One of stranger phenomena of recent times has been the ongoing popularity of incredibly boring hard rock bands. No need to name names: you either know what I mean, or you actually quite like NICKELBACK. That's fine. But for those of us who would rather be strangled with our own intestines than ever hear Scott Stapp's voice again, there are numerous exciting and, dare I say it, original alternatives on offer. For example, MOLLO RILLA would be an invigorating shot in the arm in any year, but given current circumstances, the Ohio quartet's second full-length feels like a gift from the alt-rock gods.
Superficially, you will hear all manner of nods to FAITH NO MORE, SYSTEM OF A DOWN, QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE and other seminal eccentrics in these songs. But "Viva El Camino" audibly seeks to create its own little world, and the way that MOLLO RILLA switch effortlessly from micro-genre to micro-genre, while always sounding like themselves, makes this an endlessly rewarding and obscenely entertaining 40 minutes. They have a winning way with crushing riffs, too: someone in this band is a massive HELMET fan, but their devotion to Page Hamilton comes shrouded in kaleidoscopic, cracked-clown looseness, as frontman Marco Ciofani weaves unhinged nursery rhymes around the riffs and grooves.
Opener "The Raven" and recent single "Rage the Day" are particularly potent examples of MOLLO RILLA's oddball approach. These songs are ridiculously anthemic and full of memorable hooks, and yet the execution and the subsequent atmosphere are unmistakably unorthodox. The biggest surprise of all is that "Viva El Camino" hangs together perfectly, its creators' identity never in doubt, but with a mischievous disregard for doing the obvious.
"Night Fang" combines a hip-hop vocal attack with lurching, noise rock and spooky, gothic keys; "Lock & Load" is a short, sharp burst of amphetamine cow-punk; "Mike Angelo" is an oasis of noirish, syrupy blues; "Let Go Pt. 1" is psychedelic desert rock with a B-movie horror heart; "Bliss" is a sinister, slow-motion surf rock ballad that reeks of cheap tequila and regret. Throughout it all, MOLLO RILLA sound like a band with a singular vision and a total commitment to seeing it through. In a sane world, they would swiftly become superstars. Oh well.