Review Summary: A promising debut from a band that never made it past its promising debut.3 of 3 thought this review was well written
Ohhhh, 2001. Remember things like... Napster? MP3.com? Yeah? (Yes, kids, there was a day when you [well, not that you, or really anyone for that matter at this point] didn't have to pay a subscription to Napster.)
I had dial-up in those days. It sucked (but it was free, thanks to K-Mart and their friendly Bluelight Internet Service.) So I couldn't use Napster, or WinMX, or Bearshare, or whatever the hell else was out at that time. Randomly, the only program that worked was Audiogalaxy Satellite, and they had a website where they actually recommended certain artists (way to hide your copyright violations, guys... nice.) One day, Mad At Gravity was one of them. But not just there - nay, they were also on MP3.com (a big deal back then) and as I recall they were featured on Shoutweb.com as well. But nobody I knew had ever heard of them. So they were pretty much my first underground band and I guarded that with a certain pride.
Mad At Gravity was essentially a band of musicians who managed to record a studio album... and then play some shows (which was not AT ALL completely backwards from the normal operating model.) That album was Resonance.
It begins with a short, ambient noise track ("Primer") that leads into the first song (and only single) "Walk Away." Very quickly, you can recognize that the band was a little different from its (mostly) nu-metal contemporaries; the guitar tones, for example, are not as fuzzy or bass-heavy as the average detuned and Mesa-Boogie-equipped rocker of the era, they're playing in *gasp* 6/8 time, and their singer... actually sings. This song is an excellent example of MaG's sound - while subscribing to the popular loud chorus/softer verse dynamics, there's a lot space in the verses, well filled by singer J. Lynn Johnston's voice floating over some interesting guitar interplay. The song ultimately culminates in trade-off guitar solo that, in hindsight, foreshadowed the return of skilled guitar playing to the world of rock.
The next track continues the slightly-prog-leaning tendencies of the band. Written in 5/4 time, "Historypeats" is somewhat simpler in terms of guitar, but the drumming is extremely tight on this song. The odd time signature provides a steady current for the lyrics to flow over, yet isn't overly distracting, and you realize that the title is a clever mash of the words "History" and "repeats."
"Time and Time Again" suffers from fairly generic sound - while you listen to it, it may kind of move you (and Johnston's vocals again soar over the pulsing riff) but is somewhat forgettable. This is followed by the much slower and breathy track "Find The Words." Instead of being about one of those lame crosswords you used to wish for in a high school English class so you could partner up with some hot chick for the rest of the hour (har har - okay, that's enough with the lame and lengthy references I swear), it appears to be about the pressures of being in front of a crowd or having the weight of glory on your shoulders. Ultimately, this stands out for the powerful chorus (helped again by Johnston's earnest pipes) and the ambient verses.
"Run For Cover" returns to a slightly off-kilter (12/8) time signature and a harder rock sound, beginning with an effected single string riff and a rumbling, tribal tom part that leads into the main riff of the song. The drums are the standout part of this song - the tribal-sounding tom riff really enhances the lyrics, which are somewhat evocative of a modern jungle as they decry various modern habits. The chorus is also fairly catchy and somewhat discerning in its words ("Time spent, spending for the times leaves you worthless/Cry for reason over rhyme as you run for cover") and the song has a pretty neat buildup of a bridge that continues on this theme ("I've got no class/But I've got cash/And I can't afford/To be so bored") before getting into a somewhat generic chord progression that sounds very similar to "Walk Away."
"Burn" is one of two songs that brings up the subject of the flammable (the other being "Kerosene" later on the album). Incidentally, along with "Walk Away," this was released as a companion single to the movie "Reign of Fire" (remember... with the dragons and a post-modern society and dear God why can't I look like Matthew McConaughey, that bastard?) and not surprisingly, is about fire, and the worship of it as such. While the subject matter may seem a little silly (except, of course, when your band is Thrice and you dedicate a whole EP to it... but I digress), the mixture of guitar, keyboards and 7/8 time ultimately make you feel like you're around a dark fire with primitive humans as they are blessed by fire's benefits, yet still apprehensive of its power and mystery. Predictably, the verses are balanced by a powerful but intelligent chorus that is somewhat evocative of Artist in the Ambulance-era Thrice (who hail from the Orange Country area where Mad At Gravity also came from.) The song is followed by a short instrumental, "Coalesence."
"Letter to Myself" is lyrically somewhat weaker than most of the tracks on the album, but the rest of the band definitely comes through. There is some excellent interplay between the two guitarists and the bass throughout the song; the drummer also manages to show off his skills without being overly flashy, taking advantage of the extra leeway granted by the 6/8 feel to add in some rapid fills.
"This Collision" is plagued by a fairly forgettable supporting guitar part throughout most of the song, but they continue to excel at making ambient noise well-suited for the verses and bridge portions of the song, and the overall feel does a decent job of relating the imagery of a car accident, although the somewhat perky key it's in is a little bit disconcerting.
There are certain songs that belong in certain spots on records, and "In Vain" is one of those - it serves as the beginning of the ending act (so to speak) on the album, and it utilizes synths and ambient guitar to create a foggy or shadowy feeling of doubt in the verses, ultimately answered in the choruses in the form of a defiant declaration of trying to do better (even if it is... get ready for it... in vain.) Again, there is a chord progression with a marked similarity to "Walk Away" serving as the chorus, making you wonder if they just really liked that progression or they just ran out of ideas at some point.
This is followed by the aforementioned "Kerosene." Like the track previous to it, it utilizes ambient guitars and synths in the verses in contrast to the fairly straight-ahead choruses. However, this song is faster and more hopeful-sounding - indeed, Johnston sounds almost indignant, singing "Please excuse my arrogance/But what do you think men strive lifetimes for?/The price is high/The consequence of spinelessness will cost much more," bridged with "Kerosene/Carry me" into the chorus ("If my faith gives way I have nothing/If I lose my grip I gain none at all.") I would typify this as the defiant outro tune... except...
There are still two tracks to go. There's really not much to be said for "Say It;" it was my least favorite track on the album, simply because there is absolutely nothing special about it. It's not even bad, it's just... boring. The last track, however, "Undefined Reversion" is somewhat of a treat if you wait it out long enough - a good album ender, it sounds like a cold, lonely and wet scene, aided by wailing, distant guitars and filtered drums, eventually ending with a distored voice (sounding like old vinyl skipping) talking about "the resonance" over and over. (Maybe it's just a weird subliminal marketing strategy.)
Ultimately, it was solid effort for the band, who split in 2003 and unfortunately, we'll never get to hear what could have come from the boys had they been able to stick it out. While not especially noteworthy, they showed a maturity in their writing that is usually lacking on most band's debuts; who knows who they would stand among today?