Power Under Control finds Islander, the Victory Records second-wave nu-metal band, coming into its own. Here, the South Carolina outfit’s frequently-cited P.O.D. and Deftones influences converge with an all-out approach to modern rock music, culling details from disparate corners of alternative, pop and punk to deliver a diverse-yet-cohesive sophomore album.
Rewriting the playbook presented on Violence and Destruction, their 2014 debut LP, the varied selections of Power Under Control rattle and shake at a deeper level, simultaneously aiming for a broader appeal. P.O.D. frontman Sonny Sandoval doesn’t put in a guest appearance this time around, but H.R. of hardcore institution Bad Brains does reprise his appearance from Islander’s 2013 track “Lucky Rabbit” (taken from their Pains. EP) on this album’s “Think It Over.”
Accompanying Islander’s sweeping stylistic revision is a complete changeover of instrumentalists; apart from lead singer Mikey Carvajal, all previous Islanders have been replaced. The music is now anchored by ex-ForeverAtLast bassist Ezekiel Vasquez, former Avenged Sevenfold drummer Arin Ilejay and guitarist J.R. Bareis, a guitar technician and touring guitarist for Korn’s Brian “Head” Welch solo project and subsequent band, Love and Death.
Power Under Control starts incredibly strong. “Darkness,” the album’s introduction and first single, deserves a five-star rating on its own. A scathing satire of self-loathing, it’s a diabolical character study that hits just as hard as Deftones’ White Pony opener, “Feiticeira.” The sardonic, ultra-hedonistic message of “Darkness” sticks with the listener long after Carvajal’s final desperate gasps of “Don’t try to change me ’cause this is who I am.”
Subsequent single “Bad Guy” follows, Islander’s most mainstream-leaning track to date. The song’s anthemic chants and crescendoing structure forge what could be taken as a rock hit by Incubus. Blasting his trademark vocal tics throughout Power Under Control, Carvajal can’t withhold an introductory shriek to start out the song, but, otherwise, his vocal style here forgoes any shouting or screaming for his smoothed-out, radio-ready delivery.
The album serves up a smorgasbord of divergent gems. “Green Slime Man” is one-minute slice of hardcore; “Better Day” does funky rap-rock verses with a chorus befitting TobyMac. “All We Need” pairs more Deftones-esque riffs with a catchy refrain before turning into a ska remix. “Devil Red,” an album highlight, sounds like Islander invoking Faith No More and some System of a Down to back Carvajal’s supremely fun but seriously dire lyrics.
This thrill of Power Under Control is that it’s non-stop ruckus. Islander could have easily towed the company line and eked out a derivative collection of rap-metal. Instead, the band stretches out to show us the height of their performance abilities while Carvajal affably sings, screams and squeaks his way through these identifiable tales of self-reproach. This band may very well be the next Deftones or P.O.D., and here’s hoping Islander’s third record is their White Pony or The Fundamental Elements of Southtown.