An unconvincing mish-mash of styles marks the Stateside debut of Norway's INSENSE, a band who seem to have remembered to throw everything into their sonic stew — except compelling songwriting. Though it may be a novelty to hear a band from Oslo doing anything besides black metal, the resulting third-rate gumbo of MESHUGGAH, FEAR FACTORY, and C-grade Swedish thrash doesn't inspire repeated listens.
Things start out promising with the jerky, off-kilter, slow opener "Helplessness", foretelling an album full of heavy, apocalyptic music in the vein of GOJIRA or MESHUGGAH. Then, a quick about-face into generic Swedethrash on "Making Up For Lost Time", before we get more promising guitar work on "I, Deviant". And then suddenly there's a clean metalcore chorus a la KILLSWITCH ENGAGE.
Such sonic experimentation isn't a bad thing by any stretch — it should be applauded when a band takes steps to avoid sounding like a cookie-cutter clone of a particular scene. But there's a whiff of desperation about the way INSENSE does it — sort of a sleight-of-hand that, done quickly enough, may distract the listener from the fact that each facet of the band's sound is handled in a very generic manner. Is it better to rip off lots of bands in little increments and piece it together? Or to throw in stylistic elements at the beginning ("Helplessness") that never come back into play, adding to the random nature of the record?
There are frustrating hints of promise scattered throughout "Soothing Torture" — the peppy guitar parts to "The Forgiving Embrace", which are quickly torpedoed by weak vocals, for instance. The overall effect is one of blandness and ennui — with so much better stuff out there, why settle for second-rate metal with an identity crisis? INSENSE could still gel at some point, and if they can hone their focus while remaining this stylistically diverse, they'll really be something. For now, though, they're not doing themselves (or anyone else) any favors.