The Illness are sick! Sorry, just wanted to do that even though I suspect I’m not the first and won’t be the last. I suppose I better explain what or rather who The Illness are. They are a five piece metal progressive metal band from San Francisco.
Although progressive is the best metal sub-genre fit for their music, the band do not really fit into any tight pigeonhole other than heavy metal. They share some common ground with fellow Bay Area metallers Grayceon in that they use a classical instrument. In The Illness’s case it’s the violin and it’s not present in every song as violinist Carlos Villareal’s music lessons also covered the guitar. Even with the classic leanings, the most noticable feature of this band is the voice of Josh Viers. My initial listen was this is great and I prepared myself for an album with clean singing as there’s only so many raw grunts and eerie black metal screams this listener can take.
The initial song, “Lengua De La Muerte” on the album is a Tool styled metallic progressive rock song that though provides a few surpises doesn’t prepare a casual listener for what is to come. The screaming at the start of “Eyes in The Wall” had me screaming for cover from a deathly black metal attack but that that never came, there is some insane string playing as Viers voice easily walks the tightrope of calmed melody to someone teetering on the brink of insanity.
There’s a definite Mastodon sound on the title track’s twin guitar attack and Viers’ vocal gymnastics go from Geoff Tate style vocals to barking mad and you just know these guys will draw a tonne of comparisons to System Of A Down and Faith No More. A gentle lulling at the beginning of "Slowpoke" is followed eerie screams before the song turns into a melodic metal opus with violin coming in and out of the composition. There’s a jazzy ambience to the instumental, “Krakatoa”, which wins the prize for my favourite song title. This smooth sombreness is countered by the fast-paced “Misanthropy”. Spoken word fans will enjoy “Take A Number” which is reminicent of some of the works of Henry Rollins. In “Defenestration”, Viers proves he is definitely of the same madmen pedigree as Mike Patton with this as he offers a solution for life.
The production on “A Momument To A Gilded Age” is great and helps to give the band a huge sound. With the exception of Sigh, I’m not a huge fan of bands that go from grunts or screams to clean clear melodic singing, however The Illness have won me over and the doctor suspects it will be contagious.