Cane Hill brings a dark and heavy style in the debut album Smile.
Click here to see my interview with Elijah Witt of Cane Hill at Warped Tour = Interview with Cane Hill at Warped Tour 2016
The current trend of music throughout many genres is to play it safe and stick with a formula. Don’t push too many boundaries but stand out enough to get people to talk. Along with all that, the actual song can come second. Once in a while however you will find a musician or band that holds nothing back and doesn’t care about the offended listeners while STILL trying to create something dark and unique.
Cane Hill from New Orleans is the next new band who is not afraid to get vulgar and profane in their hard and brash style. As an upfront warning, their music and lyrics will not be for everyone. To those who are troubled by hearing religious iconography in different terms than they are used to, including in negative ways, Cane Hill’s debut album Smile might be a turn off. However, to lovers of hard rock with an industrial edge regardless of lyrical meaning, this might be up your alley. The style and focus of the band is now very apparent in Smile. As front man Elijah Witt describes it: “We’re more excited for this release than anything we’ve done as a band. I think we’ve finally figured out exactly what we are, and everything else was just a trial run. We’ve honed in on the violence and honesty that we’ve felt music has lacked.”
Violence and honesty is only the tip of the iceberg in Smile. Just as the album cover showed this is not your typical rock album with a standard presentation. There are shades of Slipknot, Marilyn Manson and especially Korn throughout the entire album, all while still keeping a unique identity in making something new. The song (The New) Jesus and the accompanying music video is the best introduction possible to describe a band’s style and capability. From digital voice effects to screaming and hard guitar riffs, the song doesn’t so much kick the door down but rather kick it open and wait for you to acknowledge it.
(The New) Jesus is as engaging and hard as it is unnerving. Along with some intense brutal guitars and heavy pounding percussion in the back, Elijah Witt is able to switch from a melodic brood to screaming at a guttural roar at the flip of a switch. Many people will make comparisons to Mudvayne and Korn and in good ways. While some people may be turned off from the higher digital voice repeating the song title like a glitched out Siri, it’s also something that makes the track stand out and instantly identifiable. And while lyrically the message will definitely turn away some people, it still can’t be denied there is creativity in the music and voice behind it all.
This writing style holds nothing back and there is a decent variety of song stiles in Smile. Tracks like MGGDA and Fountain Of Youth stand with (The New) Jesus as being heavier while St. Veronica and You’re So Wondeful are much slower and darker. Even with the speed change the songs almost all feel very intense and well-constructed though.
St. Veronica is the track that really hooked my attention when listening to the album all the way through. The electronic effects meshed into the beat while Elijah Witt demonstrated more of his singing capability makes a great counter to the very heavy and loud style in (The New) Jesus. Witt’s voice in the chorus and the mixing effects make this dark ambient style that matches the album’s vibe.
While the overall theme is heavy and pretty grim, there are a few tracks that will turn away even fans of that style. You will be getting into everything you are hearing and then track six entitled Cream Pie comes and knocks you out of focus. But even if there is a track or two that won’t be played as much, it’s undeniable that Smile has a lot to offer.
Not every type of music is going to be for everyone, and there are occasionally styles of music within a sub-genre like nu-metal or industrial that will also have a select listening audience. There are times however that you can still point out the talent and quality of music a band can deliver, whether or not you are a fan. Overall, Smile is that shockwave of a debut that many bands could only dream of. Cane Hill have brought something unique to the table in order to shake the current formulaic and friendly radio scene up a bit. If you are up for something a bit different with a lot of varying elements included, then you’ll get a Smile out of this debut.