Written by M.J. Rawls
In 1995, a band that started out as high school buddies, Incubus released their first album , Fungus Amongus that encompassed funk and hip hop cadences like their early influences such as Red Hot Chili Peppers. Throughout their productive career, you can pick an album and attach a defining song to it. There were many couples out there that dedicated “Stellar” or “Dig” to their significant other, or even or used “Megalomaniac” as a narrative of vigilance against either political or personal discernment.
2011’s If Not Now, When? marked a big, stylistic shift within the band where a song like “Adolescents” could be considered the most recognizable to earlier fans, but most of the album replaced the aggression of previous works with songs that investigated the softer, more progressive side of Incubus. What marked as a turning point for the band was also the departure of their relationship with their longtime label home, Epic Records. 2015’s Trust Fall (Side A) had four songs that saught to merge the themes of older works and continue the direction that the band was built with INNW. While “8” was conceived during the writing sessions of the first proposed Side B, many were wondering if the band would get back to the harder rock esthetic.
8 is an outcry both from an emotional standpoint and a musical work. One of the big advances that comes in this album is with the mixing. The band had enlisted electronic aficionado, Skrillex after their work on the song, “Familiar Faces.” All of the instruments have equal footing without the feeling that they are overpowering. Piano/keyboardist Chris Killmore’s contributions are more pronounced on 8, often adding an additional layer to songs that contribute to providing and ambiance that can co-exist with the sharper-edge elements.
“No Fun” and “Nimble Bastard” serve as a confident, outward statement that is reminiscent of the start of 2001’s Morning View. The album version “Nimble Bastard,” dawns a new mix that gives punch to the aggressive guitars and powerful percussive elements for their first radio single off the album.
Most of the themes around the album concern in surrendering yourself to the grief you are experiencing and wanting to shed the skin of that later on. It’s the war between the grey cloud and the vigilant inner-voice. Sometimes you want to solider on past lost love and sometimes you want to wallow it in as Boyd’s 10+ year relationship came to it’s end. 8 shows some of the most honest and vulnerable lyrics to date.
The songs, “Glitterbomb”, “Undefeated”, and “Loneliest” serves in their own narrative. Serving as a “temperature” change from Glitterbomb is lead singer Brandon Boyd expressing regret over trusting someone, “Undefeated” is a declaration of victory as long as you try, and “Loneliest,” an R&B infused, slow burn, is someone at their allocating exploring their lost to someone or something they don’t know as a temporary reprieve.
2004’s A Crow Left of The Murder allowed Incubus the liberty of musicial exploration outside of the typical song structure. This precedent is notable in “Glitterbomb” and “Love In A Time of Surveillance” where guitarist Michael Enzinger, bassist Ben Kenney, and drummer Jose Pasillas separate off into a frantic, rhythmic jam session after the second chorus.
“Familiar Faces,” which is the song that Skrillex worked on directly is the marriage between his musical style that has matured with working in the pop and hip-hop realm and Incubus. As a whole, where the album has a uniformity in it’s structure, this is a break that may hint at a new element or wrinkle.
8 is that trophy room filled with your best memories from the past. Incubus was seemly on the brink of who they were as a band and how they exist within a new musical landscape where they would be considered the elder statesmen of their brand of alternative rock. The flow state of the album has a familiarity to it that may bring up memories of listening to 1999’s Make Yourself did not let up towards it’s conclusion. Sandwiched in between the ambient instrumental, “Make No Sound In The Digital Forest” are two songs that act as the follow up blow from the start of the album. “Love In The Time of Surveillance” and “Throw Out The Map” feature Enzinger utilizing rifts hearkening to Tom Morello’s days with Audioslave concluding Boyd’s proclamation to “want shed the skin/ to shed the skin.”
While the album may not be groundbreaking, it’s more of a summary of veterans fine tuning a sound that brought them so much success throughout the year. 8 retraces steps more as a reminder of what the band can do, rather than trail blaze.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10