INFLUENCE are a fairly new metal band from Detroit, Michigan. Drawing some heavy inspiration from Nu-metal but also giving it a modern twist and combining it with the harder, faster likes of Parkway Drive and Architects, they have found a nice little niche for themselves with their own sound. Their debut EP, The Transient, was released at the start of last year to pretty decent acclaim. While I don’t usually do albums that are quite this old, the guys are working on new material as we speak and I wanted to listen through their previous stuff first before whatever they are working on gets released. So, for all of you metal heads out there, dive in with me into this EP!
Straight to the Chest starts out HEAVY with huge sounding low drum rolls and a simple but amazing riff, one that sounds very reminiscent of modern Parkway. The band keeps building on it, adding layers and making it sound even bigger and heavier when the guitar packs some chords on top of what is already being played. Before long, it explodes out into a more groove oriented, but still awesome, riff, the drums complimenting the guitars so well. They again add some chords to the riff to make it sound even bigger and I have to admit right from the offset I have to compliment the production here. For such an upstart, grassroots band it sounds top notch, everything can be heard and everything sounds massive. I hope they use the same guy for their next stuff! We’ve reached the verse and the vocals kick in and, honestly, they sound really great. His vocals have such power behind them and when he pushes it into more of a harsher scream it sounds awesome. His tone and control over it remind me a little bit of Drowning Pool’s original singer Dave Williams, a huge contributor to the Nu-Metal scene in his own right. The backing vocals in the chorus are also great. Whether it’s harmonising with the main vocal lines, going off on their own or even adding full on screams, the backing vocalist does an incredible job at adding more depth to the song. Heck, just the scream at the end of the second chorus was awesome enough for the whole song. The song follows a slightly unorthodox structure too, heading straight out of the second chorus into a short yet great guitar solo and then it’s over. A great, impactful start to the album, and if I’m honest I was disappointed it ended so soon!
The next song, The Elements, begins in equally heavy fashion, bursting straight in with a huge, chord led guitar riff and backed up by some awesome drumming. However, afterwards it drops down into a single, slow, clean guitar riff that almost sounds like it would fit perfectly into some of Tool’s early work. It doesn’t last long, with the heaviness kicking back in with the rest of the band, but then post-grunge riff remains. The verse is slower this time, the vocals maintaining their cleaner sound and it has more of a Disturbed/Static X type feel, especially how the guitars play simpler single notes during the vocals while playing the big main riff in the gaps between. As if the song didn’t already feel Nu-Metal enough, too, the simple yet hugely effective backing vocals add so much to the chorus and make it feel like the early 2000’s again. The Tool-like riffs return after the second chorus as the instrumentation drops down to just the guitar again and some quiet vocals over the top. It then builds up into a huge, slower guitar solo, focusing more on feel than technicality, which I think was a great idea for this kind of song. We head into a final chorus before a heavy outro riff, complete with another awesome guitar solo, takes us out in style. Another awesome song and one that instantly made the playlist.
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Talk to Myself mixes things up a little, opening on an awesome drumbeat, heavy on the double bass pedals. The recording of it sounds like it was done in a live room, too, instead of it being done track by track, an interesting, certainly different decision! A great scream brings us into the verse, the guitars following the heavy drumbeat and some Corrosion Of Conformity-esque vocals. In fact, a lot of the first half of this song sounds a lot like Corrosion of Conformity, full of groovy hooks and more stoner/doom metal vibes. However the middle of the song massively changes the pace, leaning hard into a more Alice in Chains, grungy type of vibe. It’s slow and simple and atmospheric and a nice change of pace from the brute force the rest of the album has been so far. It builds back up into the heaviness with an awesome high note from the singer, launching the song back into a huge final chorus before it heads back to the quieter stuff for an outro. Another awesome song on a so far amazing EP!
Breathe opens on more Tool inspired sounds, this time from the awesome, heavy low bass tones and fading in guitar notes. The low vocal harmony worked incredibly well here, too, sounding eerily reminiscent of Sully Urna from Godsmack, and again gave this massive early 2000’s vibes. The band do such a good job of building up their songs and this one is a prime example, adding in simple yet very effective drums and guitar riffs before it explodes out into a sludgy, slow, heavy verse riff. In fact, the whole song feels like a heavier, more industrial style Godsmack song, dripping with attitude and coolness. However, my only issue with the song, and my only issue on the EP so far, is that it does get a little repetitive towards the end. It stays at the same plodding pace throughout that, while cool at first, got a little old towards the end of it’s 5:30 minute runtime. A good song, but ever so slightly bloated and could have done with a change up in the middle!
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Illusion of Freedom’s opening riff for some reason gave me massive Amon Amarth vibes, or at least some more modern day thrash influences, which was another nice change of pace. It also has a damn good solo to open with too that fits the music perfectly. It drops into another Amon Amarth style riff for the verse and the vocals sound surprisingly awesome over the top of it, too. There’s a few awesome lead guitar parts here too, little technically great solos coming out of the verse that add a lot of depth and dynamics to the song. I think it’s the heaviest song so far, plenty of heavy, sludgy riffs and a lot of screaming, harsh vocals. That’s not to say it isn’t good, though, I loved this song, the riffs along were insane and it’s definitely another highlight.
When I Lie is another great track with an awesome muted opening riff from the guitar and drums. It also seems to incorporate all the best parts of the previous songs, the slower, Godsmack stylings of Breathe, the awesome guitar work of Elements and the ultra-catchy, backing vocal assisted chorus of Straight to the Chest. In fact, I may even go as far as to say it’s the catchiest chorus on the album, nice and easy to sing along to and join in with live, something that is always a plus in a band’s repertoire! The musical hook in the bridge after the second chorus is awesome, too, the guitar tone full of distortion and effects, making it sound almost futuristic (at the same time as Disturbed-y, of course!). Another cool, calm, quiet outro sends this song out and, honestly, it may be one of my favourite songs on the EP.
The EP finishes in grand fashion, in an epic metal ballad, with In My Skin. Again channelling some heavy Tool influence to begin with, using clean, slower guitar work for the intro and building it up gradually more and more throughout the verse. The low, powerful vocals sound awesome over the top of the cleaner guitars, but honestly for me the highlight of this song is the backing vocals. The higher, slightly more delicate vocals in the pre-chorus and chorus remind me so much of Bullet For My Valentine’s harmonies on some of their slower songs and, much like they do there, they add so much depth and (honestly) beauty to the more slowed down, emotional songs that they are such a huge benefit. The chorus itself is pretty catchy again, easy to sing along to but also having enough harsh vocals to keep it pretty heavy. They don’t have much in terms of a solo or difference between the last two chorus’, but they make up for that fact with a frankly awesome outro. It’s heavy and kind of proggy and again feels very Tool, with the repeating guitar riff backed up by some amazing drumming before it slowly strips back to nothingness. A great way to finish, and this is coming from someone who usually doesn’t like the slower songs on the album going last.
Overall, I loved this. These guys have such a unique blend of older and more modern sounds that combine together a lot better than I would have expected. Everyone in the band is immensely talented at their chosen instruments and they came together to write some truly great songs. I’m hoping they have a full-length album in the works for soon because I can’t wait to hear more from them. They have a bright future ahead of them if they keep up this quality and energy!
If you enjoyed this review, you might like HateBreed’s Weight of the False Self review
The review by musician, blogger & author – Joe Griffiths