Review: I Was Born Twice “Nemiza”

Review: I Was Born Twice “Nemiza”

- in Reviews

To call the past few years ‘tumultuous’ is a disservice at best and a disaster at worst. With the upending of the music industry going full speed in the background, the COVID-19 pandemic bullied musicians the world over into delaying shows, holding back album releases, and more importantly foregoing any stable opportunities to ensure their livelihoods. Well before all this misfortune, however, Bielsko-Biala’s I Was Born Twice was already well accustomed to fighting for its survival. In spite of a history of health scares for frontman Tom Tatoń and member turnover, the band has made a name for itself throughout its native Poland over approximately a decade and continues to stay positive in spite of numerous uncertainties. Case in point, a reformed lineup centered around Tatoń was ready to release their most recent full length, Nemiza, at the end of September 2021. The release was then bumped to January 2022, and then bumped again, though only slightly, to March 2022. The third time was ultimately charmed, as the band was finally able to deliver their sophomore LP nearly five years in the making.

I Was Born Twice’s latest effort is an amalgam of sounds and genres. Deathcore is the band’s chosen milieu, however I don’t find much death metal influence here. More on display is a groovy, nu-metal backbone enmeshed with metalcore structures and sensibilities, while hardbass rhythms and electronic effects churn underneath. The result is a kind of breakdown-heavy dance mix where no one will look twice when you add a bit of a shuffle into the wind up for your next spinkick. And really, that’s kind of where the appeal ends. It’s a well-mixed and well-mastered record that could possibly have benefited from more vocal presence throughout. The electronic elements certainly add a catchiness, and there are few spots that have earworm potential. I can’t call any of the songs interesting on their own merits, though. Chalk it up to having lived through the nu-metal glut of the early 21st century, but polyrhythmic sawing on an extremely down-tuned low E string is not as captivating as it was 20 years ago. The hardbass elements don’t add enough flourishes to break up the monotonous heaviness, and act more to exacerbate a disco brutality that feels aped and toothless rather than genuine.

The jokiness throughout most of Nemiza doesn’t help the theatrics and stake it firmly within the realm of eye-rolling absurdity. Over half the songs feel like an elbow to the ribs and an outstretched index finger while asking if the listener appreciates ribald humor and pop culture references. But honestly, I don’t get the joke. If anything, I’m walking away with a number of questions. Why capitalize every other letter in all the song titles? It just makes reading them a chore. Why is almost half of the song with a Kardashian reference in the title a twee Eurodance interlude? Is the minute-and-a-half song about Tik Tok meant to be critical of the social media platform (it ends with a toilet flushing) or is it written in hopes that it might be uploaded? What does “make your ass my hentai” mean? I think I have a couple guesses? Actually no, I’m going to leave that last one alone.

It’s all very frustrating. I’m more disappointed, though, because there is a lot to like on the band’s previous LP, Risen. That album is much more straightforward and traditional metalcore, and I understand a new iteration of a band would want to make its own sound. However, the closing track “I Need U…To Go” (I’m not doing the weird capitalization thing) actively works against this transfer because it is precisely the style of the sound I Was Born Twice is seemingly trying to move away from. This vestigial tail just creates more confusion for what the artistic intent of the album is, as though the band didn’t really want to completely commit to all the gimmicks in the preceding 20 minutes. Was this a leftover song thrown in to pad out an album that is weirdly brief even with its inclusion? Is it indicative that the band is still exploring how best to balance all their disparate influences? Am I reading way too much into something that really doesn’t require that much inspection? The answer to the last question is probably yes, but there isn’t much else for me to latch onto here.

Phantom limbs aside, I Was Born Twice comes across as a band of harlequins telling mostly inside jokes and compelling you to laugh even though you might only half understand the setup. Nemiza successfully establishes a new sound for the band while they (partially) shed another more traditional and well-tread style. The success ends there, though. “The Never Ending Bleeding” stands out as the most serious and coherent effort, but otherwise be prepared for a sophomoric sheen on everything that makes the album feel more at home with crunkcore than deathcore. And if the only requirements for a good time in the pit are booming breakdowns and goofy lyrics that stab at being transgressive but completely whiff, go on out and crowd-kill to your hearts content. The rest of us, having had our faces caved in by a well-placed windmill fist, will lie on the ground and mutter to ourselves “did he just scream something about anime titties?”.

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