Review Summary: Blood-thirsty like a freak of nature...
With as many as two hundred tour dates being scheduled for this year, Maryland-based Lionize are legitimately the busiest rock act around. While being the old-fashioned way of garnering the audience, exciting live shows are what really makes the band of this kind relevant. Indeed, released early this year “Destruction Manual” sounds like a live album at its core due to its purposefully raw production. Lionize once again deliver a refreshing take on roots/reggae, the style that has already been successfully explored on their previous releases. “Destruction Manual” incorporates a healthy dose of riff-driven hard rock while keeping previous reggae and funk influences intact. This sudden shift in style works in the album's favor making for a more cerebral, livelier presentation which revolves around heavy reggae beats, spaced-out keys and groovy guitar work.
"Destruction Manual" is the type of album that allows the musicians to show off their considerable skills. Enticing bass lines and complex, constantly pounding drumming just set the stage for chilling, off-beat Hammond organ soundscapes, intricately crafted, brazen riffs and mood-fitting guitar solos. Nate Bergman's soul-induced vocals are tailor-made for this specific kind of music. He has a knack for using the appropriate inflection of his voice in every given moment of the song crafting plenty of admirable vocal harmonies which sound both natural and genuine. The impression that Lionize are a cream-of-the-crop rock outfit is additionally strengthened by Bergman's clever, thoroughly affecting lyrics that range from self-reflective to pop-culture inspired. As a result, the album's laid-back tone sometimes gets interspersed with some food-for-thought cuts in “Savior Of Fontana” or “Nation Builders.”
In essence, most tracks included in the disc fuse bouncy Caribbean rhythms with stylish hard rock to great effect. This is exactly the case with “You're Trying To Kill Me” whose reggae verses are contrasted with heavy guitar-laden chorus that's also quite irresistible. On the other hand, “Dumb And Dangerous” has the infectious funk vibe which builds to this really fitting line: “Blood-thirsty like a freak of nature” (referencing the act's horror-themed EP, "Mummies Wrapped In Money"). The album's arguably at its best during more intense, heavier tracks. “Nation Builders” shares the same lofty vibe with some of Clutch's most iconic compositions. The slow-burning verses along with a sublime refrain explode into a truly amazing climax. In contrast, “No Exit” has its classic rock lead-in, trippy verses, and a hook-driven chorus that make it one of the record's standout tracks. Regrettably, the songwriting isn't so consistently powerful on the entire disc. Especially its second half contains some clunky, fairly uninspired moments in clearly lesser “They Arrive” and “The Alhambra Inn.”
Coming from the act that has gained almost no press or radio publicity, “Destruction Manual” is by far the most surprising heavy rock release of the year. The album's greatest asset is perhaps its inclination to eradicate boundaries between fans of totally different musical backgrounds. Both reggae and stoner rock crowd will definitely embrace this album. In fact, Lionize are sufficiently accessible, creative and unique to have a much wider appeal than that.