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I.R.A.T.E. - "Brothers Of The Same Struggle" (2-CD Set)

I.R.A.T.E. - "Brothers Of The Same Struggle" 2-CD Set cover image

"Brothers Of The Same Struggle" track listing:

1. Traitors
2. Guilty
3. American Pitbulls
4. No Choices
5. Suck It Up
6. Pathetic
7. Anti-Everything
8. Villains & Liars
9. Life-Death-God
10. Execute Without Exception
11. History
12. Dead Man's Party
13. The Cleansing

Reviewed by on May 9, 2006

"'Well-crafted and balls to the walls.'"

On this past April 18th, Los Angeles, California metalcore act, I.R.A.T.E., released a a two disc album album entitled Brothers Of The Same Struggle through Tower Records via Project Independent. The band consisting of Erik Ulrich - vocals, Rudy Hewlett - guitars, Eric Buell - bass, Jason Berglund - drums, are certainly a unique metal act in that they bring a tough social and political stance to their own form of heavy music. I can only think of Rage Against The Machine being the last metal band to truly incorporate so much anti-establishment sentiment in their lyrics. Starting with the opening hate-fueled track Traitors and its chorus line: "You people gave me reason to never stand for treason." We are rushed like adrenaline pumped hard through the vein to the next offering, Guilty, which offers the listener a most poignant lyric, "The same-minded label me by the ink in my skin." - giving one more insight into the fury behind this band.

From a technical standpoint, the album has been well-produced and musically invokes the songwriting style of California's South Bay punk legends Pennywise at points, yet still brings a heavy-handed Nu-metal guitar approach ala early Korn or P.O.D. (Payable On Death). The highly articulated double-bass kick drumming from Berglund on the ninth song, Life-Death-God, stands out well with a fat bottom end attack from Buell on bass. Vocalist Uhlrich's overtly angst-ridden voice is an acquired taste for certain. He is no Rob Halford... more Jonathan Davis, less the bagpipes. I do think he is most effective on track number 10's Execute Without Exception, in that his blood curdling sing-scream approach starts to make ones own stomach turn. This is the most well-crafted and balls to the walls song on the album. The lyrics hit greatness level here with, "Left for dead. Watch it spread. War's been fed. Are we still winning? Cowards die. Leaders rise. Justice dies." The album's obvious highlight, however, comes in the form of an Oingo Boingo cover. Of all bands in the Rock pantheon, I personally hated Oingo Boingo with a passion. In fact, if Elfman weren't so brilliant at film scoring, when I met him face to face years back, I would have told him so. I.R.A.T.E. scores a late round knockout punch with Dead Man's Party. It's even more impressive performed live as I have observed, but it is clearly hands down one of the best 'turn it into our own song' covers I've ever heard. The final track is the most epic, clocking in at 11:50, The Cleansing sums up the album's overall message with: "Whatever it is, get it out of me." - and ends in a refreshing spanish guitar-style serenade with tribal drum beat that leaves one thinking this is a band that goes much deeper than its 'at face value' hardcore delivery.

The second disc is a 19 track compilation of all unsigned metal acts hand-picked from around the antion. The opener Revolution is Coming is a pure shit-kicker by Dallas, Texas favorites, Grain. Hostility comes next with their song Common Ground, followed by the straight ahead hardcore metal group, Drug Under and their bombastic riff-driven entry Anger Management. The almost industrial/techno metal sounding intro from The Ground Beneath's The Betrayal of a Friend launches into a Down-like doomsy spin.

It's one of my favorites off both discs. And sure enough, when there's Nu-Metal involved, there are bag pipes. Jesus RIdes A Riksha out of Salt Lake City, Utah goes for all the Korn glory here but sounds more like Depeche Mode. Not an entirely poor song. I just don't think it belongs among this hammer-pounding collection. Kritickill out of Killen, Texas doesn't go far from everyone elses formula with Time Waits, nor does Irritant's The Way, track number seven. Darque Carnival's Deceived sounds more like a screaming little kid who has been locked inside the closet than the obvious stab at Godsmack slash Lamb Of God they are going for. My advice to them is to go with one or the other. This almost sounded like two completely separate songs. Track nine, Suckerpunch, starts out with a synthesizer from Branson, Missouri's quirky metal outfit Leadboot Marathon and actually develops into one of the more entertaining tunes out of the lot. Seven Days Straight turn into Megadeth to open up track 10's Bitter. The lead vocals are eerily similar to Mustaine's as is the main guitar riff. It sounds like something Dave may have written pre-hand problem, before he went soft. Track number eleven is the screamo band Son Of Man's Playground Revenge. Not bad guitar work. The drumming is lackluster. This is a half-hearted attempt at real metal. Again, another track that could have been junked. Finally, track 13, oh yes, the evil number all of us true metalers know and love is occupied by Demolition Pit out of Los Angeles and their totally orginal Psycho. Fieldy of Korn is channeled to open up Smash Division's Loathe, a down tuned ode to the poodle haired one. A pretty interesting tune with one of the comp's heavier guitar atacks. Track fourteen starts with ultra-simplistic drum beat pattern from Denot's Strut The Slut and guess what? The song doesn't get anymore technical from there. By far the worst the song on the comp. It actually made me want to start hitting my own head against the computer keyboard as I typed this. Stigmurder's Khrome is track number fifteen and immediately turns things back up a notch with a Mike Patton-style, Mr Bungle meets Slayer in a back alleyway mugging. Very cool metal song. Purity Lost step up with The Revolt and are the only black metal band here - and fall short only due to production quality. Abilene, Texas has spawned Negative 263 and should be very proud. They remind us with th well-written and executed Catastrophe, why unsigned comp albums are so much fun in the first place. It's called discovery. I have actually had my eyes and ears on this act for awile now and they clearly have a strong future in the metal game. Track number eighteen comes from Fresno, California's experimental death metal act: Absit. Another talented bunch, showcasing depth and sheer brutalness with a song aptly titled Elephant Tranquilizer. It seems like that's what it would take to slow these guys down for sure. Strigoi's Death of A Tyrant end the comp with a bang.This is easily the heaviest metal song between both discs.

Highs: I.R.A.T.E. offers a fresh hardcore metal sound and doesn't rely much on other bands in the genre to achieve their heaviness.

Lows: "Suck It Up" sounds way too much like early Korn.

Bottom line: Well worth the price tag.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)