At The Drive In - IN·TER A·LI·A
marks the second reunion for Texan post hardcore outfit At The Drive In since 2012’s brief run of live shows that included Coachella and Lollapalooza. Most will remember the band for their seminal 2000 album Relationship of Command, the culmination of a seven year career and creating rock classics such as 'One Armed Scissor' and 'Invalid Litter Dept.', before suddenly announcing an indefinite hiatus and grinding to a halt in 2001. Splintering off into different projects such as Mars Volta and Sparta, it was uncertain whether that hiatus would ever come to an end. 17 years later, without original member Jim Ward, we have our answer.
Musically, IN·TER A·LI·A is a 41 minute sprint, barely pausing for breath with every space crammed with phased guitar lines, pounding drums, or Bixler’s vocal acrobatics. Each track has the urgency of a live band playing out of their skins, likely helped in part by the co-production of guitarist Omar, as guitar lines are left unpolished and vocals bleed into each other with a crash, bang and wallop. Highlights of the album include 'Continuum'’s howl of feedback and guitar harmonics backing Cedric’s barked call to arms, the careening gallop of 'Call Broken Arrow' which feels like it’s on the verge of spinning out of control, and the industrial grind and Placebo-like vocals of 'Ghost-Tape No.9'.
While their energy and passion is undeniable, it's hard not to compare this record to Relationship.. or even post At The Drive In efforts. This is where, unfortunately, IN·TER A·LI·A falls a little short. Relationship… and early Mars Volta had started to experiment with varying styles such as prog, jazz, and even dub, while still managing to inject it with a hefty helping of rock with catchy breakneck punk hooks. IN·TER A·LI·A still has a heap of brutal insanity to it but overall feels like a more straightforward and stayed rock album, rather than the expected leap forward, and not quite delivering on the immediate or hook heavy promise of their previous releases.