Slipdisc / Mercury Records, 1998


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Recently, I've been getting a lot of industrial and electric rock to review. I don't know if the genre is making a comeback, or is trying to reassert itself as the ship known as alternative rock sinks faster than the Titanic loaded with lead bars. Last week, we looked at one band, Rorschach Test, who are doing a fine job at making sure that alternative (and industrial) rock still has a pulse.

A similar effort is being waged by Phoenix-based Nihil, whose debut album Drown was just released. And though it's harder to get into (as well as through) than other albums in the same vein, it ends up being a rather enjoyable work - as long as you're willing to invest the effort into it.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The brainchild of Scott Crowley (vocals/guitars/programming), Nihil's lineup also includes keyboardist Vanessa Urso and bass guitarist Tony Richey. Together, these three produce a kind of industrial/electronic music that often reminds me of Front 242, if not nearly as danceable - but it does take time for the whole mixture to get boiling.

It's not that songs like "Under Me" or "Nowhere To Hide" aren't good, they just don't suck you into the whole Nihil experience like I would have expected them to. On several occasions, I found that I had become distracted from the songs, and had to start the disc over again - the first few songs shouldn't create that kind of a response with the listener. (I can't explain how this could have been improved - it's kind of a thing that you know when you hear it.) And I will freely admit that "Hear Me" - both versions - are quite good.

The tide starts to turn for the better with the two-minute "snippet" "God", which segues into "Shift". About this time, Drown really takes off as an album and turns it into an experience. Cuts like "Should Die," "Tear," "Trust" and "Echo" show the power that this band has. It is creepy at times, intense at others, but for a good portion of Drown, it rarely lets up.

The only drawback to Drown, besides the slow start? I don't think you can deny that Nihil - just like may industrial/electronic groups, for that matter - is an acquired taste. The first time you hear Crowley's vocal intensity, it might throw you for a loop, and you might not want to continue checking the disc out. It's worth getting your feet wet with this one and giving it a chance to grow on you - on repeated listens, Nihil proves themselves to be quite talented musicians.

Drown reminds me of learning how to swim: it splashes about madly in the beginning before it finds its groove and settles into a comfortable, approachable patterm. For a first effort, not bad at all - and I have no doubts that future releases will be strong efforts from cover to cover.

Rating: B-

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Slipdisc / Mercury Records, and is used for informational purposes only.