ALBUM REVIEW: Taproot – SC\SSRS
Photo Credit: Thom Hazaert
Car-crash TV, Attitude Era wrestling, dial-up internet. There are some things from the turn of the millennium that have rightly been consigned to history.
Among these accepted artefacts was the divisive genre of nu-metal. The initial incarnation of the metal/hip-hop/grunge/goth/who knows? hybrid definitely burned out, rather than faded away.
Surprisingly, a resurgence over the past few years has seen millennial and gen-Z hardcore bands revisiting the sound, and updating it for the 21st century. In doing so, they seem to have sparked the creative juices of the genre’s OGs, many of whom are dusting themselves off, and readying themselves for nu-metal 2.0.
One of the genre’s hidden gems was Taproot. Leaning heavily towards the post-grunge side of things, particularly on their later releases, the band skewed the genre’s stereotypical machismo for more nuanced, introspective lyrics without sacrificing any of the heaviness or aggression.
11 years after their last release, the band are back with their latest full-length SC\SSRS.
From the off it’s clear that Taproot haven’t forgotten how to write an alt-rock ear-worm during their time away. On opening track VIP (Victim I Play) Taproot have gone back to their roots (so to speak!), as the track boasts a chunky down-tuned riff which would be at home on any Korn or Deftones release from the late 90’s; let alone Taproot’s debut.
Indeed, on Favourite Song frontman Stephen Richards almost sounds like Korn’s Jonathan Davies when he snarls “I don’t even know the lyrics to my favourite song!“ Nestled amongst scattergun drums and groove-laden riffs, this is definitely straight out of the nu-metal mould. It slaps, but so far, the album doesn’t deviate too far from Taproot’s well-worn path.
That changes somewhat on We C*ntrol Our Destiny, where the guitars speed up slightly, and Richards unleashes anguished screams. This track sees the band exploring modern metalcore; uncharted territory for them to-date, however they manage it expertly. The breakdowns in this song are absolutely filthy, and are a definite high point on the record. This track more than any other ensures that this album isn’t merely a throwback, but a Taproot record for the modern era.
The grooves return on No One Else To Blame, and Scared Together, however the screams stick around. As album tracks go, they’re pretty great, but it’s Imagining that really draws the listener in. The influence of early Deftones can be heard here, from the hardcore-inspired riffs, to Richards channelling his inner Chino Moreno to whisper/croon the verses in a shoegaze style. It’s not the brand of nu-metal typically associated with Taproot, but they wear it incredibly well.
Arguably, the biggest curveball on the album comes with Love Without You, featuring Audrey Ray. An unusually tender track for the band, it sees them experiment with an almost alt-country sound. It’s out of character for sure, but it’s an excellent lovelorn ballad about the highs and lows of being in love. Truly great stuff.
Conversely, when the band revisit the post-grunge sound of their later albums; namely on tracks such as 2nd thought and The Best things in Life Aren’t Free, the easing off isn’t nearly as welcome. The song writing is fine, but not memorable, and the tracks disrupt the flow of the album somewhat.
Where the grungier sound works perfectly is on Ma. A touching tribute to Richard’s late mother, set while she’s on her deathbed. An intimate, if almost uncomfortably so, portrayal of their final moments together. It’s a cathartic track that further demonstrates the band’s ability to explore different sounds and textures.
The album ends with the sound of hope on Hey. Going back to the straight-up nu metal sound of the album’s beginning, it hints of a future that’s wide open.
Even if SC\SSRS is just a one-off release from Taproot, it’s an essential one for fans. While it definitely ranks highly among the band’s back catalogue, fans of the recent nu-metal revival, and of heavy music in general will also find something to love on here.
It’s said that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Taproot have completely dismantled that trope, by revisiting their history and reviving their sound for a modern audience. They’ve successfully made what was old feel nu again!
Standout Tracks: No One Else To Blame, We C*ntrol Our Destiny, VIP (Victim \ Play)
For Fans Of: Deftones, Korn, Chevelle