By Bill Adams
There are few propositions quite so dicey as those which attempt to crossbreed another musical style with metal. Why? The grim truth is that metal does not play well with others; while the initial results might be really cool, every band that has attempted to cross a Top 40-identified sound with metal has begun to flounder creatively as they try to figure out what to do next. The spent corpses left behind in the ongoing quest to find some sort of sustainable form of musical alchemy are numerous and some of their names are venerable; Korn started out pretty strong with a rap-metal amalgam, but even the most devoted fans had to concede that the end was apparent when the band covered “Word Up” by Cameo. Limp Bizkit, Orgy and Incubus didn’t even make it as far as Korn did before they became parodies of themselves. One of the slower declines in plain view has been that of Linkin Park, but there’s no doubt the band was grasping at straws when they hijacked Jay-Z for an album, and their days have seemed to be carefully numbered ever since. With those examples already a matter of public record, it’s safe to say that the precedent has been set for crossbreeding Top 40-ANYTHING with metal, but Escape The Fate has really done the unthinkable with their self-titled, third album. On Escape The Fate, the band hasn’t bothered to try incorporating some pop sub-genre, they’ve reached straight for the root instead. That’s audacious enough, but even more so is the fact that the band has really gone against the grain with the idea; On their new album, Escape The Fate doesn’t blanch metal to make it palatable to a larger pop audience, the band darkens pop to appeal to a more aggressive one.
To their credit, Escape The Fate isn’t so foolish as to try and start from scratch on their self-titled album – there are echoes of the dissonance with which Korn struck gold and song dynamics similar to those that Linkin Park has pushed into the brightest limelights over the years, but much of that only shimmers in the undercurrent beneath a glossy pop sheath that that is completely unmistakable. Further continuing in the ‘derivative’ vein, singer Craig Mabbitt sits for the duration of the album’s eleven-track run-time on a tack similar to that which Chester Bennington has perched for years; he functions as the tortured heart around which everything else swirls around him, and the singer plays the hero for songs like “Zombie Dance,” “Lost In Darkness” and (appropriately enough) “World Around Me.” Without meaning to sound crass, these melodramatic moves have been done before and while it’s true that they haven’t been done specifically by Escape The Fate before, there isn’t any new ground broken there. What sets Escape The Fate apart from the faceless pack is the set of serrated metal hooks and the adamantine precision with which guitarist Monte Money puts them to use; he absolutely eviscerates listeners here, and provides the perfect foil for Mabbitt.
After Escape The Fate warms up the circuits with “Choose Your Fate,” Money wrests control of this boat from Mabbitt with “Massacre” and battles all the pop shadows back from there on out with a great metal arsenal that switches guns as the moment requires. The guitarist provides the atonal squalor at the close of “Massacre,” which is complimentary to the disquieting tone of the song before the guitarist shifts gears perfectly for “Issues” where he provides some tremolo dives deep enough to make John 5 take notice, and then changes it up again and heads into Zakk Wylde territory for the stomping “Zombie Dance.” In each case, there is no noticeable moment when Money has to rush to fall in line, he just always seems to be ready to go from note one of each song with just the right tools.This trend continues through each song on Escape The Fate, but the greatest, glowing moments (other than the aforementioned) are those found in “Gorgeous Nightmare,” “City Of Sin,” “Day Of Reckoning” and “Prepare Your Weapon” where the guitarist taps into all the greats at once (Zakk Wylde, Munky Shaffer and Saul Hudson – to name only a few)and manages to transpose that amalgam onto pop cliches. The pinnacle of that approach appears in “World Around Me” where the band basically pushes Linkin Park, The Eagles, Madonna and Wyclef Jean to feed at the same trough at the same time. Some listeners will be incensed by the combinations that Escape The Fate are making here, some will call it a mockery – but many will see the resulting pop-metal as a gateway; what Escape The Fate has done on their new album is create a bridge connecting the continents of pop and metal that makes it possible for listeners to call it either because it incorporates an equal amount of both.
It’ll remain to be seen what the band will do with the success that this album represents or how they’ll keep the idea from getting stale, but they’ll have a lot of curiosity piqued to see how it’ll go.