In recent years, there has been a sharp rise in bands very clearly influenced by the nu-metal wave of the late 90s and early 2000s. Unfortunately in a lot of cases, these bands come off very disingenuous, doing little more than adding a bit of Slipknot influence to their otherwise metalcore sound. However, every now and then a band of this variety will actually show some competence when it comes to songwriting skills and capturing the raw and dark emotions that were displayed on the earliest Korn and Slipknot albums. Whilst these bands may be few and far between, they are at least a sign that this is a scene that isn’t completely filled with bangwagon hoppers.
Pennsylvania newcomers Tallah have certainly been making waves recently as a band in the so-called nu metal revival scene that are showcasing a lot of potential. They certainly have a lot of talent in their ballpark, given that they have drummer Max Portnoy who is indeed the son of former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy, and vocalist Justin Bonitz a.k.a. Hungry Lights, known for his vocal tutorials on Youtube where he displayed a very impressive vocal range. Tallah’s first EP, No One Should Read This, was noted for its heaviness and dark themes, as well as strong songwriting and aforementioned talents of Justin and Max on their respective instruments. 2 years after No One Should Read This, the band has now given us their first full-length album, entitled Matriphagy.
As far as nu metal is concerned, Tallah definitely sit at the heavier and more experimental edge of the genre. As well as the influences you would expect from a band like this, the band also draw heavily from hardcore and deathcore; some of the breakdowns and heaviest moments sound like they would be right at home on some of the earliest releases by Suicide Silence or Whitechapel. The pummelling heavy riffs are compensated very well by Justin’s most savage screams and death growls. The band don’t waste any time with showing their heavier side, with the first proper track, 'No One Should Read This', instantly standing out as one of the most savage songs on the album. The extreme metal influence shows up again at various points throughout the album, such as the guitar solos on 'Placenta' and 'The Silo', the huge ending breakdown on 'L.E.D'. and perhaps the heaviest song on the album, 'Cottonmouth'. Max Portnoy’s drumming is also a praiseworthy element of the album, with blast beats aplenty and some pretty impressive drum fills.
This savagery pretty much continues for the rest of the album, with only the occasional detour into what you could describe as softer territory, on songs like 'We, The Sad'. However, this is by no means an album that does nothing but pummel you to the point of exhaustion with death metal inspired nu metal riffs. Matriphagy as a whole is a surprisingly dynamic album, with the quieter moments being very reminiscent of Korn's more sombre offerings. Overall, Tallah do a very impressive job of wearing their influences on their sleeve whilst showing they have the songwriting chops and the musical talent to stand out on their own. Bonitz’s lyrics and vocal delivery in particular are worthy of praise; the album’s dark themes of a man being driven clinically insane by his abusive mother fits perfectly with his wide vocal range. Throughout the entirety of the album, Bonitz shrieks, snarls, roars and croons over the instrumentation and easily establishes himself as one of the most distinctive new metal singers within the last few years, and his performance helps to convey the desperation and insanity displayed in the album’s concept. He also displays an impressive singing voice on songs like 'Overconfidence' or album closer 'Red Light', where he gives an almost operatic vocal delivery on the chorus slightly reminiscent of Devin Townsend.
With an album that is this consistently heavy throughout, perhaps the one point of criticism is the album’s running time. At 53 minutes long, the heaviness can start to grow tiresome towards the back-end of the album. Additionally, as impressive as Bonitz’s vocal range is, some of his techniques may come across as too melodramatic for some listeners and his occasional venture into rapping on some of the songs might be a turn-off for people who have never been nu metal fans. However, there is no shying away from the fact this is a very strong debut album from Tallah, and the more unorthodox elements of Matriphagy may be indicative of them going down some interesting musical paths later in their career.
Matriphagy is out now via Earache Records. Purchase the record here.