Relationship of Command, El Paso, TX post-hardcore vets At the Drive-In's explosive 2000 swan song, was a once in-a-career record. Even at the time, it was hard to imagine the quintet matching the manic ferocity and sticky hooks that catapulted the group to the top of the new rock heap and inspired dozens in their wake. Coming 17 years after the fact, In•ter A•li•a, has quite the hill to climb.
The members of At the Drive-In have been anything but quiet in the years since their 2001 split — guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez released more than a dozen solo albums last year alone — so fans have certainly seen and heard their progression as musicians. It's curious that the band, who's rep was built on their ability to push the boundaries of the post-hardcore world in which they toiled, would opt for a regression; In•ter A•li•a sounds like a collection of songs culled from the same sessions that spawned their magnum opus.
While that's a balm for fans nervous about their beloved band overindulging in experimentation, this is the first project Rodriguez-Lopez and singer Bixler-Zavala have been involved with that suffers from a lack of forward momentum. With their abstract riffs and cryptic lyrics, songs like "Governed by Contagions" and "Incurably Innocent" could have slipped nicely onto Relationship of Command, but it would never have been one of its standout tracks — nothing here boasts the fist-pumping precision of the band's best efforts. Perhaps that stems from the absence of founding guitarist Jim Ward, but In•ter A•li•a feels like a band trying to recapture the sound of their youth.
Rodriguez-Lopez once said that had the band never split, their followup to Relationship of Command would have sounded "like a heartless piece of garbage." In•ter A•li•a is far from that, but its more likely to inspire a re-listen of its predecessor than the next wave of iconoclasts. (Rise Records)