Cubanate: Best 3 Songs per Album

Cubanate is a weird band for me because I like their first album and their last album, but the stuff in the middle is less remarkable.  However, I think those middle albums are the ones that fans generally like the most and a lot of people don’t like the last album.  So it’s likely that my song choices here won’t exactly match up with what many people consider their greats.


Cubanate - Antimatter

The story I’ve heard is that this album was just a rough demo meant to attract label attention, but the label liked it so much that it went straight to press without bothering to record cleaner versions.  If that’s true, then this is a really great-sounding demo.  The first Cubanate songs I ever heard were from this album; perhaps I’d think more poorly of the production if I’d heard some more recent stuff first.  Normally I’m not a big fan of growly/screamy vocals, but something about Marc Heal’s voice just has the perfect amount of energy and aggression.  This is a pretty strong album overall, most of the songs have something to appreciate, but I do have some clear favorites:

  • Body Burn — A true classic in my book, catchy and so angry!  The chorus is great fun to scream along with.
  • Revolution Time — This shares a lot of the same qualities as Body Burn, but somehow the music feels a little more mellow and groovy. But still plenty of that trademark Cubanate angst.
  • Switch — The laid back verses in this song, with the unusually calm vocals from Marc Heal, work perfectly.  The bridge leads into the great singalong chorus.  I can’t listen to this song and not yell out, “Throw the switch!” every single time.

Honorable Mention: Autonomy

Worst Song: Exert/Disorder.  It’s not bad, but there’s not much going on except the main chant.


Cubanate - Cyberia

This album, and the next one, are ones that I’ve never been able to listen to heavily.  They occasionally get a full play, but really I think mid-period Cubanate has too much filler — songs that aren’t really bad, but just don’t generate too much excitement.  My three favorites for this one are:

  • Oxyacetylene — I think this is one of the most popular songs of the “regular” Cubanate sound, consisting of their first three albums, and with good reason.  It has that driving beat, the catchy bass riff, and the signature lyrics about taking out angst on the subject of the song.  “I’m gonna break you!  I’m gonna make you pay!”  Delivered with Marc Heal’s trademark angry scream, lyrics like that are just gold and make you want to chant along with them.
  • Hatesong — This song is very similar to others which I would consider filler, but for some reason this one works for me more.  Cubanate songs don’t usually have catchy melodies for you to latch onto, just a driving groove, so the element that always stands out are the lyrics and vocals.  I keep mentioning how a lot of these songs are fun to sing along with, with the simple and direct message and the fun angst, and this one is no exception.
  • Skeletal — I’ll just be repeating myself here, but this one is also all about providing some great angry lyrics for you to scream along with.  As usual for the middle-era Cubanate, the music is mostly relegated to a fairly unwavering groove which just supports the vocals rather than calling much attention to itself, but that formula seems to work well for them.

Honorable Mention: Build, Transit

Worst Song: Human Drum — I think some people consider this one of the best, but to me it just plods along and there’s nothing fun to sing along with.


Cubanate - Barbarossa

It’s easy for me to get Barbarossa and Cyberia confused, because to my ear they both sorta repeat the same formula:  The music doesn’t have many flashy riffs but largely just lays down a groove to support the singing.  However, everything on this album seem more grungy and overdriven and the vocals are a bit harder to understand at times.  I think I prefer the cleaner sound of the previous album overall.  My three favorites:

  • Barbarossa — Musically this sounds like a close cousin to the classic Oxyacetylene from the previous album.  The vocals here aren’t quite up to par with that song, though.  Still, this song has that classic Cubanate groove.
  • Joy — The percussion is great in this song, a bit more complex than the stomping beat they usually employ.  Somehow this song seems laid back yet very aggressive at the same time.  The lyrics are unusually upbeat, at least for a Cubanate track.
  • Exultation — Another song cut from the mold of Oxyacelylene, but I think overall this is more listenable than Barbarossa.  It’s fun to chant, “I’ve got a big black car / from Tokyo!”  The lyrics in this song actually feel a bit like a precursor to the change in direction the band would take with the next album–much more of a storytelling quality to them, instead of just firing you up with catchy angst.

Honorable Mention: Why Are You Here?

Worst Song: The Musclemen or Lord of the Flies — the former is a noisy mess, and the latter is another plodding song with uninteresting vocals.  However, in reviewing the album for this blog post I did find that some people think Lord of the Flies is a true classic.


Cubanate - Interference

People seem to have a love or hate reaction to this album.  It’s a drastic departure in sound from their previous work, making use of a lot of breakbeat elements instead of the normal plodding stomper.  To me, this album is Cubanate’s masterpiece.  A lot of the music is great, but what really stands out to me are the lyrics — they come from a much more mature, introspective place, and there is some fantastic storytelling with just the right amount of detail to bring things to life.  Unfortunately, this is also Cubanate’s last album.  Several years after this release, Marc Heal toyed with releasing more Cubanate and a new song or two were made available on the internet, but then it seems he decided to just permanently retire Cubanate and move on.  It’s difficult for me to reduce this album to just three favorites, but nevertheless:

  • Isolation — After the first track, which is a bit more bombastic, this song really introduces us to the complex songwriting and the storylike, passionate lyrics.
  • 9:59 — The chorus of this song is so catchy and angry, it just compels to you sing along.  “She said, she said, she said I’m sick! / Cure me!”  Fantastic.  I have no idea what the song title has to do with anything, though; maybe I’m not paying enough attention to the lyrics during the verses.
  • Voids — I love the imagery in the lyrics of this song, basically a guy sitting around bored watching Japanese animation, sorta dead inside and just looking for anything that will spur emotion.  It feels very cyberpunk somehow, makes me think of some of the early stories William Gibson wrote.

Honorable Mention: Hinterland and Other Voices are virtually tied with the above three tracks for the album’s best.

Worst Song: Ex and Internal.  The former is just a short instrumental that doesn’t seem to have much point, and the latter is just noisy and ugly.

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