Review Summary: Coheed guitarist Travis Stever delivers a nice little slice of alt. rock with a few folky touches and a sprinkling of "jam rock" for good measure...
With the release of their last two albums, Coheed & Cambria have become one of the most unlikely mainstream successes of this decade. In a world where nearly every successful artist releases a constant stream of songs consisting of nothing more than mindless catch phrases and abhorrently simple and recycled pop hooks, a bunch of prog-rockers from New York that craft their music around an expansive sci-fi storyline seemed like the last group that would hit it big, but hit it big they have. All of their success (including the RIAA certification of In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 as a gold record, their third release Good Apollo Vol. 1 reaching #7 on the Billboard charts, and multiple awards from various publications such as Rock Sound) has given every member ample resources to pursue their own solo projects. Claudio Sanchez is the songwriter behind The Prizefighter Inferno, bassist Mic Todd has allegedly written material that will released at a later date, former drummer Josh Eppard fronts the alternative hip-hop project Weerd Science, and guitarist Travis Stever is involved in numerous projects including the southern metal outfit Fire Deuce, and his most recent endeavor Davenport Cabinet (formerly English Panther).
A lot of the guitar work that Stever is responsible for in Coheed is tinged with some noticeably bluesy elements, so it makes sense that Stever's solo record would find him expanding a little bit more on his blues influences. The record also draws a little from the realms of country and folk, which is most noticeable with the inclusion of the banjo, and various other acoustic instruments throughout the album. Don't be discouraged if you aren't a fan of banjo music though, as the folky instruments are rarely used by themselves, and usually do little more than create a backdrop for the guitar parts, though they do take the spotlight in a few places. What makes this album so interesting and enjoyable is the way that Stever melds all of those influences and ideas with a lot of the elements found in Coheed's music (i.e. the catchiness and slightly unconventional song structures) without making the album seem like a bunch of Coheed songs with some blues and folk elements crammed into them.
The songs on the album range from catchy mid-tempo rock songs like the title track, to bluesy instrumental jams like Square One, and slower paced ballad-esque songs like Milk Foot. Thankfully, Stever displays competent songwriting ability instead of relying to heavily on fancy fretwork, but don't worry, there are still quite a few tastefully done guitar solos on display here (the solos in Square One and Rusty Knives stand out as highlights), as well as some fairly interesting riffs. Another unexpected plus is the fact that Travis actually has a pretty decent voice. His voice has a very soothing tone to it, and a certain melodic quality that would make it feel right at home on any hard rock album from the seventies. The only problem with the album lies in the middle of the album. For some reason, most records have a tendency to sag somewhat in the middle, and sadly, this album is no different. There isn't really anything wrong with the songs themselves, they just don't measure up to the rest of the material on that populates the rest of the album.
All in all, Travis has managed to produce a thoroughly enjoyable solo album that effectively distances itself from the sound of Coheed. In fact, the album really sounds nothing like anything that Coheed has ever produced, which is something that rarely happens when members of popular bands release solo albums. So if you're a fan of guitar centric alt. rock with a little bit of bluesy flair, or if you're one of those people that needs to gobble up everything even vaguely associated with Coheed (I would include myself in both categories), I strongly suggest that you give this album a listen.