CD Review: Into The True Country – David Benedict

Better B# - TAM Banner

 

I expect that most of you have never heard of David Benedict. It’s not your fault! He’s the new guy in town, hailing from the Southeast, and he’s just getting settled. That being said, I’d like to introduce you to him. Since 2009, he has been instrumental in the Celtic folk band, Emerald Road. But in late 2013, he and a crew of talented musicians came together to record his first solo album, Into The True Country, released Mar. 11, 2014. Produced by Grammy-nominated mandolinist, Matt Flinner, this offering is as gentle as it is giant.

I only learned of Benedict about a week before his album was released. He is a mandolin marvel, but that is hardly his strongest suit. What drew me into his music is Benedict’s wonderful melodic sensibilities. While he can, and at times does, blaze through the music as many bluegrass musicians do, much of the album finds him carefully crafting his path. He squeezes the most he can out of each note before proceeding on, hanging on emotion and clarity more than speed. Songs like “Ross’s Landing” and “The Paperclip Reel” possess entrancing motifs that get caught in the air and dance upon the breeze, making them hard to forget, let alone not repeat.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2nAzEmX31k?rel=0]

Rounding out this cast of young musicians are Catherine BB Bowness on banjo, Samson Grisman on bass, Ross Martin on guitar and Christian Sedelmyer on 5-string fiddle. Even though this is labeled as a solo album, the music is far from a showcase for any one person. Everyone shines and everyone supports each other. Of course, there are other times, such as during “Rockfall Ridge,” a fast-paced finger-blazer that sees mandolin, fiddle, guitar and banjo each taking turns trying to outdo one another. But before long, they’re careening together for the chorus, doubling phrases in such a way that they seem to melt together.

From start to finish, Into The True Country is filled with songs that can not only impress musicians but also, more importantly, these songs can impress the unsuspecting listener. Each song evokes a feeling of awe, taking me away to some distant memory or drawing up a landscape for my imagination to wander within. As much as I’ve listened to this album, even stepping away and returning with fresh ears, I find myself as captivated now as I was upon first encounter. David Benedict proves that there are still wonderful melodies awaiting to be discovered by those with the mind to seek them. I applaud him for it.

How does one get Into The True Country? It can be found at iTunes, Amazon, or from David himself, digitally or on CD!

 

For more on David Benedict, visit:
Official Website
Facebook
Twitter
Youtube
Bandcamp

Edgar Meyer and Mike Marshall at The Barns at Wolf Trap – March 6

Better B# - TAM Banner

 

Stepping within this quiet sanctum, I could almost hear a pin drop. We weren’t alone, my girlfriend and I, as we walked into The Barns at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Va., but it certainly felt that way due to the atmosphere these walls evoked. I’m not sure if the others inside were simply tired from a long day or if they too were deep in thought, marveling over the years these barns had seen. Reconstructed from two upstate New York structures made during the 1700s – one in German tradition and the other from a Scottish background – the walls have been turned inside out to show the remarkable life they had witnessed. “What a wonderful place for some fine acoustic music,” I thought. And that was what we were about to experience; an intimate evening with upright bass virtuoso, Edgar Meyer, and the equally talented mandolin player, Mike Marshall.

Encased in a blue hue, the two appeared from the side of the stage and approached a pair of microphones, which otherwise sat alone. Then, at the volume of a whisper, they began to play. Silence can be an amazingly intense thing, especially when it feels as though the entire audience is holding its breath to allow the instruments to breathe. It’s as though Meyer’s and Marshall’s were the only sounds in the entire building. You can’t have an entire show in such a format though, and with the third song the energy surged tremendously! “What was the name of that last tune?” asked Mike knowingly. Edgar seemed to be a little taken aback, “Uh, well…you can call it whatever you’d like I guess. But I call it ‘Pickles’.” Everyone began to chuckle. “Did you say pickles?!” Marshall inquired, pressing the issue further, with Meyer switching the topic to their next song; a Bach piece in E minor. It was originally written in D minor, but E minor, we were informed, was a more “musician-friendly key.”

The whole show was instrumental in nature, which meant that, aside from a few dialogues such as the one just mentioned, most of the personality and humor we saw and heard from these two fine men was from their physical performance. There’s something slightly humorous to me about a man playing what looks like a small guitar leaning into the bass player, whose instrument is about five times the size of the other’s, to “play off” of him. But then you watch that same man burning through his fretboard with a smoke trailing following his fingers and your eyes go wide. So wide that you notice just to his left that the bass player is now alternating between playing with a bow, then finger-plucking, and now is playing with his bow once more – all during the same song. There were even moments of the evening where Mike stared down Edgar’s bass, bringing his eyes close, as though it had secrets to uncover. By the same token, Marshall started playing a Brazilian choro piece called “Flight Of The Fly” and the look on his face gave me the impression that he was as surprised by what he was playing as we were in the audience!

