Not since Trent Reznor declared that "This machine is obsolete" on 1999's slow-selling The Fragile has a rocker from Cleveland damned himself to the extent that Gatlin frontman Jon Drake does on his band's latest. "We're in the current of what just came around," he sings on the disc's title cut, a ham-fisted rap-rock workout that sounds a lot like the Xtreme Radio playlist in pureed form. Moreover, for a group that's struggling to escape such comparisons, matters aren't helped any by titling a song "Stained."
But hey, unlike the platinum band of that name, at least Gatlin spells it right. In many cases, this group is also more musically proficient than Staind, given Drake's impressive range and forceful upper register; the garrulous, impenitent guitars of Don DeBiase and Patrick Ols; and the steady hand of drummer Mike Morrison.
The problem is, Gatlin never really strikes an original pose on Current. When the band is at its most feral, on cuts like the bracing "Only I" and the chugging "Stained," it sounds a lot like Sevendust, with dense, cement-mixer guitars and barking vocals. When Gatlin leavens the aggression with touches of steely melody, it's reminiscent of an updated Candlebox. And when the group rhymes, well, it makes Biz Markie's slobbering, disjointed flow seem smooth by comparison.
It's all done with professionalism and attention to detail, which means that, with some redirecting, this band could very well develop into a force, in line for a record deal of some sort. But until Gatlin learns to swim away from this Current, it will only be swept away to the margins of modern rock.
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