Waterdown – The Files You Have on Me

The Files You Have on Me

As shown here on The Files You Have on Me, Waterdown is almost anything but watered down. Now, I am aware that some clever reviewer has probably already used a comparable opening line in his or her writing about this, the German outfit’s second full-length with Victory, but it was the first thing that popped into my squishy little brain, so I am going with it.
This is full-on rock with a heavy hardcore and metal feel, abandoning all subtleties and going straight for the jugular. The vocals are a crucial part of the album, as the two singers crank out their heavily emotional social and political commentary in two extremely unique manners. One of them has a raspy growl that will haunt you in your sleep, while the other has a polished croon he occasionally belts out in the style of an old-school metal frontman. Sometimes this strategy works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes the two varying vocal styles slip together nicely, and sometimes they cause enough friction to start a fire. The opening “Bulletproof,” as well as others like “Dodging Bullets,” are great examples of what can happen when the band is really on top of its game. The guitar work takes a similar approach, sometimes allowing the melodies to stand alone in the spotlight, other times shoving them out of the way so the chugging distortion can hog all the attention.
At times, it almost feels like this is a band with a multiple personality disorder. Songs like “A Fortress,” “Going Back,” “Disgrace,” and “Interrogation” are so dark and brutal that it hurts a little, but there are many interesting contrasts. “Xerox” is a deeply brooding lullaby of sorts, “Transient” is about as close to power-pop as a heavy band like this can get, and “Nothing” has a predictable pop-punk feel to it that makes it one of the least interesting tracks offered. Meanwhile, “Decaffeinated” is a sugary sweet love song, sounding like an amped-up Jimmy Eat World of sorts, and “13” ends the album as an atmospheric and lovely instrumental piece. Tunes like “Nails All Broken Short” and “At the Waterfront” offer a happy medium, comparable to the saturated nu-metal of the past couple of years.
The most impressive part is the fact that the album was supposedly recorded via live cuts, despite the fact that the songs are so complex and articulate in structure that you would assume they required multiple takes and overdubs. The guitar layers are deeply woven and beautiful, the rhythm section is capable of stopping and starting with hardly any notice, and the give and take of the alternating vocals is impressive. The only problem is that there may be a tad too much polish slathered on, as the intensity that should just plain ooze from a band like this is choked out a bit. The band does a fine job of keeping a leash on its aggression and putting it to good use, but the songs just don’t seem to be allowed to pummel you like they want to.
One of two things will come as a result of you hearing The Files You Have on Me. Either you will find the album to be too aggressive and you will walk away from it to head for the medicine cabinet and get yourself a handful of aspirin, or you will be growling and pounding along by the time it is finished and will then crank up the volume knob a couple of more notches and start it all over. It just seems like one of those albums you will either love or hate, and I obviously can’t tell you how to react.