Aittala “American Nightmare” Review

Aittala is a band that actually has quite a long history. Mainman Eric Aittala began writing songs and performing under this moniker back in the ‘90s and went through several stints with different bands before finally deciding to make his namesake project his sole focus in 2009.  American Nightmare is the fourth full-length album to come from the band. The first release from the band was a 3-song EP released in the summer of 1993 titled Selling Heaven. It would be another 16 years before another release would come from the band with 2009’s Bed of Thorns.  2011 and 2014 saw Haunt Your Flesh and Effigy respectively, and for the past several years, the band has been steadily writing and releasing material with only two-year gaps between albums.

Heavy metal would perhaps be the most apt genre in which to place the band and in particular this new album. A far cry from the ubiquitous death metal or [insert term]-core bands, Aittala’s approach is a far more classic metal feel and sound. Everything from the production to the song writing to the lyrics seems to drip with metal that would have been very at home in the ‘80s and ‘90s. A case in point is the fact that the song “Brainwashed” was written in 1996; a full 20 years before being recorded. This is not at all to suggest the sound is outdated but rather to extol its virtues as a classic sound.

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The riffs seem to alternate between a very straight-forward heavy metal sound (almost like a very heavy AC/DC as certain points), a groove metal headbanger sound, and even a bit of blues. Songs like “American Nightmare” have an infectious groove that will undoubtedly get your head nodding right away. That particular song’s main riff is a perfect one to throw on when you are about to hit the gym and do some damage. Although my favorite riff is, without a doubt, “Unsung,” which grabs you with its simplicity mixed with raw power to get you in the mood to headbang. The song seems reminiscent of many of the heavy grooves Biohazard was known for.

As befits the band’s more classic ‘80s/’90s style, the songs are rather straight-forward in their structure without a lot of change in tempo or timbre. Aittala knows what they want to say and play and they get right to it. The vocals at first listen seem a bit out of place but they are intended to be a bit different. That being said, perhaps a bit more aggression in the vocals (a la Tom Araya or Evan Seinfeld) would push some of those heavy moments over the top. Songs like the title track seem to yearn for a bit more intensity in the vocals which I’d imagine is captured in Aittala’s live performances. As for the melodic singing, it would be great to see the band develop some melodies further and explore some more of Eric’s range in future releases, particularly in the softer tunes such as the much more sullen acoustic number “Forgot.”

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Overall, American Nightmare is a love letter to classic roots of heavy metal.  It has a raw, garage band (harkening to when that was a descriptive term, not some app on a computer) charm that certainly makes them a very unique specimen. Their “I play what I want” attitude is evident in every note of each song, which makes it very easy to embrace the energy of the album. For fans of the old school, this album will be a welcome addition to any collection.