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Black Light Burns - "Cruel Melody" (CD)

Black Light Burns - "Cruel Melody" CD cover image

"Cruel Melody" track listing:

1. Mesopotamia
2. Animal
3. Lie
4. Coward
5. Cruel Melody
6. The Mark
7. I have A Need
8. 4 Walls
9. Stop a Bullet
10. One Of Yours
11. New Hunger
12. I Am Where It Takes Me
13. Iodine Sky

Reviewed by on February 23, 2009

"By the fourth track, 'Coward,' Borland starts to come into his own as a vocalist. He's hardly Bruce Dickinson, or even Scott Weiland, but he gets the job done."

It's easy to see that vocalist and guitarist Wes Borland was pulled in two directions when he wrote and recorded the tracks for Black Light Burns' debut disc, "Cruel Melody." On one hand, there's his apparent desire to create electronica laced mope-metal a la Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor; on the other is a need to rip out the kind of oversized riffs that helped his once and future band, Limp Bizkit, rise to the top of the rock heap in the late 1990s and early part of this decade. It's to Borland's credit as a songwriter, producer, and player that he has somehow managed to combine those two impulses into an entertaining, if slightly uneven album.

The album starts off weird, with "Mesopotamia," a bouncy tune that blends industrial rock with the Ramones. It's a strange little track that doesn't sound like anything else on the album. It's helped along by former Guns N' Roses and Nine Inch Nails drummer Josh Freese's frenetic beats.

From there, the album heads into Reznor territory, with "Animal" and "Lie," both sounding like they could be "Pretty Hate Machine" outtakes. Even Borland's vocals sound like Reznor's.

By the fourth track, "Coward," Borland starts to come into his own as a vocalist. He's hardly Bruce Dickinson, or even Scott Weiland, but he gets the job done. "Coward" is also the first of the album's tracks to dispose of the electronic sounds and go for a more conventional metal sound, with a crushing intro guitar riff and verses that are a little reminiscent of Limp Bizkit's more melodic tunes. The album's most Bizkit-ish tune is "4 Walls," which begins with a drumbeat that perfectly emulates Limp Bizkit's John Otto, and features vocals from Borland that are reminiscent of the cadences of Fred Durst.

Even those looking for something pretty will find something to like, with the title track, "Cruel Melody," featuring a radio-rock chorus combined with spooky electronic sounds.

Eighties alt-rock fans will enjoy hearing a guest vocal from Concrete Blonde's Johnette Napolitano on the haunting "I Am Where It Takes Me."

The album slows down quite a bit at the end, with the eight minutes of "Iodine Sky" being enough to lull you into a coma. Though probably an intentional decision, the song just seems to drag on and on.

Borland, who is the only constant member of Black Light Burns, has created an interesting soundscape with the potential to please everyone from Limp Bizkit followers to fans of electronica. This "Cruel Melody" is a pleasure to listen to.

Highs: The intro riff to "Coward," and guest vocals from Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde on "I Am Where It Takes Me."

Lows: "Iodine Sky" goes on too long; "Lie" and "Animal" are a bit too derivative of Nine Inch Nails.

Bottom line: A worthy album for anyone who likes industrial metal, with an emphasis on the metal.

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)