It’s hardly a surprise that the marketing for Straight From The Barrio has been virtually nonexistent. Upon A Burning Body’s myopic and extremely poorly executed promotional stunt for their last album The World Is My Enemy – which saw the band posting fake reports on Twitter of the kidnapping of frontman Danny Leal – would put off even the most worldly of management teams from even giving them the time of day. But to give them credit, as in bad taste as their stunt was, it at least turned heads towards the deathcore crew to see what the fuss was all about.
And for the most part they aren’t missing much, as Straight From The Barrio is fairly unremarkable. It’s serviceable and has some moments that really manage to hit their mark, but on the whole, its basic framework is that of typical, run-of-the-mill metal- and deathcore. But it’s what Upon A Burning Body do with that framework that makes them stand out, namely by injecting a bit more colour into the mix with short, Ill Niño-style samba snippets in the likes of ‘Til The Break Of Dawn and with sprigs of Spanish that make their way into Leal’s lyrics, both intended as a homage to the Mexican roots of their hometown of San Antonio.
It’s not like this is thematically representative of the album as a whole though. No, that’s reserved for the usual genre stomping grounds of partying and calling out haters to be mined yet again, with the occasional sprinkle of mental self-examination for good measure. If all that sounds a lot like Attila, it’s because this album unfortunately does, but Upon A Burning Body manage to come out on top for the simple fact that they’re nowhere near as obnoxious. For a start, the actually sound like humans rather than cartoon characters, and while tracks like The Outcast are in relatively short supply, they paint Leal as a more fleshed-out character, telling of his experiences with bullying as a child, and having at least some semblance of emotional presence rather than just constant brainless hedonism.
But while there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that in and of itself, the merging of these disparate themes on Straight From The Barrio feels remarkably inconsistent. There’s the crew mentality on tracks like ‘Til The Break Of Dawn and Straight From The Barrio (210), and on Fake Plastic Smile and Media Blackout, there’s the establishment of their hater-baiting, antagonistic side (the latter especially, which could easily be seen as an unapologetic rebuttal to the whole ‘kidnapping’ fiasco). This would all be fine if this image that the band builds was the consistent thematic factor of the album, but there are tracks like the blustery metalcore of Leave The Pain Behind or the pensive acoustic closer My Distorted Reflection that run completely at odds with the entire concept. It’s sort of understandable why they’re here, most likely to carve out a wider topical curve for the lyrics, but it feels clumsy with no flow or transition, and for the raucous, hostile album this could’ve been, it’s left treading water, struggling to decide what it really wants to be.
That’s really the biggest problem with Straight From The Barrio though. For what it wants to achieve, it’s fine, nothing really special but then again it’s hard to get anything special from this sort of content. It’s a bit more diverse than just another deathcore album so it picks up some points for that, but honestly, it’s largely inessential stuff. Though given how inessential Upon A Burning Body have made themselves over the past couple of years, that hardly comes as a surprise.
For fans of: Attila, Emmure, Ill Niño
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Straight From The Barrio’ by Upon A Burning Body is out now on Sumerian Records.