Meyer/Marshall Setlist - March 6

The short-hand setlist from the show.

“Time for a love song, Edgar?” Marshall asked casually. Meyer looked up at him unbelievingly and said, “We don’t do those.” “Just between you and me,” Mike assured him, “This song is called ‘Blooper’.” He backed away from the microphone, paused, and then stepped forward again to add, “…it’s a love song.” Edgar shook his head before tearing into an absolutely mind-blowing piece. This concert was not always easy though, as this tune pointed out. It was a bit jazzy at time, with the phrase going on and on, almost aimlessly, before resolving amazingly several bars later than I expected. Ultimately, it was rewarding though, and I truly felt like I’d heard something special. After the two had brought the song to a conclusion someone asked “where was the blooper in there?” The two assured her, “If you make enough of them it sounds like they’re supposed to be there. Never just make one. It’ll stand out!”

The duo ended the night with a Bulgarian number, which we were told was something “you’d play at an East European wedding” by Meyer. Marshall suggested that we could turn the barn into a Bulgarian dance floor. I smiled at the thought. And that was our evening: a weird little night, filled with an extraordinarily small instrument and a very large one playing bluegrass, classical, Brazilian choro pieces, and Bulgarian wedding songs to a group of varying ages in a set of conjoined German and Scottish barns from upstate New York. The only thing to make the whole mess better was the opportunity to speak to Meyer and Marshall themselves, which those of us who stuck around for a little while longer were given the very chance to do. They were so warm and giving with their time, mirroring their cheerful demeanors on stage. These two don’t play concerts together very often (their next as a duo is the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado), so I’d recommend checking them out, together or with other acts, anytime the opportunity presents itself. Who knows, there might even be a Bulgarian dance floor.


For more about Edgar Meyer, visit:
Official Website
Find his music on: iTunes | Amazon

For more about Mike Marshall, visit:
Official Website
Find his music on: iTunes | Amazon | CDBaby

For more about The Barns at Wolf Trap, visit:
Official Website

CD Review: “Inward:Outward” by Mire

Better B# - TAM Banner

 

Slaving and working to serve the Hive…

It’s been some time since I listened to a truly progressive record. The last may have been Dream Theater’s Train Of Thought, but even that was mainly a metal album from an artist considered to be progressive metal. However, with its March 18 LP, Inward:Outward, Montreal’s Mire has created a truly captivating and unique landscape of musical ideas. Running the gamut of tenderly played piano passages to a wall of amplified guitar rhythms, I am surprised to find such a well-rounded effort as an artist’s first full-length release.

…the only way to feel alive…

Echoed beatings, bouncing off the walls of my inner ear, start the opening track as drummer Stephane Boileau puts the sticks to his kit without accompaniment. We’re quickly enveloped by guitars, storming onto the scene in stereo. No matter the diversity here, I soon made a mental note that this is a metal record at heart. Tracks like “Tyrannicide,” “Beast and the Machine” and “Open Circle” see Dave Massicotte and Bruno Chouinard ripping the songs wide open with a duel guitar attack. Colors of inspiration flash across portions of tracks, bringing to light hints of eclectic acts like Tool and Dredg. Vocalist J.P. Lachapelle carries notes through the air with care and fury in equal measure, making sure that his passion is not in question. Far from last, bassist Robbie O’Brien brings a weighty presence to these tunes, pushing the melody are strongly as he holds the pocket.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQnqLxFv5oM?rel=0]

…I’ve made up my mind, it’s finally time…

Years ago, Queensrÿche was bestowed the title of “thinking man’s metal,” a moniker that Mire seemingly holds in high regard. As one would expect then, this album, lyrically, is complex and not an easy one to follow. Even with a lyric sheet, I must admit that this one has gone over my head. The leading single, “Limitless (Pt 2),” for instance, goes into breaking free of a hive mindset and becoming a unique individual. The conquering of injustice and adversity, as well as internal reflection, are a few subjects touched on. However, I haven’t found a common thread, if there is one, to links all of the tracks together thematically. I don’t hold that against the band though, because musically it doesn’t detract from the sheer enjoyment I get from listening to this stunning work of art.

…when all is done, I stand as one of a kind.

