The Jonbenet - Ugly/Heartless (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Jonbenet

Ugly/Heartless (2006)

EastWest / Pluto

It would've been very easy for the JonBenét to rest on their laurels and continue on the path they were going -- a spastic, screamy band playing competent but terribly unoriginal tunes. After all, what they were doing was good, but accomplished nothing that the Blood Brothers already haven't for over 4 full-lengths (and soon, over 5). However, it's great to see that the band was clearly aware there was more terrain available to cover, and on their first full-length, Ugly/Heartless, the Houston, TX outfit does just that -- even if it means drawing largely from contemporary metalcore bands.

Lots of noisy metalcore riffs á la all of Botch's followers find their way about Ugly/Heartless, making for a much more intense and varied yet equally spastic outing in comparison to the band's past EPs. Somehow, the JonBenét really does manage to sound more like the Chariot and Fear Before the March of Flames in moments rather than Botch -- which isn't necessarily a good or bad thing. This is probably due to the raw dynamics instilled throughout and a retaining of their jagged, staccato riffs; plus, there's a newfound exploration of the vocal range, with their lows sounding like generic death metal growls half the time and throaty, Planes Mistaken for Stars shouting the other half. Additionally, the band expands on the Southern rock flavor of "Eating Lightning Pt. II," which appears here in re-recorded form from an earlier showing on a split EP. It pops up every now and then, adding a little fun to the moods and proving things aren't always so serious.

It's also welcome to hear some rather unexpected influences. The band borrows quite liberally from Black Sabbath for "Why We're Dead," while "Three Years" sounds quite surprisingly like 108's "When Death Closes Your Eyes" in more ways than a couple. "Zeppelin" actually pays quite a bit of obvious homage to George Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone."

Overall, Ugly/Heartless is a bit of a clusterfuck and tends to be white noisy rather than noisy at times, but it's still thankful the band is trying to escape their pigeonhole and usually succeeding. Aside from a few silly clichés strewn about on their first full outing, the JonBenét do apparently want to inject some creativity and ambition into their modern stylings, and when things are even better developed down the line, it'll really start to come into place I'd imagine.