Album Review: AMERICAN HEAD CHARGE Tango Umbrella
American Head Charge is a good example of one of those bands that got left behind. Riding the nü metal wave, they found limited success with "Just So You Know" or "Seamless," but never garnered nearly as much attention as rivalry singles like Drowning Pool's "Bodies" or Mudvayne's "Dig" at the time. In a strange act of events, these 'stuck in the Myspace era' groups always seem to emerge a decade later to battle the test of time. With nostalgia and leftover angst as a few of the main factors compelling old fans to gather as the jury of approval, it is determined if these acts have truly been missed.
Last year, I declared Shining's International Blackjazz Society to be a well representation of the most proper and ideal modern day Marilyn Manson sound (based off his 90's material, not recent output). Little did I know, a certain teaser track several months later would immediately make me rethink such a bold statement. "Let All The World Believe," the opener on Tango Umbrella, was everything more than I expected and takes the cake for best 'Antichrist Superstar' imitation. Ghostly synth lines, one hell of a vocal delivery, and a little bit of Nine Inch Nails on top for safe measures makes out for the band's perfect comeback single.
"Drowning Under Everything" continues with some Portrait of an American Family Manson vibes all while layering on some early 2000's alternative/New Wave of American Heavy Metal elements. I think it is also important to make clear that the vocals are very atypical at parts for this style of music. The closest I could compare it to is if Korn's Jonathan Davis and Faith No More's Mike Patton were imitating David Bowie. Yes, I know, imagining that isn't the most pleasant, but there are many moments throughout the album that it truly works in my opinion. And even if you don't entirely share that outlook, frontman Cameron Heacock's screamed and sung vocals appear very genuine, shown well at the a capella outro of "Perfectionist." As a final note regarding the vocal aspect of the record, it takes awhile to warm up to the rough-around-the-edges cleans, yet the distorted and punchy parts are definitely worth the wait.
I can give a decent round of applause to an album with three impressive tracks right off the bat, which this record surely possesses, but if such quality is consistent from there onward, you know the band means business. Fourth track, "Sacred," is unfortunately where my attention is lost. The low-tempo, radio-friendly pace makes for a skippable song. Although "I Will Have My Day" and "A King Among Men" also fall into similar 'meh' territory, "Suffer Elegantly" gets the train back on the tracks with the prime amount of speed and energy. While the piece lacks much dynamics, it seems to showcase the group at its most aggressive. The remaining material is primarily notable for tense build-ups and groovy riff-filled payoffs, rounding out the LP to be hard-shelled with a weak center.
As shown, there has been a good amount of negative criticism presented, but there are reasons I choose not to end this review on a low score. The proof is in the pudding and the songwriting through the majority of these tracks are evidently strong. To be blunt, this is no perfect record, but neither a poor album by any stretch of the imagination. As I previously stated, there are some less memorable pieces, but on the contrary, there are a larger share of powerful compositions to place American Head Charge back on the map. In the end, I predict Tango Umbrella to be remembered more for its singles rather than the totality of the release. My final conclusion on this LP is that of something enjoyable and worthy of praise. There is creativity, experimentation, and an aspect that I value the most in a reunion album: a focus forward as opposed to being stuck in past success.