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Taproot - Gift Print E-mail
Tuesday, 27 June 2000


format: CD,
label: Atlantic/Velvet Hammer Records
release year: 2000
performance: 5
sound 7
reviewed by: Bryan Dailey

ImagePoor Taproot. This is a band that came along about three years too late. Bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit and the Deftones have forced music critics to create new terms such as alternative metal and new metal. Taproot joins P.O.D., Papa Roach and Project 87 as one of the bands that are expected to carry the new metal torch into the 21st century. The only problem I see with this scenario is that while Taproot wants to carry that torch, they draw a little too much influence from recent metal bands and end up sounding like clones rather than visionaries. Their first album Gift is an average new metal record that has some basic flaws but shows potential.

Taproot was actually pursued by Limp Bizkit’s frontman and Interscope records A&R "executive" Fred Durst. The story, according to Taproot singer Stephen Richards, was that Durst initially showed interest in signing the band after hearing a copy of their self-produced CD. Taproot had sold over 10,000 copies of this CD and a real buzz was beginning to surround the band. Durst promised big things for Taproot, but in the end, they found a better deal elsewhere with Atlantic Records’ new Velvet Hammer label and that is when the fireworks began. Durst sent the band his own kiss of death, giving them the "You’ll never work in this town again!" speech in an answering machine message filled with profanity and threats. Any publicity is good publicity and, thanks to Fred Durst, Taproot already had a pretty interesting story to focus on even before anyone had heard one second of their music. Hurry, hurry, step right up and listen to the band that Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit threatened to ruin.

Taproot’s music is loud, heavy metal with hard, jagged rhythms and very loud yet melodic vocals. Produced by Ulrich Wild - the man who produced Pantera, Powerman 5000 and Stabbing Westward, to name just a few - did a decent job making the sound of the record cohesive and powerful. The vocal quality is intentionally distorted and lo-fi, as if the words were recorded through a 20-dollar microphone and the result is very reminiscent of Alice In Chains. That is the sound the kids are digging these days, but it surely will drive audiophiles insane. When he’s not screaming, Stephen Richards’ singing is a little too whiny for my tastes, and I have a pretty high tolerance for whiny singers.

The big problem with Gift is that the material is a bit on the tired side. The songs all rock and make for good, open freeway, foot-to-the-floor driving music, but none of them jumps out and smacks me in the face as being exceptional. Taproot doesn’t have bagpipes like Korn or a singer with hair that sticks up three feet in the air like Static X. Musically, they don’t have a hook to makes people take notice, and the music might not be fresh enough to cut through all of the hard rock that is out there today.

Being a much more impressive live act than a studio band, Taproot will probably grow musically as they tour in support of this album. Chances are, the songwriting will become more original as the band continues to evolve, but they are just not there yet. A few years ago, a band called Far from my hometown, Sacramento, CA, made music that was virtually identical to Taproot’s and, despite the support of Immortal Records, they did not achieve any kind of commercial success. I know that just because an album does not sell a ton of records it does not mean that it isn’t any good. Some pretty horrible records have sold millions of copies. I wouldn’t call Taproot’s Gift horrible, but I don’t think it will join the ranks of the platinum-selling "bad" albums. The kids will probably find this band via the relentless touring schedule, including a slot on this year’s Ozzfest, but it’s going to be a long time until Taproot is a household name in new metal.

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