Islander – “Power Under Control”


Islander – Power Under ControlWhen you’re labeled things like the “2nd wave of Nu-metal”, that sets up certain expectations but for their sophomore release Islander brings a collection of songs and styles that should bring in more people to their shows.

The South Carolina band Islander trace their path all the way back to 2006 but really didn’t burst on the scene until 2013 when the band signed to Victory records and released their ep Pains and then the debut album Violence & Power the following year.  Over time the band has picked up a few notable endorsements ranging from Brian “Head” Welch (Korn) to Lacey Sturm (ex-Flyleaf) to Sonny Sandoval (P.O.D.) and was on the Mayhem Festival in 2014 with the likes of Emmure, Ill Nino, and Wretched.  Following that tour, the band has hit the road with Papa Roach, Seether, Otherwise, Nonpoint, and Pop Evil as well as appearing in some large festivals like Carolina Rebellion and Rock on the Range.  For Power Under Control the band has had some lineup changes, adding JR Bareis (Love&Death) on guitars, Zeke Vasquez (ex-ForeverAtLast), Arin Ilejay (ex-A7X) on drums and even bringing in hardcore legend HR (Bad Brains) for a guest appearance.   Again for this album, the band partnered with producer Cameron Webb (Motorhead, Alkaline Trio) at NRG studios for the recording.

With the nu-metal label, I absolutely came into this review certain expectations, and initially listening to the opening track “Darkness” I completely agree with that label.  Lyrically, knowing the band members are Christians, “Darkness” could be a bit disturbing as the speaker in the song is essentially boasting about the sin in his life, but one needs to keep in mind that this is a concept album and designed to inspire some deeper thoughts around the songs.  Singer Mikey Carvajal even mentioned his initial concern about writing these lyrics, so as with anything artistic, one should dig a bit deeper.  Potential controversy aside, the song itself  takes me back to early POD in terms of style and Carvajal’s delivery on vocals.  Guitars during the verses initially provide some atmosphere while bass and drums carry things and then the main riff comes in.  For those who lived through the peak of the nu-metal era, there is a lot that sounds familiar here and if the whole album proceeded this way, this review would have gone a different direction.

On track two, “Bad Guy”, the band shifts a bit from a POD-like sound to one that really, really reminds me of the Swedish band Blindside when they were at their peak.  The fast, melodic riff that starts out muted and the change back and forth from smooth, nearly spoken vocal, so some soaring shouted sections is very much reminiscent of Christian Lindskog (Blindside). Continuing in almost a homage to older bands, the fast, chaotic, screaming vocals-filled “Green Slime Man” brings up images in my mind of bands like The Chariot, while the next track “Better Day” again returns to POD.

“All We Need” shifts things to a more modern take on nu-metal, more along the lines of what you would think of from bands like Papa Roach.  So far, I’ve compared the songs to sounds from other bands, but Islander bring a fresh take on things that has to be mentioned.  To me, it’s easy to hear the influence of Head/Korn/Love&Death coming in to play with the guitar lines from JR Bareis and Carvajal’s vocals really stand out to bring these tracks to a higher level.  While the vocals and guitars are at the forefront in the sound, there is no denying the strength of the rhythm section, with the drums driving things at the end of “Darkness” and in “Devil Red” and the bass in songs like “Bad Guy” and “Better Day”.   All of the performances are strong and the production has that big, arena-rock like sound to it, which is perfect for this style. The influence of the other bands is unmistakable but the way Islander have brought the various elements together has led to some very catchy songs, although I do wonder if they might sound a bit too familiar.

On first listen I was really struck by the variety of song styles on the album and just when I thought I had a handle on what was coming next, there would be a slower, quieter song like “A Boat Going By” or “Last Forever” or even most of “Beelzebub,” although that one ends a bit more on the chaotic, noisy side.  Being and older punk and huge fan of Bad Brains, of course, I was looking forward to seeing what HR was doing on the song “Think it Over”.  The song itself is almost an update of POD’s “Rock the Party”, and much of HR’s contribution sound a bit like the phoned in vocals on the Bad Brains song “Sacred Love”, which was a nice touch.

In the end, Islander have managed to do a couple of things on Power Under Control.  They’ve put together a collection of songs that will seem very familiar to the older crowd who remember the rise of nu-metal but have done so with in a way that doesn’t sound dated, and with the strong performances throughout, this collection of songs manages to be catchy enough that is should have broad appeal.

Rating: 7.5/10

Written by John Jackson

01. Darkness
02. Bad Guy
03. Green Slime Man
04. Better Day
05. All We Need
06. Devil Red
07. A Boat Going By
08. Beelzebub
09. Think it Over (feat. HR)
10. Last Forever
11. Casket
12. Wait for It

Band Members:
Mikey Carvajal – Lead Vocals
J.R. Bareis – Guitar, Vocals
Arin Ilejay – Drums, Vocals
Zeke Vasquez – Bass, Vocals

Record Label: Victory Records, Aug. 2016

Weblinks: Facebook / Band website / Twitter / Instagram

Buy the album here:
Holland: First Paradox
Norway: Nordic Mission

Video for ‘Bad Guy’

Video for ‘Darkness’


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