69 Chambers – Torque
Today (April 27) Swiss modern metal trio, 69 Chambers, helmed by auto journalist Nina Treml, released their second album, Torque. Their previous album, War on the Inside, which came out in 2009, was released by Silverwolf Records, but obviously their debut and hard work has paid off because this time round, Massacre Records is releasing the CD.
I am 100% new to 69 Chambers and I’m pretty new to the sub-genre of “modern metal.” The band’s website says that they “like to call their music a minefield of contradictions, combining brutality with pop sensibility in an array of in-your-face rock and metal songs.” Additionally, they say “Nina’s unique voice is backed by hefty metal and Soundgarden-esque walls of sound.” I hardly know who Soundgarden is!
For sure my first introduction to 69 Chambers, via the first track on the album, “Cause and Effect”, made an impact, as did, in fact, the entire CD. I’ve never really heard metal like this before and I was struck by the lack of keyboards. This tells me that I need to get out of my musical comfort zone of gothic/symphonic/folk/epic/power metal just a bit. I definitely hear a lot of different influences in here, including death metal, electronica, pop, and even nu-metal.
“Cause and Effect” is fast and heavy, which I loved. The riffs in it are not your typical gothic/symphonic/folk/epic/power metal riffs, which I noticed right away along with the lack of keys. Nina’s vocals are definitely in the pop style, but she’s backed up on this song by Eluveitie’s Chrigel Glanzmann. He is a growler, and we all know how I feel about growling. But, as the song progressed, incorporating pop elements that seemed strange at first, I found myself getting into this music. It’s definitely catchy and for me it’s definitely intriguing.
One more thing I noticed right away upon first listen was the similarity between Nina’s voice and Alanis Morrisette’s. I am not kidding. I love Alanis! And then, in preparation for this review, I visited the band’s web site and I see that I am not crazy, the comparison to Alanis vocally has already been made. The song that was perhaps the most Alanis-like for me was “Ring a Bell”, where Nina sounds so uncannily like the Canadian rock icon, and where the sarcastic and bitter tone was so Alanis-like I almost felt like I was listening to a track from Under Rug Swept (my favourite Alanis album).
It took me several full plays before I could come to any kind of fair opinion about Torque. At first I didn’t like it, then I kind of moved on to ambivalence, not liking the pop elements but liking “metal-ness”. Now after six plays, I can say that I do like the CD overall, which just goes to show you that you can’t always count on first impressions. The songs are poppily catchy (“Burn Some Gasoline” being a prime example) but so bad-ass it’s easy to dismiss any confusion one might justifiably have over the mish-mash of elements. Slower – but definitely not ballady – “Naughty Naughty Naughty” made me feel similar to the way some of Huntress’s songs did: dirty, but in a good way.
After nine galloping tracks, things take a mellower turn with “Temple Down”, and indeed this is where the counterpoint of the album begins. “Your Fool”, the track immediately following “Temple Down” actually has a hint of synthesizer in it, and it’s a lot slower – but again, certainly not ballady – song with more of a rock feel to it. Though I found the lyrics repetitive, I like that it has a more “traditional” guitar solo in it, and Nina softens her voice a lot in it, too.
Wrapping things up, “Elegy” is an interesting finale with actual piano in it, a hint of backing violins and it’s totally acoustic until over half way through when the electric guitar, bass, and drums just pounce out of nowhere. All of a sudden we have a power ballad on our hands. It’s definitely a case of “one of these things is not like the others.”
So there is a lot going on in this album for sure. At 14 tracks, it’s a bit long, and it’s energetic so I sort of feel exhausted after listening to it, because the music is very energizing (editor’s note: ironic?). But the music is good; it’s tight, and it’s obviously very well thought-out and well-composed. This is a band that seems to know itself and its direction very well.
And I got out of my comfort zone, and I liked it.
Allyson’s rating: 3.5 out of 5