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Ventana - "American Survival Guide Vol. I" (CD)

Ventana - "American Survival Guide Vol. I" CD cover image

"American Survival Guide Vol. I" track listing:

1. Watch Us Burn
2. Coming Apart
3. Stress Related
4. The Dying Sound
5. The Fallen Idol
6. This Digital World
7. The Said History Of The World
8. Face To Face
9. Swords
10. Cry Little Sister
11. The Way The World Ends
12. The Defying Sound (Negative Red Remix)

Reviewed by on January 6, 2010

"With 'American Survival Guide Vol. I,' Ventana has created an eminently listenable industrial metal portrait of a country on the road to ruin."

I always enjoy the way in which the great industrial metal acts — Ministry, White Zombie and their ilk — manage to weave live instrumentation, synths and samples into a coherent whole that's often just as much at home on the dance floor as they would be in the mosh pit. With "American Survival Guide Vol. I," Ventana has created an album that stands out for its variety of sounds and its intelligence.

The band's promotional materials emphasize its connection to Mushroomhead — Mushroomhead member Rick Thomas provides synths, samples and vocals, and Mushroomhead's Steve Felton aided with the production, but honestly, this is the better band of the two.

The title, "American Survival Guide Vol. I," should be enough to warn you that there's going to be social commentary, and sure enough, the opening to "Watch Us Burn" begins with snippets from the nightly news. Then the guitar and vocals by Rocky Sobon and Scott Beck, respectively, come in and hammer us into submission. A mid-tempo slog, the song works well to set the cynical mood of what follows.

"Coming Apart" ratchets up the speed to great effect, while "Stress Related" has a great self-help commercial beginning. In terms of its "industrial strength," "Stress" is more "Hellbilly Deluxe" than "Psalm 69," and it, along with "The Dying Sound," will make you want to get up and shake your groove thing while banging your head.

"The Fallen Idol" takes things down a notch, with less screaming in the vocals and a soft bed of synth and a little electric guitar squeal to keep things interesting. After the assault of the first four tracks, it's a nice break.

The album hits its peak with "The Sad History Of The World," which opens with a John F. Kennedy quote that, while it initially was about the Soviet Union, could now be a commentary on the Bush Administration. "This is how we sealed our fate, by our hate, by our choice to discriminate," Beck sings of an America — and world — that kills its true heroes.

The next several songs, "Face To Face," "Swords," and "Cry Little Sister," are all decent, and lead to what should have been the final track on the album, "The Way The World Ends," which mixes a cacophony of news footage with gunfire and guitars. Unfortunately, the band tacked on a remix of "The Dying Sound" called "The Defying Sound" that is inferior in every way.

Still, "The Defying Sound" is the only genuinely bad song on an album full of smart, aggressive commentary of the sad state of America over the past decade. With "American Survival Guide Vol. I," Ventana has created an eminently listenable industrial metal portrait of a country on the road to ruin. You'll love listening to it on one level, and fear what it has to say on another.

Highs: "The Sad History Of The World," "Watch Us Burn," and "The Fallen Idol"

Lows: "The Defying Sound (Negative Red Remix)"

Bottom line: A superb album for fans of metal, industrial and otherwise.

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)