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Incubus Returns

Half Metal, Half Pop Album Marks Dawn of New Style

By Sandra Chung

On Morning View, Incubus ripens and mellows, holding onto its funk-metal origins while exploring and integrating new patience and thought into its repertoire. The new album emphasizes the band’s cohesiveness and maturity with songs that draw the listener into a deep musical well. It is rock with an ocean influence, beer that sometimes tastes like wine.

The guitar work is sometimes crunchy and distorted, sometimes acoustic and ringing, and often so good it bleeds. Lead singer Brandon Boyd’s voice is, in its best incarnation; lean, strong, and slightly vulnerable. DJ Kilmore’s spinning adds just the right amount of spicy funk.

Incubus is far from old, yet the talented band seems to be aging well, consistently producing high-quality and musically evolving albums. Like most maturing bands, that process involves transitioning from metal to pop/rock. Yes, Incubus has softened up. No, Incubus is not morphing into Third Eye Blind. They seem to be taking inspiration from Pink Floyd’s The Wall, an enormous compliment in the music world.

Fans of the ‘old’ Incubus need not worry that the original metal sound is gone for good. “Blood on the Ground,” “Circles,” “Have You Ever,” and “Under My Umbrella,” are all threads that continue from the past with their head-bopping beats, lyrical ebbs and explosions, and glossy spinning. “Have You Ever” and “Under My Umbrella” integrate electronic effects into spacey intros and weird, atmospheric bridges that distinguish the pieces from typical mosh material.

Fans of the earlier Incubus single “Drive” will perk their ears up at “Mexico,” another all-acoustic barebones number. “Mexico” is made from just a cello, an acoustic guitar, and Boyd’s bleeding voice. This number, like “Drive,” is stunning live, with lead guitarist Mike Einziger and Boyd giving a raw, emoting, audience-stilling performance.

“Nice to Know You” exemplifies the overall character of the entire album, leaping between metal and the band’s newer, more mature sound. “Wish You Were Here” perches further along the musical continuum between metal and pop. The radio single captures a moment and a feeling, with thoughtful drum work, bell-like guitar lines, and evocative lyrics.

“Warning” and “11 a.m.” are also single material. “Warning” is a highlight of the album, with its mysterious simplicity and catchiness. A sonorous pattern of guitar chords and vocal harmonies emphasize sparseness and leave the spotlight to the purposeful lyrics: “When will we learn, when will we change / Just in time to see it all come down / Those left standing will make millions / Writing books on ways it should have been.” The equally catchy “11 a.m.” showcases Boyd’s voice. Strings and acoustic guitar add layers to what sounds like a funkish, deep version of a soft Staind number.

“Echo” and “Aqueous Transmission” share a delightful, oriental flavor. “Aqueous,” as its name implies, is a song of sheer elegance and liquid nature. An oriental guitar tiptoes alongside the silky stream of strings on top of which Boyd's vocals meander: “I’m floating down a river / Oars freed from their homes long ago / Lying face up on the floor / Of my vessel.” Pan flute note flutter like butterfly wings on an ethereal breeze of percussion. “Aqueous” is disarmingly lovely, a surprise on an album by a California funk rock band with a metal background.

Incubus albums differ somewhat from Incubus live. Studio production tames the funk-rock energy that launches their supercharged stage performances. Consequently, the album belongs to the slower numbers, which take the cake as far as intelligent design and compelling qualities go. Few metal bands are capable of producing albums like Morning View, or rare pieces like “Aqueous.” Incubus lives in an angry, sad, polluted world, but seeks to capture the beauty of the sunrise.