(Todd Manning is the author of this review for Meta, the new third album by New York’s Car Bomb.)
I’ll admit it, I was disappointed with the direction Dillinger Escape Plan took starting with their third full-length Miss Machine. That’s not meant to disparage the band or their later work — it’s actually quite good and I’m sure they don’t need my approval anyway. But, the promise of sheer chaos was so strong with Under the Running Board and Calculating Infinity that I bought into the premise hook, line, and sinker. And honestly, some of the group’s more recent work had headed back to their original direction, which was a pretty awesome turn of events. But what I want to talk about is the third full-length coming from New York-based mad men Car Bomb.
Car Bomb have always embraced the chaos and confusion and have taken that original Dillinger-inspired blueprint to new and unforeseen depths of madness. Their latest release Meta sees them further explore their sound, continuing to add more dimensions and explore greater ranges of dynamics. These qualities are fleshed out well by the production work of Gojira’s Joe Duplantier, who also contributes vocals to the track “The Oppressor”.
The opening trio of tracks delivers on the promise of visceral aural insanity. Riffs careen wildly around each song, tempos change on a dime, and the drums cycle through numerous tempos. There is more low-end here than delivered by many other bands attempting this type of material, and there is also a distinct djent influence. Don’t let that scare you off though, Car Bomb don’t utilize djent as a 21st-century substitution for generic breakdowns, but rather they find the convulsive and off-kilter core of the technique.
Thus far on the album Car Bomb have been successful, even if they have been predictable in their unpredictability. But the fourth song, “Constant Sleep”, is where things get even more interesting. Here, the complex and over-caffeinated patterns are played for long stretches at a softer volume, until ultimately transitioning into the heavier material. A great deal of depth and dynamic control emerges, and Car Bomb begin to explore a niche that might just prove to be entirely their own, at least in this sub-genre.
The aforementioned “The Oppressor” continues this feel, coming across almost like a Mathcore ballad. Joe Duplantier’s clean vocals do an excellent job helping to set the mood of the piece. But the brutality is never far away. Near the end of the song, the band throw in an immense and challenging bit of sludginess before the return of an earlier riff brings things to a satisfying climax.
At this point, Car Bomb return to their more aggressive side. As if it were possible, the music on songs like “Black Blood” and “Cenotaph” is even more bewildering than what came before. Of particular interest is the song “Sets”, which features Suffocation’s Frank Mullen on guest vocals. Much of “Sets” is an intense rhythmic workout, but it also focuses on the immense low-end that Car Bomb are capable of generating. It is fascinating to hear Mullen’s voice in a different context, and one perfectly suited to his style.
The album wraps up with “Infinite Sun”, which encapsulates everything that has come before it. Clean vocals and screams crash against mind-boggling riffs. About halfway through, things almost take on a Rock feel, bringing to mind Deftones, before ending with a Djent-style workout, yet coming across so much heavier than anyone else in that sub-genre.
Car Bomb is probably not a group to listen to if you’re looking for great hooks, but I personally found much of the material to be quite memorable. This is intensity achieved via disorientation, music for those who love to be perplexed. For those who initially enjoyed bands like Dillinger Escape Plan exactly for this approach, Meta isn’t so much a harkening back to that material as much as it is proof that the style has continued to progress, even if much of the world of Extreme Metal has stopped paying attention.
Meta was produced by Gojira’s Joe Duplantier and Car Bomb guitarist Greg Kubacki. It and mixed and mastered by Josh Wilbur (Megadeth, Lamb of God, Hatebreed, Escape the Fate). It will be released by the band on October 28 and can be pre-ordered here: