It's been five years since the aggro-industrial quintet Nihil released its debut album, Drown. In the intervening time, rock music has swung firmly in the band's stylistic direction, with everyone from Slipknot to System of a Down to Linkin Park mining Nihil-istic territory: bile-spewing, throat-shredding vocals and heavy guitar riffs, all delivered at breakneck tempos.
The relentlessness of Nihil's vaunted rage can get wearying, like a child's scream that loses its impact when it keeps recurring every five minutes. On a musical front, though, Hollow offers hints of a developing songwriting talent from lead singer Scott Crowley and his bandmates. Tracks like "Discipline," "Nothing" (with its odd but effective "Keep smiling, keep crying" refrain sounding like "That's What Friends Are For," as delivered from a karaoke bar in the bowels of Hades) and "The Only One" are tightly constructed hard-rock tunes with surprisingly strong hooks.
As if to reinforce the idea that they're not merely gloom peddlers, Nihil trots out a sincere cover of Berlin's early-'80s synth-pop hit "Metro." Transforming it into a driving punk tune, they're still remarkably faithful to the spirit of the original recording, right down to the siren-like synthesizer pattern at the end of each chorus. It's a canny bit of early-MTV nostalgia, a clue about the group's early musical roots, and solid proof that everything this band touches feels like undiluted teenage angst.