Three former students from the Musicians Institute of Hollywood, The Quarantined bill themselves as a grunge punk band and on their second EP, the tight musical trio take the listener on a voyage through various sounds dragged back from the nineties into the second half of 2015. Their retro grooves also come with a socio-political eye, though there are times when this comes across as somewhat vague, sometimes more soundbites than truly focused anger. Concentrating purely on their musical talents, however, this EP has a fair amount of enjoyable tunage – especially for those perhaps too young to have appreciated some of the sledgehammer influences the first time around.
‘Anti-Evangelist’ begins in a fairly low key fashion with a grubbily tuned guitar riff that quickly evokes the more garage based sounds of Seattle circa 1991. This is complimented excellently by a second guitar in the right speaker channel adding cleaner guitar twiddles, perhaps more Incubus than Nirvana…and then the unexpected happens – at the point where you’ll perhaps be expecting a gruff voice akin to Mudhoney’s Mark Arm to take centre stage, frontman Sean Martin launches into a funky quasi-rap, like a hybrid of the young Anthony Keidis and Zach De La Rocha. This instantly gives The Quarantined’s approach a sharp lift, as he spits as many words a second as he can muster. A man who “gave up his bill of rights” comes into the firing line along with a cast of characters upon street corners, but the key message within the fifty words a second narrative is that “evangelism is like cannibalism, when you forcefeed belief and choke-hold provision”. Granted it might not always come with quite the sharp tack that someone like Zack de la Rocha or Henry Rollins might approach such a subject, but the conviction of belief is strong, with the performance carrying enough anger to see things through. The chorus, meanwhile, is far more digestible – shouting vocals collide with a sub-‘Teen Spirit’ riff in a manner that brings a rosy glow of nostalgia. Overall, this opener promises much and manages to deliver, but it appears The Quarantined peak just a little too soon.
With a chunkier riff at play, ‘Drink To Forget’ is far more in the grunge sphere, as Martin places a gnarly vocal against a metal-based riff. In all honesty, the level of crunch is more than acceptable; the rhythm section bring a reasonable punch considering the budgetary limitations, but in comparison to the promising ‘Anti-Evangelist’ they rarely come across as any better than a club band. Martin’s sung vocals lack the attitude of his fast rap moments and he’s really not the most tuneful. Thankfully, a brief solo and a descent into a classic metal riff for the closing section is far better. The combination of a recycled Sabbath-esque groove and a bit of shouting occasionally recalls Mindfunk. Clearly not trying quite so hard, it’s here The Quarantined sound like a coherent unit for the first time during this decidedly average number. Given that the band bill themselves as a grunge/punk band, though, it comes as a bit of a surprise that they appear so keen to quickly step back into funky rap-metal territory, but that’s exactly where they’re headed next… During ‘Feeding You Lies’ (arguably the EP’s other standout) Rage Against The Machine raise their politicised fists as the most likely reference point and a couple of the vocal interjections strongly suggest Martin has spent many a happy year with a copy of ‘Evil Empire’. Rather more than a straight up RATM rehash, there are a couple of other bands this calls to mind – namely the more overlooked Shuvel and the second release from Reveille. On this track, perhaps more than any other, the musical talents within the band shine through, particularly Kaspars Lucey-Grinsbergs whose drums cut through a hard bouncing riff which punches the listener in the chops during the bridge sections. Throw in a rallying cry of “Scream!”, a thoughtful bassline and some reverbed guitars and this homage to classic rap metal pushes all the right buttons.
The remaining pair of tunes, though enjoyable in places – and, again, occasionally showing these guys to be good players – just can’t reach the bar set by ‘Feeding You Lies’. Going back to more obvious grunge fare, ‘Sex and No Regrets’ makes a feature of Alex Diaz’s fat bass tone, but has little to back that up. Like ‘Drink To Forget’, the vocals wander into the acquired taste category, while one of the two featured riffs comes dangerously close to just lifting from Nirvana without doing anything interesting with the spoils. The world already has one Puddle of Mudd…it probably doesn’t need another. Better, though still not equalling The Quarantined at their best, ‘The End’ is a cornucopia of all of the band’s styles mangled into a five minute sweat. The verses channel hard funk and reasonable rap – often coming across as a closer spirit to Sublime than Rage; the main riffs are bolstered by an especially crashy drum sound, resulting in a usage of the LOUDquietLOUD technique that’s more inventive than most. Hearing this band thrashing at full pelt really gives an insight into their energy, while a couple of fiery guitar leads suggest the band are capable of stretching out farther than they do here.
There’s a lot of energy within these songs, but you won’t necessarily find much from The Quarantined that’s especially original. Even so, they carve something solid – if not always enjoyable – from a range of retro influences. As suggested previously, however, despite best intentions, there’s always a feeling that ‘Antiquate Hate’ might just strike the biggest chord with an audience who weren’t there first time around…