Review Summary: A strong, powerful and confident debut album that showcases a mix of blues, grunge & hard rock.
Highly Suspect are a rock trio formed in 2009, consisting of vocalist Johnny Stevens and brothers Rich(bass) & Ryan(Drums) Myer. They started off in Cape Cod performing cover songs and have since resided in Brooklyn where they were discovered by 300 Entertainment records and were the first rock band to sign with them. Needless to say, this label knew what they were looking for, and they got something special.
Their debut album "Mister Asylum" was released on July 17th and shows this band diving into hard rock, blues rock and even some would say progressive rock. The album starts off with Johnny Stevens' quiet, vulnerable voice that right away reminds you of Anthony Followill from Kings of Leon as the guitar sweeps along until the rest of the band blasts in and these guys kick into the next gear and never stop. What really stood out in this track from the others is the haunting organ in the back that gives this track a creepy vibe. It thrashes with heavy drums and loud guitars and is the perfect introduction to what these guys are capable of. The opening song reminds me of another track off this album called "Lydia", as the vocals move in an almost rap like timing with the instrumentals that just shows how confident these guys are. Lydia is a song that has quickly become popular on rock stations in U.S and the music video has actually just hit 1 million views on youtube after being up for only 8 weeks. Not bad for an indie rock band. Lydia is driven by a start and stop guitar tune that just grooves along nicely until the chorus smacks you with an all out blast of hard rock that'll have you screaming at the top of your lungs as your remember that person who F**ked you over. One of the highlights is the track "Lost". Right from the beginning this song has a very RHCP or even older Arctic Monkeys-esque vibe with one of the most fun and infectious guitar riffs I've ever heard. The vocals stand out as one of Johnny's best performances on the LP.
These guys have been compared to many modern and older rock bands: QOTSA, Royal Blood, earlier Kings of Leon and even Nirvana. The one "royal blood" like song on the album would have to be "23". If you've heard Out of the Black by Royal Blood you'll know what I mean. The guitar and drum synchronisation throughout the track sound remotely close, but what makes this slightly better is the way it grooves and doesn't stop for even a second, and just when you thought it would, out comes a huge guitar solo filled with distortion that I just can't wait to hear live. The vocalist Johnny has the ability to go from an almost vulnerable soft voice to a flat out powerful scream, accenting the songs and their mood whatever it may be. Now the reason for the Nirvana comparison in my opinion would be the quiet verse to loud chorus transition heard in so many Nirvana songs and Highly Suspect uses it to perfection as well. Tracks like Mom, Bath Salts and BloodFeather are very riff heavy that showcase their blues rock roots. If you like the first time you heard bath salts back in 2012, this one is a little longer...with a vulnerable croon after what would've been the end of it the first time, comes another fantastic guitar solo that kicks back into the groove heard at the beginning of the track before coming to an end. "Mom" is definitely the most personal and one of the slower songs on the record and is a track you should check out if you are a fan of QOTSA or any blues/grunge band. "Vanity" is another one of my favourite songs that reminds me of older Queen in the start and kicks into a wild guitar solo after the first chorus finishes and then goes back into a controlled and very impressive cohesiveness of guitar, bass and drum. This track moves along with a strong combination of all 3 instruments but what really stands out is the guitar and bass in the end that really accentuate what Johnny's emotions are and gives soul and empathy to the lyrics until it ends with "You are my friend, so this is not the end". "Bloodfeather" shows how great these 3 can play together as the track goes from the lydia groove feel, to the vanity guitar feel and then blasts in loud like 23. The lyrics in this song are some of the best and darkest towards fatal love.
Two stand out tracks are "F**k me up" and "Claudeland", which are the more noticeably faster songs on this album and are both essentially about having a good time and living in the moment. F**k me up is the shortest track on this LP and is definitely the most repetitive one. Though you got to love the punk like drive of the guitar after Johnny screams "All you gotta know is i'm a dangerous man". This will surely be a live fan favourite that I hope to be in the mosh pit for. "Claudeland" has this very fun guitar solo with a drum roll to start, followed by Johnny what seemingly feels like he's blubbering, which pretty much sets the mood for this song...Have Fun! There is some clever guitar picking that will make you want to get up and dance and that is exactly the point of this track. As it sores through with velocity, it finally ends with an electrifying slow guitar solo that picks up into a very bluesy feel. Ultimately ending the album with one thing in mind, damn can these guys play.
Overall, you can't expect much more versatility from a debut hard rock album. Each song has it's own personality, soul and influence and you can tell each member put in a lot of work to create 10 tracks of pure bliss. While these guys aren't as young as a lot of rock bands putting out their first album are, you can't help but respect what they've created for the first time and I for one am very excited for what the future holds for them. I strongly encourage you to check out this album if you have any interest in bad-ass, groove heavy rock n' roll.