"Nostalgia is big business, and Mantras is swimming in it." Alien Ant Farm's first album in almost a decade is pretty much what you'd expect, and that's just fine

Alien Ant Farm produce an enjoyable, nostalgic comeback

Alien Ant Farm
(Image: © Press)

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At the height of the early 00s’ nu metal boom, it was Alien Ant Farm’s tongue- in-cheek cover of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal that temporarily turned the California veterans into one of the hottest bands in rock. Twenty-three years later, as they return with their first album in nine years, not only is it still one of the best rock covers of all time, it remains their commercial peak.

With the nu metal revival currently in full swing, it would be easy to view this well-timed reunion through cynical eyes, but in truth, the tag never felt like
a comfortable fit. There was always more going on in AAF’s sound than they got credit for, with reggae, pop punk, alt rock and even jazz, courtesy of drummer Michael Cosgrove, simmering in their sonic blend. All of this is on display as opener The Wrong Things rolls in on sun-dappled guitar and drums. That said, nostalgia is big business, and ~mAntras~ is swimming in it. Most of these tracks don’t even pretend to chase modern trends. Dryden Mitchell’s voice, which still sounds remarkably crisp and distinctive, immediately unlocks a million teenage memories. Last dAntz sounds like the band’s vastly superior ‘other’ hit, Movies, mixed with the glitz and the glam of early The Killers, while singles Fade and So Cold are both equal parts Papa Roach and Incubus with earworm choruses.

Tellingly, it’s when the band try to step out of their comfort zone that things become messy. The album’s closing title track descends into a tangle of percussion, overlaid vocals and rapping, which sounds like two songs playing at the same time. It doesn’t work, but doesn’t ruin what is an enjoyable comeback.

~mAntras~ is out this Friday, April 26

Dannii Leivers

Danniii Leivers writes for Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog, The Guardian, NME, Alternative Press, Rock Sound, The Line Of Best Fit and more. She loves the 90s, and is happy where the sea is bluest.