Shoes Records, which is a "brand new beginning for us", according to the band. Cement Shoes Records, formed in 2006 by industry veterans Daniel E. Catullo III (president/founder of music DVD company Coming Home Studios), Peter Koepke (former president/partner of legendary London Records), and Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, seeks to re-establish true artist relationships and development neglected in recent years by major labels. An independent label distributed by Fontana/Universal, Cement Shoes Records believes the artist comes first and needs to be properly developed through relentless touring and focused marketing efforts to "the street," where the true music fans are.

The band's thoughts: According to vocalist Cristian Machado, Ill Niño signed to Cement Shoes because "they really believe in this band's ability to revitalize the Metal World and we believe Cement Shoes has the vision and creative understanding that is necessary for a band like ours. We are a band who is culturally diversifying Metal and need a label that understands that goal, not a label that just wants to bunch us up in the Metal genre. We work so hard at bringing unique cultural energy to Metal that the last thing we want is to be considered as one among the many. I am not saying that traditional Metal is uncool. I love traditional Metal but we are so hard to define musically and we've developed this concept so precisely that it has become obvious: ILL NINO really is the first Latin Metal band. Everyone at Cement Shoes understands it and is devoted it. We have had a great working relationship and friendship with Daniel E. Catullo since the making of our DVD and have nothing but respect and admiration for all of the accomplishments he has made. Everyone at Fontana/Universal is stoked about finally getting the chance to work directly with ILL NINO. That is very rare in the Music Industry. When Dan approached us about signing and with all these factors in place, how could we not go on the green?" According to bassist Laz Pina, Ill Niño is very happy with their new home: "They're giving us room to grow and room to breathe, and they're very supportive of taking us to the next level."

Writing the album: Instead of doing an all-acoustic album, which Ill Niño had wanted to do for almost a year, the band decided to release an EP and concentrate on their highly anticipated fourth full-length album, due for a Spring 2007 delivery. Cristian Machado explains: "It is something that ILL NINO has been wanting to do for a while now. But, considering the situation, I think we need to come out with our "Master of Puppets" - a record that defines all of our work up to date." And that's exactly what Machado thinks the EP and full-length are doing. In July 2006, the band started writing new songs for an EP, in Los Angeles CA, as "a taste of what's to come in Spring 2007". This was all overseen by legendary producer Andy Johns (Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Ozzy Osbourne) and Dave Chavarri. The "Undercover Sessions" EP contains two fresh new Ill Niño songs, "Arrastra" and "Reservation For Two", and three covers; Faith No More ("Zombie Eaters"), Nirvana ("Territorial Pissings") and Peter Gabriel ("Red Rain"), in which Ill Niño implements their trademark combination of Spanish lyrics, flamenco guitars, tribal drums and percussion, Salsa-infused bass lines, and thunderous metal riffs.

Covering Songs: Ill Niño recorded three songs of their favorite songs from acts they loved growing up as fans. “We wanted to bring an awareness of the importance of these artists to today's generation,” says drummer Dave Chavarri. “We feel we’ve captured the artistry and originality of these songs by adding the ILL NIÑO Latin flavor. We hope people enjoy listening to these tracks as much as we enjoyed recording them.” The band has wanted to record these cover songs for quite some time but never found the proper vehicle. By finally releasing them on this limited edition EP, the band is able to simultaneously pay homage to these artists while telling the world they have a welcome new home at Cement Shoes Records.

Zombie Eaters (Faith No More): From the album "The Real Thing" (1989), the first Faith No More release to feature Mike Patton on vocals. "With "Zombie Eaters" we purely wanted to remind the music world how much Faith No More influenced what is our current Metal scene," Machado explains. "Yes, we pulled some tricks - pimped it out, if you will. We put some Latin spices on it. We added tribal essence. We used traditional flamenco guitars rather than the everyday acoustic. And I really do believe that, for a song which was written by one of the greatest bands of all time, we did it justice. We did a tour with the almighty God Forbid. And, in one of the many interesting convos about music & the Metal scene, I remember Doc saying that no band would ever do a Faith No More cover because it just wouldn't be done right. And then we went on talking about how "Zombie Eaters" is prolly the best FNM song ever written. It was such a cool conversation. At the end of the day, I think Doc will be proud when he hears it. That one's for you Doc." This song also features an appearance from Chino Moreno, frontman for Sacramento's Deftones. "The song is sung as a duet with Cristian," bassist Laz Pina said. "Chino is one of the last great artists of our modern time and to have something on tape with him is incredible."

Territorial Pissings (Nirvana): From the album "Nevermind" (1991), which catapulted Nirvana from relative obscurity to the heights of commercial and critical success virtually overnight. "We kept pretty true to the original except for a smooth Latin Jazz bridge we added on to it," Machado notes. "Ahrue played a killer solo on it and I think any Nirvana fan is going to praise it. It is raw, full of energy, and so fucking punk-rock."

