Review: Cane Hill – Smile

Bloody Brilliant

Essential for any nü-metal enthusiast or anyone wanting to broaden their musical horizons.

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Self-described bearers of “head-bangin’, beer-drinkin’, pot-smokin’ metal,” American nü-metal quintet Cane Hill formed in 2011 and won this year’s Kerrang! Award for Best International Newcomer without even releasing a debut album. This triumph saw them held in high regard in the alternative community. As Hill and Beez voice in a recent episode of their That’s Not Metal podcast, suggesting a band is the best band to come out in the past year from anywhere outside the United Kingdom produces an enormous weight of expectation, which is delivered on with the 10-track Smile.

If you can imagine Manson, Korn, Slipknot, and Powerman 5000 having a hideously aggressive orgy, the aftermath of that would be Cane Hill. Smile is fun, disgusting, and a bloody good sound. They’re not simple carbon copies of these bands, however, as they manage to put their own crazy spin on the genre.

For a debut album, it is really unexpectedly good. As a band still very much only taking its first steps, Smile definitely sets their career trajectory in an upward motion. The sound itself fits perfectly between the likes of Slipknot, Korn, and other late ’90s nü-metal. Single ‘(The New) Jesus’ leaves you feeling like you’ve woken up in 1999, such is the taste of early Marilyn Manson in the guitar riffs.

Vocalist Elijah Witt manages to change up the album by sounding almost like an entirely new person with each song. His vocal range stays consistent, but the raw sounds and emotion changes enough to sound very different. The crazy range of his clean vocals and the extent of his singing ability is most noticeable in the second half of the album, particularly in ‘You’re So Wonderful.’ Parts make you want to sit back in a stunned silence whilst shivers spread across the back of your neck; others are furiously heavy, giving Witt the chance to show off his powerful voice in short bursts of screams and gravelly growls.

The whole record has a strangely sexual undercurrent, with a couple of the songs themselves being very explicit. Despite including lyrics like “Can you tie me up, can I crawl on my knees?” ‘True Love’ is on the tamer end, opposing the likes of ‘Cream Pie.’ Tracks like these are usually off-putting in how they add to the misogynistic culture that exists within the alternative scene, however Smile‘s sexual elements portray Witt as the submissive party, taking away from the norm in heavier metal.

From the comments sections on YouTube and all over social media, the feeling within Cane Hill’s fan community is that these guys could lead the revival of nü-metal. With Smile being one of the best, creepiest, and headbangiest albums of the year so far, that would be no surprise.

Smile is out now via Rise Records


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