by Derric Miller
When you think of the most influential bands of all time in Hard Rock/Metal, you probably think Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, maybe even KISS. What you absolutely never, ever think is Limp Bizkit. In that same vein of thought, singers like Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio, and Rob Halford influenced thousands of singers to get on stage, but Fred Durst, probably zero. Scratch that, because Special Ops’ singer Abe Froman uncannily channels Durst on much of the third full-length release from Canadian Metal band Special Ops, and their strangely likeable new album, Through the Heart of the Infidel.
Before you start thinking Special Ops is a clone of Limp Bizkit, don’t. While there are a few rap passages on the first single “Pressure,” they aren’t done by Froman. The heaviest Limp Bizkit ever played, that’s where Special Ops picks up, and takes it much further than Limp Bizkit ever could.
The album launches with “HM,” and it’s a nasty-down tuned riff-fest with cutting leads from guitarist Akbar Johnson. At only a little over two minutes in length, you get to hear stark rhythm changes and some expert drumming from Clarence Mcgillacutty. It’s more of an introduction before they lace into the next, fuller track.
“Snake Bite” owns a bouncy beat, something you could mosh too but would need some sense of rhythm to do so. It’s not a slap in the teeth to call Special Ops danceable, because they are, just not in “that” way. It’s all high-energy pounding, it’s Metal, but it’s also hooky and repetitive enough to make you move. The chorus, “She said, it’d be better when I’m dead, put a bullet in my head, cuz I don’t love you anyway,” is one of those sadistically addictive refrains you’ll have to yell along with. Like P.O.D. and Ill Nino, Special Ops walks the fine line between rapping and singing at times, but it’s not nearly as irritating as those bands for some reason.
The first track they slow it down and show they can use atmosphere and nuance to tell the story is on “What You Did.” Current bands like System of a Down are expert at this type of song, subdued at the onset and then launching into a heavy, shouting vocal passage. It’s the weird backing moans that will remind you of Durst again, though. The guitar lead is curious and cool and reminds you of no one else.
“Amber” allows bassist Waldo Thornhill to steal the show during the opening, with his pumping lead just accompanied with more Durst-like vocals. Musically, you can hear how talented these guys are; it makes you wish they’d go away from a Nu Metal slant and into just the Metal arena.
Of course, the Metal arena probably wouldn’t dig their first single, “Pressure.” The quirky guitar riff, melodic and playful, grinds into a down tuned massive riff, suddenly bouncing back to the quirkiness during the next verse. Definitely a unique song. The awful part is the rap section about two minutes in. It’s been proven time and time again, you either like rap or you don’t. People who dig Jay Z don’t want to hear the new Slayer, and vice versa. There is no crossover potential here; do you think Five Finger Death Punch would stray into this forest? That’s where Special Ops needs to be headed.
Through the Heart of the Infidel, just an odd name for the album considering the kind of music they play, ends with “Anthem of Deceit.” The nearly Middle Eastern guitar riff is freakin’ cool as all get out, and the spitting vocal rhythms hearken back to System of a Down. “Multi-faceted” is the best term to define Special Ops, because they can do damn near anything they want, and do it well.
If this album came out about 10-15 years ago, Special Ops would have a better chance to break into the mainstream. Metal fans today are mostly having an allergic reaction to Nu Metal; why do you think Chester ditched Linkin Park? Still, there is nothing done poorly here, the musicianship (especially in the rhythm section) is top-tier, the Froman knows how to sing in a myriad of styles. There isn’t a ton of music being released like this today, and it’s way more Metal than Nu, but any “Nu” might be too much for some listeners, which would probably be unfortunate considering there’s a lot to like on Through the Heart of the Infidel.
What You Did Today
Monster In Me
Anthem Of Deceit
HRH Rating: 7.1/10