Review Summary: Epic sounding Metal/Alternative with an awesome drummer and powerful vocalist.
There’s a small band out of San Diego, California that I’m sure almost none of you have heard of, but I’m willing to bet that in a short time that will have changed. Having had the opportunity to see these guys live as well as hear their previous three-song demo, I can safely say that they are one of the most promising up-and-comers that I’ve heard in a while. To put their music in the most shallow and blatant terms, I’d describe them as a cross between The Used
circa their debut album and the newest stuff by Fair to Midland
(with slightly more emphasis on the former). The music is semi-progressive, yet heavy and forceful, and despite the three to five minute lengths of the songs they also have an epic feel to them in no small part due to the unique abilities of their vocalist.
The vocalist on this album reminds me a lot of the guy from Fair to Midland. The similarity doesn’t come in vocal tone as much as it comes from his ability to hit the higher notes without sounding like he fell out of the 80’s, as well as his melodies which help create much of the epic atmosphere associated with these six songs. His vocal range and melodies are also the reason that there is such a proficient conveyance of emotion throughout this album; from anger and despair to confusion and even hope. Unfortunately, much like FTM, these same vocals are going to be the love-or-hate point for a lot of people due to their uniqueness, their tendency to hit the higher notes more often then some may like, and his regular use of screams. If given the chance to really sink in, though, most should realize that without them the songs would feel a lot more sterile and conventional.
Although I’ve spent my time speaking of the vocalist, it must be mentioned that the other members are no slouches either. From the opening song to the closing moments of the album one cannot help but be impressed with their rhythm section, especially the drummer. The inventive rhythms and awesome use of double bass give these songs an aggressive edge that never allows them to feel soft, regardless of how mellow they are at the time. In a live situation the bass player is definitely their front man, looking more like he’d rather jump off stage and beat you with his instrument then stand up there and play it for you. With that in mind, it’s unfortunate that the bass isn’t as audible as I would like, but when it is, it’s obvious that he isn’t content to just mimic the guitar player’s parts.
The guitar playing is actually the most conventional part of the band, but that doesn’t mean that it is boring or predictable. He is versatile enough to incorporate various styles of playing, from chugging power chords to alternative-style riffs to clean melodic sections and they all blend seamlessly. In addition to those elements he is also capable of including a surprise or two such as the shoegaze influence in the processed guitar sound of “Stigma” or in his solo on my favorite track, “Shards”. “Shards” is a slow-builder that features some great percussion that becomes more intense as the song builds. The vocals are some of the most emotional on the album, and the guitar player lays down rhythmic power chords, clean melodic playing, harmonic sections, and the previously mentioned guitar solo with the entire thing climaxing at the very end of the song.
Considering the skill in which they incorporate metal, alternative and subtle prog influences into conventional song lengths and still manage to sound epic and expertly convey emotion, I could easily give this a five and be completely ok with it, but I’ve chosen to keep the rating at a four due to the short length of the album which closes out much too early for me. Another reason I’m keeping this at four is because I see better things in their future and don’t want to oversell this to those who may be loosely interested at this point, only to possibly feel disappointed if it’s not everything a five might imply. Despite my decision to keep this at a four, it must be reiterated that this album is very good, featuring a combination of crunchy riffs, clean melodies, awesome percussion, and powerful vocals all loosely wrapped up in a progressive-influenced package.