South Carolina nu-metal outfit Islander reinstated themselves on the music scene as a force to be reckoned with as they dropped their first album in six years, It’s Not Easy Being Human.
While nu-metal is an accurate descriptor of what you can expect going into this album, it also falls somewhat short of Islander’s depth. Deft handlings of punk/hardcore, pop-rock, EDM-infused rock and metalcore are all included. There are clear influences from Rage Against the Machine, Deftones, P.O.D., and likely many more just waiting to be found. This is a musically eclectic album that flexes a creative muscle, that scratches an elusive itch.
Some of the primary themes throughout the album are those of the many forms of brokenness (“What Do You Gotta Lose?,” “Evil”), the role of faith (“It’s Not Easy Being Human,” “Skateboard Flowers,” “My Friends”), disillusionment with the music industry (“Lights, Camera, Action,” “Black Scorpion,” “Tear It Down”), the need for human connectivity (“Lookin’ For Love,” “Y’all”) and the reality that this world is not as it should be (“Crazy Crazy World,” “We Scream,” “Freedom”). As the album name might suggest, the overarching narrative is how being a human in a broken world is increasingly difficult.
A key feature in conveying these themes are all the guest spots on this album (a staggering ten of them!). Lacey Sturm appears on the title track, lending her vulnerable voice to an already emotional song. Sonny Sandoval shows up on “Lights, Camera, Action,” and there’s a metal trio on “Skin Crawl” comprised of Brian “Head” Welch of Korn and Love & Death, Bruce Fitzhugh of Living Sacrifice and Dan Weyandt of Zao. Eric Vanlerberghe of I Prevail and A.J. Channer of Fire From the Gods both make an appearance on the album as well. Each track with a guest spot is an easy standout, carrying a distinct Islander sound while highlighting the skills of the featured vocalists.
If you are looking for a simple introduction to what Islander has to offer on this album, there are three tracks that highlight the diversity of the album: “Lookin’ For Love,” which is a punchy, pop-rock jaunt through broken relationships that sounds far happier than the lyrics should suggest; “Skin Crawl,” the metalcore powerhouse that viscerally explores the inescapable nature of death; and “What Do You Gotta Lose?,” a track that displays melodic dexterity, lyrical finesse and the classic nu-metal nature of Islander. Each of these three tracks is an easy standout on the album, each showing a different side of this band.
Overall, this album is a solid addition to the scene that is undersaturated with Islander’s particular brand of musicianship. Fans of P.O.D., Relent, Love and Death and Thousand Foot Krutch will almost certainly feel at home with this album. The features are solid. The cohesion of the album, even through its diversity, is tight. Handling the overall theme of the brokenness of the world with a steady hand, Islander solidifies their place as a band with a clear voice that demands to be heard.