One of the most talked-about bands in the alt-punk underground two years ago was Greenville, South Carolina's ISLANDER. This year the band returns, and it's jaw-dropping to see an entirely new crew surrounding Mikey Carvajal for his band's sophomore album, "Power Under Control". Aside from guitarist J.R. Bareis (LOVE & DEATH), who arrived in 2014, ISLANDER is now bolstered by former FOREVERATLAST bassist Ezekiel Vasquez and ex-AVENGED SEVENFOLD/ex-CONFIDE drummer Arin Illjey.
If "Violence & Destruction" exhibited brilliance, "Power Under Control" is staggering genius. Rock, hip hop, alt, punk, emo, all sounding like a terror zone for those with heavier tastes. Yet ISLANDER has the balls to flaunt these genres with a rock artisan's flamboyance and more than a few sardonic raspberries blown along the way.
The hip hop prances all over "Darkness" show how effectively Mikey Carvajal raps in time to the tumbling riffs and whumping rhythms around him. ISLANDER, in particular Carvajal, confidently shoves this cut and heavies it up toward the end with brisk pickups. "Bad Guy" changes directions as a swerving alt-punk jam, the brash chunk-a-punk of the 1:09 "Green Slime Man" thereafter even more of a crazed detour.
"Better Day" has a 311 feel to it, not to mention a huge hook, with its alt-rap swing coming to life inside of ISLANDER's nostalgic pining for their emo-bound "good ol' days," assumedly circa 2005-06. The moody tugs of "All We Need" are given all the sulky riffs it can sustain along with Ezekiel Vasquez's morose bass and Mikey Carvajal's trailing squeals. Even a band this unpredictable manages to throw a stance-freezing breaking ball in the fashion of a killer reggae dub finale.
Where ISLANDER's insane yet effective genre bending comes to a head is on "Devil Red", where sneering punk meets hip hop meets emo meets proto rock. It sounds like a fabulous disaster in the making, and ISLANDER plays "Devil Red" like there's nothing to lose — cred in particular. That's why such a reckless ploy works here so well as it does on the xylophone-chimed skulks of "Beelzebub", which are raped asunder by J.R. Bareis's broiling guitar blares and Mikey Carvajal's outrageous yelping. As if the lyrics aren't mordant enough, the Moog whispers on the outro bite ISLANDER's collective thumbs.
HR from the BAD BRAINS dials in phantom vocals (remember, his vocals for "Sacred Love" were delivered strictly through an old-school landline receiver) on the oddly dropped "Think It Over". Cheerleader chants ala FAITH NO MORE's "Be Aggressive" add to "Think It Over"'s sensory overload. ISLANDER takes another couple pages from FAITH NO MORE with cool-breeze syncopation on "Last Forever", followed by the brute, agro-rooted self-flagellation on "Casket".
Only two albums deep and already five former members stocking the alumni list, Mikey Carvajal is either the most complicated cat to work with or he just might've needed an overhaul to produce the dynamic glory of "Power Under Control". The youth of today should be behind ISLANDER as "Power Under Control" speaks to and of their confused, often idled angst, but with zero idling to the music voiced on their behalf. Next-gen superb.