Review Summary: Marishi Ten's debut is never anything less than perfectly pleasant; the problem is, 'perfectly pleasant' is scarcely the sort of description a classic hard rock group should aim for.
Break-ups are one of the most emotionally taxing experiences human beings go through in the course of their life. Whether romantic, friendship-based or simply professional, they inevitably bring about feelings of confusion, frustration and inadequacy which the average person is generally ill-equipped to handle. Most humans faced with this situation are, therefore, forced to find a way to cope with it, and get over whatever feelings are crippling them from the inside so that they may continue on with their lives.
Artists are especially blessed in this regard, as channelling one's emotions into one's creative endeavours has traditionally made for a great way to purge some inner demons, whether breakup-related or otherwise. However, when said artist is part of an established act or group, this strategy becomes somewhat of a double-edged sword, as fans of the previous collective may not be so graceful as to fully embrace the demissionary artist's new direction, and end up holding a grudge against them instead. A strong personality and firm self-belief is therefore required when attempting to press on with a new project against the hordes clamoring for a comforting return to the previous status quo, artists' feelings be damned.
From this perspective, it cannot be denied that former Cockpit frontwoman Linda Lou is a brave soul. After the demise of her former band, it would have been easy for the singer/guitarist to lay low or disappear from the music scene altogether, the better to lick her wounds; Lou, however, did the exact opposite, debuting a new project less than three years after her original group split up, and thus stating her intention of remaining active in the Los Angeles hard rock scene, regardless of how Cockpit fans - or anybody else - might have felt about it. Sadly, this forthright, uncomprising and decidedly admirable attitude only makes it all the more frustrating that said new project - christened Marishi Ten after 'the samurai goddess of light'
- fails to live up to the high standards set by Lou's previous band in their one and only release.
Indeed, and despite their declared intent to 'encompass the foremost characteristics of time-honored heavy metal and hard rock'
, the four-piece's debut recording (aptly titled Dawning
) fails to present anything remotely as hard-hitting or instantly appealing as Mission to Rock
or At A Loose End
from Cockpit's sole EP. Lou's attempt at progressing further along the hard rock timeline – bringing her sound from the 80s into the new millennium – lacks the conviction that seeped through in every note of Cockpit's only effort, instead coming across as a mix between the sort of last-ditch 'maturation' effort glam-metal bands were making in the early 90s and an equally forced attempt to fit in with the new breed of female-fronted hard rock bands, a la New Year's Day or Skarlett Riot. Unsurprisingly, the final result never quite gels, giving the bulk of these 23 minutes the sort of anodyne, milquetoast blandness usually reserved for 'supergroup' efforts by Italian hard rock/AOR session musicians.
Still, there is nothing inherently wrong
about what Marishi Ten present on Dawning
; Lou's vocals (heavily favored in the mix) have lost none of their potency from the Cockpit days, and her three accomplices do exactly what they are asked to do, providing the required solid, unshowy backup. When coupled with the handful of classic melodic rock solos scattered throughout, this approach only further strengthens the Italian connection, cementing the listener's belief that the group might have fit in nicely into the Frontiers Records catalogue. Indeed, like many bands released by that Southern European imprint, the overall sound on Marishi Ten's debut is never anything less than perfectly pleasant; the problem is, perfectly pleasant
is scarcely the sort of description a classic hard rock group should aim for.
Therein, then, lies Dawning
's main problem - while nothing on it is particularly bad
, nothing is particularly good
, either. While lyrically a strong effort – as might be expected for a post-breakup project – the EP seriously falters in the songwriting department, producing absolutely nothing memorable or worth revisiting on a regular basis. Indeed, in her preoccupation with appealing to a new audience, Lou neglected to imbue these five songs with the sort of hooks which made Cockpit's output so immediately engaging. While on Mission to Rock
even the backup songs were catchy enough to come back to, on Dawning
, even the best choruses (Close My Eyes
) require about twice as many playthroughs as might have been expected to even begin to leave a mark. And while these songs will eventually (very
eventually) produce the desired effect, by that point, the listener will likely be tired enough of this record to never want to play it again – unlike, again, Cockpit's EP, which effortlessly invited multiple spins over a short period of time.
In short, while the constant comparisons to her previous group are undoubtedly grating at a personal level, it cannot be denied that Linda Lou's new project falls well short of what Cockpit managed to produce during their short career; while by no means a bad record, Dawning
is just a tad too nondescript to rise above the mire of also-ran modern rockers. Still, and to her credit, the vocalist has staunchly and stubbornly pressed on with the project; while four years (nearly to the day) of nearly complete silence might have hinted at a fate similar to Cockpit's, Marishi Ten did resurface in late 2017, and have since unveiled three new songs, at the rate of one every 18 months or so. These new tracks see the group move even further in the emo-tinged modern hard rock direction, leading to the belief that Linda Lou has definitely left her 80s hair metal days behind, and giving credence to the frequent 'sellout' claims which the frontwoman continues to vehemently refute on social media. Even still, any of these songs represents a step up from the material presented on Dawning
, giving any potential fans of the project the modicum of hope for the future that the debut EP was unable to provide.
Close My Eyes