Stylistically, as of right now, INCUBUS has no right to be in The Metal Observer. Then again, maybe they do – I haven’t listened to them since their way-mellowed out 2006 release “Morning View.” Anyway you shake it, back when Nu-Metal was the tits, the balls, and the shit, there may not have been a better experimental mainstream Rock/Metal act then these formerly dreadlocked Californians.
A fruit cocktail of Rock genres, INCUBUS’ 1997 masterpiece, “S.C.I.E.N.C.E.,” was at the top of this reviewer’s high school playlist. Sure, I could have been listening to BLACK SABBATH or whatever the fuck, but I wasn’t; I was an oily, zit-faced basketball player gradually inching away from Grunge and Alternative Pop Rock. Of course, I’m still an oily, zit-faced basketball player, but shit, when it’s time to throw down, at least I’m hitting play on the latest UNLEASHED album and not MUDVAYNE’s (also a strong act back in the day – Ryknow!) most recent fiasco. While there remain several stalwart Nu-Metal albums out there, “S.C.I.E.N.C.E.” - and even the EP “Enjoy Incubus” – remains entirely listenable, and in spite of the very passé(!) turntable effects, still very cool.
If you know INCUBUS at all, then you know that their lead singer, one Brandon Boyd, is not simply a talented lyricist – in an annoying hipster type of way – but he has a great goddamn voice that bends and reflects with the best of them. The music, which I’ll be getting to in a second (you impatient, butthorn), is consistently strong, but it's Boyd’s expressive and varied vocals, complete with tearing screams and soulful commands, that cram the words into your memory bank, find a comfy niche, and vegetate like a hungry stoner. I seriously remember like 70% of this album’s lyrics; a fucking ridiculous achievement considering Boyd’s affinity for wacky words and lip-splitting verses.
The album’s tracklist is really a tight-bunned ballerina. There’s no fat, it’s got tight legs, and goddamn if it ain’t a flexible piece of ass. You have your Progressive Rock anthems with “Redefine” and “Nebula,” a head-banging funk-fest in “A Certain Shade of Green,” a legitimate energy shot with “New Skin,” and then your feel-good “Favorite Things.” The slap-heavy bass is everywhere, the intricate and thoughtful guitar work should be applauded, and the drumming is systematic, jazzy, and a really down-played aspect to the album’s collectively impressive sound. Song composition is never a problem on “S.C.I.E.N.C.E.” – even the strangely intriguing Trip-Hop sampler “Magic Medicine” has virtue. The fact that this album doesn’t sound like a total fucking mess is a miracle.
To make a long story short, if you’re looking for something a little different, a little 1997, then you really can’t go wrong with this album. The whole transcendental, sci-fi pothead theme is still technically “in” – I mean, WORMED and RINGS of SATURN this definitely is not, but hell, having a good time without losing your mind in an electrical fog of countless guitar riffs can actually be a good thing…ahem, where’s my bong?
Me(n)tal note: The reviewer caught a dreaded INCUBUS touring for “S.C.I.E.N.C.E.,” opening for headliner STAIND, who were consequently touring for their solid “Dysfunction” record in 1999. Performing before INCUBUS was yet another Nu-Metal act promoting their better-than-average “The Fundamental Elements of Southtown,” P.O.D. Believe it or not, that was a sweet show.
(Online March 26, 2011)