Red Rain (Peter Gabriel): From the album "So" (1986), generally regarded as a peak in Peter Gabriel's recording career. "Red Rain" is a song that we had demoed in the past," Machado explains. "This time around we recorded it properly. It is one of the best Peter Gabriel songs ever written. People who have heard it say it is better than the original."

Different line-up: This EP was the first EP with Diego Verduzco on guitar (originally in Odum), as a stand-in for Jardel Paisante, who hadn't been a part of Ill Niño since the Spring of 2006, and was said to be dealing with personal family problems. According to guitarist Ahrue Luster, Verduzco is a great guitar player: "He's a very dedicated musician and a huge fan of Ill Nino." Verduzco was also on the photoshoots of Ill Niño for the EP, so many fans started looking at him as a full-time replacement for Jardel Paisante.

Releasing the album: Because of the number of released EPs being limited to only 20.000 copies, Ill Niño fans were encouraged to pre-order their copy as soon as possible to be sure to get an original copy. In the first month, more than 10.000 copies were already sold.

• Passages of Album Reviews
"Ill Nino does remarkably strong versions of "Zombie eaters" and "Red rain", it's a joy to hear the latino rhythms mixed with mega heavy guitars on these 2 songs. The best song of the EP is the 2nd new track from the band - "Reservation for two" gives the listener a ride of suggestive and mighty numetal with a powerful chorus that I can't get out of my head. The Nirvana cover ends the EP and this one sounds almost exactly like the original version, "Territorial pissings" is the weakest song of the EP but it ain't bad. Ill Nino's upcoming album will drop in spring 2007, I believe that will be something extra!"
- Kaj Roth (Melodic Net)

"Ill Nino is back and in sharp form, as seen on 'The Under Cover Sessions'. It is easy to tell the band spent time on the recording, as the attention to detail and precision of harmonic tones is exquisitely noticeable with every turn. The band shy away from covering recycled material and give a refreshing view on cover songs. Ill Nino have a bright future ahead of them, and if they decide to relax us with their sultry Latin vibe or destroy us with their pummeling blend of roaring guitars and searing drum work, there is no doubt fans will be rewarded nonetheless."
- Nick (TuneLab Music)

"Overall, a solid and collectible piece for Ill Nino fans. Only 20,000 copies are being printed and once that is it, there will be no more."
- Wise Men Promotions

"Ill Niño has surfaced after cutting ties with Roadrunner Records, they have returned with a new label Cement Shoes Records and new a new E.P. entitled The Under Cover Sessions. This release is comprised of two original studio tracks; “Arrastra” and “Reservation for Two,” which are a continuation of where they left off on their last studio record. The rest of the E.P. consists of three covers, and an unusual pick in Peter Gabriel’s “Red Rain,” which is given the Ill Niño trademark touch and becomes part of the band’s catalog and there’s also “Territorial Pissings” this is probably the best song Nirvana ever wrote and this is the first time I have heard a truly aggressive vocal by Cristian Machado on their recordings. I love the timbales going mach III on this track, Couto and Chavarri play off one another; rounding out this set is Faith No More’s “Zombie Eaters” this finds Ill Niño staying true to the original. The Under Cover Sessions is a great disc that will tide over the fans and keep the band’s name out there while we await a new album."
- Ruben Mosqueda (Pivotal Rage)

"Rock 'n' roll has long been the only true melting pot in American culture, with its persistent birthing of genuine subgenres followed by assimilation and repackaging. The results amount to a mad-scientist style of cultural chemistry: mix bits of this with that and prepare for the explosion. And so it is with the Latin metal of New Jersey's Ill Nino on this five-song EP, featuring two originals and three well-chosen covers. On "Arrastra," the band utilizes metal cliche to surprising effect: chunky guitar sheen, wounded-monster vocals, and hammer-of-the-gods drumming. But it's colored by an organic bongo rhythm and passages of subdued flamenco guitar. Elsewhere, from the tribal beats of Peter Gabriel-style world music on "Red Rain" to the percussive metal fury of Faith No More's "Zombie Eaters" (featuring the Deftones' Chino Moreno) and the tuneful chaos of Nirvana's "Territorial Pissings," it's a study in repurposed originality."
- Luke O'Neil (Boston.com)

"Prior to the release of their next LP, Ill Nino (or their label) attempts to cash in with a brief 5 song e.p. It contains 2 original studio tracks that suck and 3 covers. The Peter Gabriel cover and the Nirvana cover are good everything else is pretty lame. They have a Sepulturaesque tribal drum thing going and that is cool. Here is the deal though, growling vocals suck a goat. Get over your self and learn to sing. It you can't do that, at least learn to annunciate. Get it? Got it? Good! They sent me a sticker though and I appreciate that. Yet still Two thumbs up, 8 thumbs down."
- !upstarter Punk Reviews

"I really like what I’m hearing, even if it’s just a singles CD. These guys have been around for a couple of years and have been refining their sound accordingly. I fully expect their upcoming full album release to be mega big. The Under Cover Sessions serves as an appetizer that is likely to make people hungry for the main course."
- Baron (Shakefire)

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