When a band lists Led Zeppelin as one of their biggest influences, you may expect them to play druggy rock anthems. But the Southern California band Speak No Evil would prove you wrong. Their sophomore release, Welcome to the Downside (Abrupt/Universal), is a stellar mixture of harmony, aggression, and emotion, the likes of which eludes comparison. From start to finish, this CD is a hardcore musical trip. Each band member plays his instrument with a tangible confidence, resulting in a collection of tunes that meld the best qualities of Western metal and Middle Eastern folk.
The songs on Welcome to the Downside encompass everything from chainsaw melodicism (“15 (Live My Life),” “Let Go”) to hard metal belligerence (“Riddle,” “Get It Straight,” “Too Intense”). But in writing these ferocious tunes, Speak No Evil did not neglect the art of lyricism. Many of the songs address highly personal subject matter. Two that really caught my ear were the Arabic-tinged “Pass The Power” (“There’s no shame in what’s been done to me/ Keeps me burning, never sets me free”), and the vocal masterpiece “Resentment” (“My self resentment has made me cold/ These broken arms still hold their own”).
Beyond being honest about their personal emotions, Speak No Evil also expose their deep-rooted political and social aggressions, ala Rage Against The Machine and Downset. One of my favorite songs on the record is the boisterous rapcore offering called “Lunatic.” The lyrics on this track speak for themselves: “Looking around me paranoid by the scene/ The 10 o’clock news is like a motherfucking dream/ You’ve got kids killing kids and cops getting paid/ I believe this is what we know as the Amerikan way.” “Downside,” a song about poverty in America, boasts equally striking lyrics: “Invitation to starvation/ See the situation on the other side/ Devastation all around you/ Repercussion everywhere you try to hide.”
Although this is the band’s second release, frontman Curtis Skelton explains, “To me, this is the first record.” It is with this album that Speak No Evil have found themselves, and been truthful enough to put everything out in the open for the public to witness. The reason for this honesty is evident when Skelton goes on to explain, “I want people to feel this album the way I feel it.”