take a major step forward on Freaks of Nature
, a more consistent record than their debut. The melodies of their grungy, detuned, slightly electronic-tinged metal songs still have a deliberate, sinister feel, but the band demonstrates a greater mastery of songcraft, rendering those melodies consistently memorable and outdoing most of their contemporaries in that department. As such, the occasional dull riff isn't quite so conspicuous, since the songs don't rely entirely on the guitars for their melodic hooks. The production, too, is generally quite good, if a little slick; the only glaring misstep is an awkward pseudo-rap bit in "Simon Says." Freaks of Nature
is that rare bird in the mid- to late '90s: a heavy metal record that manages to meet the decade's new standard for heaviness while at the same time relying on high-caliber songwriting to put the music across, instead of gimmicky production or cartoonishly excessive aggression. Overall, it's refreshingly well done.