Review Summary: The band’s story is so incredible I don’t even need to do an intro paragraph, let’s just copy and paste from their myspace. Seems lazy right? Read on…Picture this. Your band has been named one of the Top Ten Unsigned Bands of 2005 by Alternative Press. You have toured the country times over. However, just when seven years of hard work are paying off, things quickly deteriorate when line-up changes threaten the life of your band. What do you do?
This is the dilemma that faced Brad Franklin (vocals / guitar) and Keri Boyd (bass / vocals) in the spring of 2006. Both ex-members of Long Island-based Sarcasm, the two quickly found a rejuvenated spirit with Johnny Melanson (guitar / vocals) and JD Wheeler (drums). Melanson's experience as a strong fixture in the Boston music scene, coupled with Wheeler's endless energy shaped the future of the band. "It was just time to move on," says Franklin. "When we got together with Johnny and JD, we knew there was something special going on. It wasn't Sarcasm anymore." Drama For The Masses was born.
Do you by any chance recall my Patent Pending review where I discussed the Six50 Festival as the place where I was first exposed to their music? Regardless of the answer, guess who just so happened to play before them, Sarcasm. It’s a small world after all. First impressions of Sarcasm were definitely a mixed bag. I was intrigued by their dual vocals, the dual gender harmonies were used to absolute perfection. Individually both of the vocals are as strong as they are joined together. The lyrics sung were solid as well. But something was lacking. While plenty of the progressions were enjoyable, the riffs were just not as convincing. Drums could have done more as well but they didn’t detract from the music. But that was Sarcasm, and in Drama For The Masses things changed. The same powerful dual vocal harmonies are now backed by more inspired instrumentals, a stronger rhythm section, and an even larger range of variety. Last Chance For First Impressions
is an absolutely phenomenal pop punk record, and if this group doesn’t pick up a record deal soon something if very wrong with the music world. Oh yeah, this band is currently not signed, shame.
Judging by the fact that the opening track is only 1:20, one might assume that “To Whom It May Concern”
is another pathetic excuse of a faux dramatic intro coming from a no name band wanting to make a name for themselves. In reality, it is just a short song which introduces the record in a unique fashion. Some footsteps and an eerie wind lead into some palm muted guitar while a calm melody plays in the distance. After such a soft start things pick up as some chain vocals come out over a terrifically delivered riff. Flashy rhythms are shown indeed, that is if some perfectly timed rolls and fills are enough for you. Just as things reach a groove, the intro repeats and the song ends. Well it kept me on my toes leading into “This Is What We Did In Marching Band”
, which really introduces the group’s sound. A sole guitar riff and distant drums make up the intro before things explode into an energetic and ear catching intro. Here one really gets a feel for the dual vocals Brad and Keri can dish out as they fit the music perfectly and sound great together. While at times they become overdone, it is extremely hard to complain because of the consistent quality. Throughout the prechorus and the chorus Johnny keeps things interesting, filling the section with the perfect riff. The instrumental bridge sounds a bit heavier making use of some nice dual guitar harmonies and even sporting a few pinch harmonics. Get the vibe that this isn’t exactly your average pop punk? Very good, you have been paying attention.
Things keep rolling in the vain of that style as “The Selfish Games You Play”
is complete with more smoothing vocal harmonies, quality riffs, and enjoyable grooves. The lyrics “Don’t cry for me / I’ll never feel your pain / inside me”
will be certain to get stuck in your head during the chorus. Things continue rolling on all cylinders as drummer JD keeps the variety up with some tom action and some more fitting rolls. Once more they bring out a heavy sounding bridge (at least compared to the rest of the song) complete with some stop start guitar rhythms. The chorus line is even more effective over a slight pause as the bridge perfectly transitions into a final chorus before a brief outro ends the song. However, things take a different turn in “So Long Farewell”
. The sole guitar palm muted intro makes that set in immediately, as an almost gloomy atmosphere is in play. There is certainly a slower tempo set on this one but the sing-a-long factor is certainly still in play. The softer verse is done fantastically as is the transition to a chanting chorus. The rotation of chanting the song title is followed by Brad’s one liners. This is done to perfection, as a completely diverse atmosphere is revealed. Once more JD makes his presence felt as he uses some timely rolls and fills. Diverse, powerful yet mid tempo, ear catching rhythms, yeah nothing has changed; this is still all coming from an unsigned pop punk band.
