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Cane Hill – Smile – Album Review

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Cane Hill
Smile
Rise Records/Cooking Vinyl Australia
Release Date: 15 July 2016
Reviewed by Alex Sievers   

At some point, inspiration and influence become simple imitation. This is a fine line is walked by many bands and one such band is Cane Hill.

If you were like me and saw these guys were supporting Bullet For My Valentine and Atreyu and thought ‘Who the f*ck is that?’ So you gave them a quick search on YouTube, you’d have quickly learned that this band clearly listened to A LOT of Slipknot, Korn, and Marilyn Manson in their day, and perhaps a bit of Sworn In, and My Ticket Home as well. Then, like me, you may have also found yourself on the fence about these guys, as their sound is all those bands merged into one.

The influence and inspiration of those aforementioned bands is crystal clear, but the very imitation of said acts is as well. From the riffs, the vocal styles, the song-structures, how these songs flow; everything weaves between blatant imitation and mere musical influence. Honestly, I half expected the band to suddenly break into Korn’s Got The Life, at the drop of the proverbial hat.

Cane Hill fully embody the current trend nowadays of integrating the modern, polished metalcore sound with the edgy, groove-heavy vibe of late 90’s/early 2000’s nu-metal acts. To their credit though, they pull it off quite well and these two styles mix together very well (hence the whole nu-metal revival thing). Ultimately, I enjoyed Smile because of songs like MGGDA, The (New) Jesus, St. Veronica, True Love, Screwtape and Strange Candy – the good stuff.

However, Smile comes with a few big caveats.

Vocalist Elijah Witt has a really diverse vocal range that shows off many different styles, but it’s a double-edged sword as it’s just all over the shop. His screams are reminiscent of Sworn In’s Tyler Dennen and Ocean Grove’s Luke Holmes. When he delivers the whispered vocals, he sounds like Manson mid-therapy session, both in their timbre and content. Then there’s the dark poetic rapping of what is essentially early Korn and Witt sounds scarily similar to Jonathan Davis, almost to the T. Furthermore, Witt occasionally sings on a couple songs and despite having a really good delivery in general, I find the near-constant chop and changing between all of these vocal styles subtracts rather than adds to the songs.

For all of the dark lyrics and the obscure imagery this album conjures up, it all gets undermined by one song – Cream Pie. Now, when I first saw that title, I thought, ‘Oh man, wouldn’t it be funny if they used a few porn samples a la Emmure in this song?’

I didn’t know how right I was. At first the song sounds like a lost Slipknot B-side from the Vol. 3 era, then said porno sample shows up for a quick second in the middle and takes one right out of the moment. ‘Okay’, I thought, ‘Maybe that’s it…’ Oh, no. As the song winds down, squirting sounds are heard as a woman screams mid-orgasm as a man’s voice encourages the lewd spectacle. I shit you not.

I laughed hysterically upon hearing this because I thought that bands in the heavy music scene were past all of this cringe worthy nonsense, but obviously not. I mean… it’s just so stupid that it’s almost great. Almost.

Excluding what is quite possibly the dumbest song I have heard all year, Smile isn’t THAT bad of a record – it’s got some good tunes on it. And while that’s not that glowing of an endorsement, I think that if you’re after something a little different and a little darker than your usual metalcore/nu-metal fanfare, then Cane Hill may just be for you… maybe.

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