From their pseudo-industrial beginnings, American Head Charge have always been an intense bunch. Billed as part of the Nu-Metal wave which swamped the early 2000’s with their second album, “The War Of Art” which was produced by legendary producer Rick Rubin, this band has been intense musically and personally. Death, drug dependence, personal strife, instability and numerous turnovers in the line up have plagued this much troubled but highly revered band and since 2005, it looked like they were finished for good but you can’t keep some things down and sooner or later, they come back, sometimes stronger, sometimes just as chaotic and sometimes both. AHC have done just that. 2011’s “Shoot” EP paved the way for the long awaited follow up to 2005’s “The Feeding” and “Tango Umbrella” lands with promise of going back to their roots a little and hoping to rediscover the spark which was prominent on their 2001 release “The War Of Art”.
Unfortunately, this hope, at least for me is wasted. I never considered this band to truly be industrial. Sure they may have the heavy sample based approach with the slow to moderate tempo underpinning the majority of their music, but I always saw them as a Nu-Metal outfit and the opening track, “Let All The World Believe”.. Well.. You just have to hear it. Opening up like a bad NIN tribute, it does pick up the pace with some phenomenally heavy riffing which hammers away in the same style as Ministry, but vocally, when it’s clean, it’s awful. When intense and heavy, it works great but the shifting from ‘dance for goths’ to nu-metal repeatedly with no real flow doesn’t help it much and it leaves me scratching my head, wondering just what would it take for the band to actually click.
From here, the tracks are pretty much the same. The flashes of the AHC we all know and remember – aggressive, intense and raw as fuck who oozed intensity shine through in the largely distorted parts whilst the AHC we’re not overly familiar with – the poor Nine Inch Nails rip off with Jon Davies of KoRn styled vocals take turns in the spotlight. The choruses are big and powerful when the dirt is piled on, but the cleans don’t work at all. On the older albums, the clean vocals in tracks like ‘Just So You Know’ were powerful, hypnotic and sinister, working brilliantly whereas here, on tracks like “Perfectionist” they’re just shocking. “Sacred” as a whole is close to the AHC a lot of us fell in love with and as the 4th track in, it does seem to settle the album slightly and the clean vocals do work with the slow paced delivery with its ominous feel radiating from it but you want a track like this to open an album, to remind you what the band can do.
“I Will Have My Day” brings some phenomenal pace and groove with infectious riffs and some flashes of the more metal edged sound they had in the verses but the vocals when they clean up again act as a tremendous let down. “Suffer Elegantly” thankfully later in the album is older AHC from start to finish and despite it appearing in the mid to later portions of the release, it was worth suffering the shite for. A classic reminder of what this band used to bring to the table and what you would have thought of at the mere mention of their name, it is relentless and heavy. “Prolific Catastrophe” sounds like a tribute to Ministry with its initial intro and it appears to be one of the tracks where the cleaner direction of vocals seems to work and as it progresses and gets heavier it flicks back to the harsh style which again works out well for the track but by the time the album ends, with the seven minute closing track, “When The Time Is Never Right”, it has me thinking that this song title is something which can be applied to this much troubled band.
American Head Charge have dipped back to their roots in parts whilst trying to progress whilst retaining a sense of familiarity to them… But I don’t feel the direness of the majority of this album is familiar for AHC. This album sounds like it would have been perfect round the late 90’s and early 2000’s due to the sound fitting well with the genres which were prolific at that point in time and it seems that this release is a decade too late. The time seems like it has never been right for this band and given the circumstances around the band, those they could control and those they could not, it begs the question, what could this band have accomplished if they had their shit together?
It pains me to hear a band I once enjoyed go down the shitter, but with Tango Umbrella, it really is a case of Tango Umbrella Romeo Delta. A sad return for a band who really did deserve better. Nostalgia wants to cloud my judgement and say this is fantastic, but I cannot kid myself. Coal Chamber managed the return well, mixing the old sound with some elements of Devildriver, AHC should have looked to them to see how to pull it off… This is poor.