Nine Eleven proclaims that their mission is simple: To play on stage as often as possible. Listening to this French group's debut LP certainly backs up the statement. Use Your Disillusion features a band that has honed its skill to miniscule sharpness. Mixing metal and hardcore, the band knows what it wants to play and it plays it well. But this begs the question, just what else in is in their capabilites?
Blending thrash metal with `80s-style hardcore, the band is firmly rooted in the school of Sick of It All. Most tracks feature crushing riffs backed by galloping bass. Meanwhile, the vocals are halfway between thrash screaming and hardcore yelling. But, while hardcore bands often revel in their sloppiness, compensating with energy, Nine Eleven takes cues from Slayer and Metallica with a very polished but energetic sound. To add to this, much of the guitars on the albums are in that twisted try-tone key that cut fit on Reign in Blood. But to avoid becoming too thrashy, Nine Eleven is sure to drop in breakdowns every now and then, and more interestingly, sometimes uses background vocals that are almost -- dare I say -- popish.
While they do tread in the dangerous water that is crossover, they manage to avoid sinking, although there are a few holes in the boat. On the positive side, they keep the songs short and to the point, without any masturbatory guitar solos or misplaced drum intros. Also, unlike many crossover albums, the vocal variety helps to keep things fresh. Sure, there is the down-and-out screaming that fires up the mosh pit, but we also have the low-pitch / high-pitch call-and-response style vocals á la Napalm Death. To throw us a curveball, they also slide some smooth, almost Bono-ish vocals in the back. While this sometimes comes dreadfully close to being cheesy, the know when to cut it back and allow the nastier vocals to come back in.
On the downside, since they are so good at playing crossover, they tend to find the tempo they like and stick with it. Even some of the breakdowns are only a few beats per minute slower than the main sections. While the riffs and drums and bass and vocals jolt back and fourth, the repetitive tempo does tend to bleed some of the songs together.
But, when the album works, it really works. "From Hell" is the perfect mixture of thrash and hardcore with harsh but not too harsh guitars choppily cutting through the acidic vocals. Just as the song reaches its peak, it cuts off like an electric switch making you want to hit repeat. On "Enter the Dragon," the group finally does switch up tempos and alternates between mosh pit thrash and mosh pit breakdown in all its machismo glory.
Nine Eleven is obviously a very skilled band. The record speaks for itself in that it probably sounds exactly like they wanted it to sound. However, with such technical ability, it appears they've mastered what -- at least in my mind -- makes a really good, standard crossover album. This is a very good first effort. However, hopefully their success on this album will encourage them to put a little more character into their music on their second release and they'll make a great non-standard crossover album.