Spineshank has been long perceived as a band living in the shadow of their big brother, the late post-industrial heavies Fear Factory. Largely overlooked by the masses of slovenly nu-metal fans for whatever reason, the band has churned out three albums of angry distorted guitars mixed with aggro metal electronica, clearly owing a lot to the sound that FF pioneered on Demanufacture. Spineshank’s last album, 2001’s The Height Of Callousness, was one of the genre’s better efforts, and found the band at the top of their game, tweaking a borrowed sound into something that they could make their own, and beginning an ascent out of the shadow and into the world.
Self-Destructive Pattern, their newest release, finds Spineshank continuing in this vein for the most part, while expanding on previously explored themes. Perhaps most notable, they’ve reduced the use of electronic elements in their songs this time around, maintaining the industrial underpinnings but depending more on traditional instruments to supply the punch. The result is a cleaner, more straightforward metal album that may be more accessible to your average high school meathead.
In addition, tracks like “Beginning Of The End” and “Smothered” feature more singing work courtesy of band frontman Johnny Santos than there has been in the past, which would seem to explain the renewed focus on melodicism. Unlike their nu-metal peers (see: Static-X, Dope), Spineshank has always had a penchant for sneaking catchy, well-executed melodic choruses into some of the most crushing of soundscapes, but here it feels much more pronounced and inorganic, and somewhat more forced than it has in the past – like they’re simply trying too hard. Perhaps this is their own experimenting, or perhaps it’s the sign of some gentle nudging from a record label hoping for another Nickelback (shudder); it’s hard to tell. But for all their effort in this area, nothing here marries these disparate elements nearly as well as “Synthetic” or “New Disease” from their last outing.
On the other hand, there is still a good deal of heavier material present, and songs like the title track, “Consumed” and “Violent Mood Swings” should please existing fans who might otherwise be disappointed. It’s worth noting that the latter of these tracks was also the original title for the album, and might better describe the effort in general. The result of the awkwardly interspersed material here gives the listener the impression that they’re listening to a band going through a minor identity crisis, as Spineshank jerks back and forth from the trademark throaty post-industrial sound to a more forced (and presumably radio-friendly) nu-metal poppiness.
Self-Destructive Pattern definitely feels more uneven than its predecessor, but is nonetheless a solid offering, and a fine example of why the genre of nu-metal doesn’t have to necessarily denote mindless chugga-chugga jock rock. Although they’re still somewhat obscured by the shadows cast by Fear Factory (and Marilyn Manson to a lesser degree), Spineshank is clearly making an effort to define their own unique sound. In some ways, I feel like Self-Destructive Pattern represents a step backwards from where the band left off with Callousness, but it’s a fairly good listen anyway. And at very least, it’s much better than most of the other stuff with which it would get categorized.