The slower tempo doesn’t last long as the guitar and vocal intro of “Before The Breakdown”
prepares listener’s for a booty shaker. The second time through the high hat and bass drum beat builds anticipation as the whole band comes in revealing another great introduction. Johnny once more makes use of an interesting riff. Heck he even modifies it to fit the verse and guess what, he makes it work during the chorus. Both guitars make great sparing use of harmonizing octave chords in thirds, transitioning into the second verse. The bridge here is possibly the heaviest section on the album, coming very close to a breakdown. “I always break I’ll never bend”
. “Late Nights and Last Regrets”
keeps the energy coming. Its simple yet effective main progressions are done so wonderfully. Despite the minimal use of their typical riffing, the song still stays at the bar set by previous standards. Its bridge is certainly much softer, as its faint palm muted phaser filled guitar and vocals certainly contrast from the previous songs’ bridges. However, its nature fits this song perfectly. The slow build up with a drum roll leads smoothly into a modified final chorus with some synth sounding instrument atop of it. Despite following a fairly normal song structure and cutting back on the riffs, the band still crafts an excellent song.
Besides featuring an interesting song title, “Clever Lines For You”
ends up somewhat unique. Its tempo is fairly moderate, and its atmosphere is at a perfect balance between energetic and downbeat, certainly a bit different than the majority of the record. The faint melody line accents the straight rhythm found in the muted chord verse perfectly. Hats off to JD here as he really delivers some great fills and switch ups here. This song at times has potential to become boring at certain times if not performed correctly. They do it correctly. The bridge even features some layers of Keri solo, marking a unique section. Things certainly end up a bit different here. The band keeps fresh ideas coming despite the record coming to a close. Sadly, the record indeed does end on “Don’t Run You’re A Punchline”
. Let’s specify that statement, the song is not bad but unfortunately this excellent record is coming to a close. Energy is apparent from the intro as the progression certainly creates a ruckus. The stop start rhythms in the verse are performed ever so tightly and the careful use of the riff makes this flow fluently. “The life you had is nothing but a lie / they’re leaving you behind / excuses are the way that you survive / you know you’re scared inside”
. They use a chant formula similar to that in “So Long Farewell”, but with the different atmosphere and tempo in play the rehashing of the successful format is most welcome. Heck they even make great use of some hand claps during the beginning of the second verse. Ideas seem to grow on trees for them and Drama For The Masses sure knows how to make them come to life. The ending of the record consists of some layered vocals eventually leading to the short chant of “Don’t run away
. Dramatic, epic, incredible; check!
I’m not going to lie; I had a certain level of expectation for this record and it was fairly high. Drama For The Masses absolutely blew me away. This currently unsigned pop punk act has some great ideas and stand out in their field. Between the enjoyable guitar grooves, tight and variety filled rhythms, and unique usage of male and female dual vocal harmonies, this is a band that won’t get mixed up in the trendy world of nasal vocals and songs revolving around a single hook. Drama For The Masses brings fresh ideas to life with Last Chance For First Impressions
and only leaves listener’s wanting more. This variety filled and consistent record not only features catchy hooks but also instrumental strengths which give the record a sense of substance, which plenty of modern day acts lack. For this only being a debut, there is an undeniable level on potential and talent shown. I watched Patent Pending rise up a year after discovering them, and in a year I can certainly imagine telling the same story for Drama For The Masses. The future looks awfully bright, and I cannot wait to see what it holds for them.
These guys and girl are…
Brad Franklin - vocals / guitars
Keri Boyd - bass / vocals
Johnny Melanson - guitars / vocals
JD Wheeler - drums
Final Rating: 4/5