Cane Hill - Smile

Review by Shannon Shumaker

Dangerous, wild, ferocious and relentless - just a few of the first words that come to mind when listening to Cane Hill’s newest release, Smile. Not only is Cane Hill’s sound rather refreshing (think of a higher energy, more aggressive blend between Korn and Slipknot) especially for the Warped Tour crowds that they have been playing for all summer, but the subjects that the band tackles on this album are taboo, risqué, and controversial, ranging from commentaries on the current state of America all the way to exploring one’s sexuality. Smile might make you want to punch someone in the face, and it may make you uncomfortable but it’ll also make you think.

“MGGDA” is the perfect opener for this aggressive album. Furious screams and wailing guitar work spearhead the first song, while lyrically it demands a change in America, touching on the country’s obsession with celebrity worship and the dangers of allowing racism, homophobia and sexism to run rampant. Following suit is the second track, “(The New) Jesus,” which again touches on the subject of fame and worship. Easily the strongest part about the second track though comes in the intro and chorus with the childish vocals that normally would sound out of place on such an aggressive track but totally make sense here. You can really hear influences from bands like Slipknot in the vocals and Korn in the wild guitar work on this track, as well.

Even more risqué is the animalistic and sexually charged third song, “True Love.” Although “True Love” is considerably slower than the first two songs, it doesn’t lose an ounce of energy or passion. In fact, that’s easily one of the strongest parts about Smile - Cane Hill are able to convey these different moods and tell differing stories without sacrificing any of their signature in your face, ferocious sound. “True Love” still feels just as powerful as “MGGDA,” though much more sensual and raw. Then comes dark and chaotic, “St. Veronica.” Showing us another side to Cane Hill, this track features more clean vocals from frontman Elijah Witt than we’ve heard so far on the album. The slight quiver in his vocals alongside the wild, gritty guitar work is absolutely stunning.

Honestly, it’s impossible to pick out one or even three songs on Smile that are stronger than the rest, and that’s really saying something. Each track on this album is a standout for its own reason, whether it’s the taboo lyrical content, savage vocals or spectacular guitar work. “Fountain Of Youth,” for instance simply makes you want to get up and move from the very moment that it opens with Witt growling, “Everyone says that the good die young/But if I die young what will you say about me?” Then immediately following is “Cream Pie,” and just when you thought Cane Hill couldn’t go any further than the racy “True Love,” they prove you wrong. Not only does the song really shake things up instrumentally, with the focus on the bass and drums, but lyrically, this song really pushes the boundaries of what makes people uncomfortable, spearheaded by the line, “It’s only dirty if you make it,” intercut with soundbites of a woman moaning. Even “You’re So Wonderful,” which is significantly slower than the rest of Smile still stands out due to incredible clean vocals and a dark energy.

Simply put, Smile is a game changing release. Lyrically, Cane Hill touches on subjects that most would avoid, deeming them either too controversial or dangerous. However, within only a few songs, it becomes apparent that nothing is off limits for Cane Hill, and not in the “shock factor” sort of way - but this band truly believes in what they’re writing about. The passion, emotion and rage in Elijah Witt’s vocals are palpable, and instrumentally, Smile delivers and then some. I urge you to listen to this album once to focus on the lyricism, then a second time to really pay attention to the incredible songwriting and instrumentation. And then you know, a third and fourth time just because it’s just that damn good. Smile is one release that you don’t want to sleep on.

Rating: 5/5

Listen to "(The New) Jesus" or "St. Veronica"

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