I’ve been a casual listener of ILL NIÑO’S for years. Some stuff I’ve liked, and some stuff has made me say, “Oooh…bad move here, guys.” But one thing I’ve always gotten into is the way they seamlessly blend metal riffs and crushing grooves with Latin-infused melodies and accents. I STILL jam to 2003’s “How Can I Live” because that groove is outstanding. On the other side of that coin, the band’s catalog is so uneven it drives fans crazy, I’m sure. For every Confessions and Revolution Revolución (YAY!) there’s a One Nation Underground and Epidemia (BOO!!), so I had no idea which one of these I was getting. With that in mind let’s shake this musical box of Cracker Jacks and see what kind of prize we get with album number seven, Till Death, La Familia, out now via Victory Records.
I love keyboards and synth when used properly and album opener “Live Like There’s No Tomorrow” does just that, getting us off to a rocking start, Cristian Machado’s voice sounding better than ever, band in full swing behind him. This vibe continues with “Not Alive in My Nightmare” and “I’m Not the Enemy”. Obviously these guys are on a mission this time around. Then a funny thing happens; we get kind of a ballad in “Blood Is Thicker Than Water” which I found to be one of the best songs on the disc. That “Whooah” stuck in my head for a whole day after listening.
On the heavier front “Are We So Innocent” is a full-out assault with everyone giving their all and showing us just what they’re capable of. At first listen I was like “What the FUCK is this?” regarding “Pray I Don’t Find You” but the musical shift from the intro to the body got me the third time around. The boys channel their inner SEVENDUST for “World So Cold”, and it works, to an extent. I wasn’t bowled over by this one. “Dead Friends” wasn’t too hot, either. I felt like I was back in 2000, a rather bleak time for metal. Things take a turn for the much better with “Breaking the Rules” featuring some dual lead work and biting riffs from guitarists Ahrue Luster and Diego Verduzco.
The good stuff continues with what has to be my runaway favorite in “Payaso”. Big balls? This tune has ‘em in spades and would be the perfect song for a workout, again, if my lazy ass actually did that. Meantime, it’s going on my next driving mix, as is closer “My Bullet”. With intense lyrics, buzzing guitars, and pounding beats and rhythms, the boys give us a proper send-off and have us wanting to get back on the ride like a kid screaming, “Again! Again!” If this is what we can expect from ILL NIÑO moving forward then count me in. And I look forward to seeing which songs from Till Death, La Familia get played during their set here at the Dallas stop of Mayhem Fest in a few weeks.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Blood Is Thicker Than Water”, “Payaso”, “My Bullet”, “Are We So Innocent”, “Breaking the Rules”