Water seems to be a recurring theme for Texan alt-metal quartet Nothing More. Their self-titled fourth album is the third to feature water on its cover, this time in a picture of what appears to be a mountain on the ocean floor. The lyrics frequently reference water and oceans over the course of seventeen tracks.
Opening one-two punch Ocean Floor/This Is The Time (Ballast) is the most obvious example with its references to sinking and drowning acting as a metaphor for being trapped by modern life. Lyrics that criticise modern living dominate the first few tracks on this album, for better or worse. Christ Copyright is an angry screed targeting the greed and hypocrisy of religious extremists, echoed by the chorus “They’re selling heaven tonight/Sign on the dotted line/They got your Christ in copyright” and by featuring audio samples of actual evangelists. Mr. MTV continues in this vein with an attack on vapid consumer culture, using wordplay to criticise Apple products and MTV while also sampling the opening moments of the original MTV-mocking anthem, Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing. Making fun of MTV might be something of a cliché in 2014 but Nothing More do their best with it anyway.
First Punch takes the cultural critique and makes it personal in a song told from the point of view of a person angered by an oppressive culture, while its counterpart track The Matthew Effect is a rather caustic attack on an individual who benefits from said culture.
From that point on, Nothing More deals in more introspective and personal themes. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ll Be OK and Here’s to the Heartache are both decent melancholy ballads where the narrators of both songs dwell on their misfortunes with sad-eyed optimism – the results are only slightly compromised by inappropriately noisy guitars. God Went North is a surprisingly touching ballad where the narrator is at his mother’s deathbed pleading with God to either heal his mother or let her die, appropriately climaxing with a choir vocalising wordlessly. A series of tracks connected loosely by the theme of betrayal are alternately good and bad. Friendly Fire is the one good song in this group as its narrator takes aim at “[his] Judas, [his] brother” and creates one of the album’s best-sounding choruses in the process. Sex and Lies, on the other hand, is easily the worst track on the album as it documents the narrator’s anger at his cheating girlfriend in an especially unpleasant manner (both musically and lyrically) and ultimately comes across as petty.
Said pettiness also bleeds into the similarly aggressive Take a Bullet, where the narrator says he will have trouble trusting his smooth-talking love interest unless they “take a bullet” for him. Jenny is also weakened by the confusion over who the narrator is addressing or talking about, which ruins an otherwise intriguing song about drug addiction.
Musically speaking, Nothing More leaves a fair bit to be desired. There’s a certain air of progressive rock floating over the whole album that manifests in the use of audio samples and instrumental interludes but almost every song on here involves a fairly standard combination of chugging alt-metal guitars, noticeable bass-drumming and vocals that mostly scream and soar. While there’s nothing wrong with that, there’s little variation and such a combination does wear thin over the course of sixty-eight minutes. Some songs, especially those with appropriately melancholy subject matter, will show restraint and slow down, but since they are mostly sequenced one after the other they also start to feel tedious.
The band’s use of anthemic choruses in almost every song is another initial strength that is weakened through overuse. Even the band’s stabs at experimentation are hit-and-miss –instrumental tracks such as Gyre and Pyre are musically decent but the attempts to make the production sound more ocean-like on these tracks ends up muddying the vocal samples they use. As a result, you have to choose whether or not to pay more attention to the sample or the music. Even if the lesser tracks were cut and the production’s edges smoothed out a bit, Nothing More is still hampered by its limited musical scope and haphazard lyrical quality. There are some solid songs on offer and I personally like the ten-minute instrumental closer Pyre, but you have to be prepared to sit through some filler in the process.