Finding five young men creating such a well-rounded release as their first full-length album is rare, to say the least. Even rarer that it is a progressive album – one song is made entirely from harmonized humming (“Mantra Cymatic”) – which is not only well-played and well-arranged, but is just a FUN listen. With Inward:Outward, Mire has formed a soundscape that flows between mellow moods and mental turbulence, using the whole spectrum of sound as its playground. It is emotional, striking, and addictively wonderful. You would be doing yourself a disservice not to, at the very least, download the free tracks offered by this promising young group.

 

For more on Mire, visit:
Official Website
Pre-Order Inward:Outward: From The Band!
Facebook
Twitter
Bandcamp
Youtube
Instagram
Pinterest
Tumblr

CD Review: “Nobody Likes Neville” by Nobody Likes Neville

Better B# - TAM Banner
 

Hey there, Harry Potter aficionados! New Baltimore-based rock band, Nobody Likes Neville, is calling your out on the lack of love shown for their namesake: Neville Longbottom. Its self-titled seven song EP, released digitally on January 28 (and now physically as well), is a combined effort by Brad Cox (of Skitzo Calypso/We Love The Underground), Chase Elkins, Dan McCullough and Eric McCullough. Together they’ve crafted an introduction to the band that is ominous, thoughtful, and unabashedly in your face.

I miss albums with great openers. I don’t simply mean great songs that kick a release off in the right direction, but instrumental lead-ins that help scale up the atmosphere for the next song. “Pheonix” is one such beauty, building the music up, seemingly from a fog that’s rolling in from the bay. We’re serenaded with subtle acoustic guitars, followed by a haunting melody which soars off electrified strings, then encased with the soft touch from a pianist. But not in a way that you’ll need to inform the authorities. It’s a wonderful transition to “Constellations”, which changes the EP’s direction with its warped melody lines and crunching guitars. Two of my favorite tracks follow: the heavy rocker “Collider” where Elkins goes into a double bass frenzy, as well as the ballad – or as close as this release gets – “Killer On The Run”, featuring a solo by Eric McCullough that melts just about everything in its way.

Cox is responsible for all the lyrics on the album, as well as the vocal melodies, while Elkins and the McCullough brothers created the music. Lyrically, this is very much an album of relationships, struggles, and potential. I personally thought “Scarlet”, a play on the Scarlet Letter, was well done and touches on a subject I hadn’t heard music venture into before. Even the love songs are written in such a way that keep them feeling far from generic, and each song comes across filled with passion. For those unfamiliar with Cox’s voice, it provides the instrumental accompaniment a unique partner and the two will be a pair you’re not soon to forget.

Also check out: Interview with Brad Cox (8/17/13)

While not dealing with in any real way with J.K. Rowling, this EP nonetheless makes a powerful point. What would that be, you ask? Quite simply, that you should take notice of Nobody Likes Neville now, not several albums down the road when all the fan girls are fawning over their good looks. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for the next chapter.


For more on Nobody Likes Neville, visit:
Official Website
Buy the EP at: iTunes | Amazon | CDBaby | From The Band!
Facebook
Twitter
Google+

CD Review: ‘Far Enough Into The Void’ by Brian Larkin

Better B# - TAM Banner

 

Emotionally driven, from start to finish, is the debut Brian Larkin album, Far Enough Into The Void. To many the name might not ring a bell, but I’ve had my ear to this man’s musical grindstone for quite some time and have been anticipating this release, which occurred on January 15 of this year. Fueled by a score of harrowing and joyful experiences, Larkin has managed to create an album so diverse that it captures a gamut of feelings to which we can all connect. It’s not an easy listen, but for an album that serves as a companion piece to Larkin’s life, it is vastly rewarding.

It’s hard to argue with an opening track such as “Disembodied Profanity”, one of three vocal tunes on this otherwise guitar-driven opus, which sets the tone for the beginning of our journey down the rabbit hole. And like Alice, who encountered strange and amazing things, we find ourselves stunned at the variety of tunes and moods laid out before us. Odd time signatures, death vocals, soaring melodies, pummeling riffs, boogies, and tracks that take a lesson or two from classical masterpieces are just some of the many faces by which we’re overcome. Obviously, this might be a bit overwhelming, so let me try to provide a few highlights that shine especially bright to me.

“Delete You” is a crazy tune that begins with what I would imagine an extremely talented jazz musician would sound like strumming chords on a dose of speed. Soon, however, we’re hit with a smooth, winding solo that tickles every surface of my eardrum. Speeding up and slowing down; it’s all done with a tender touch that caresses each note. But we’re not done yet! The middle of the song is filled with a riff that follows its own tail, serving as the underpinning for a truly terrifying guitar solo! The uninitiated may need to take a breather after this.

“Words Fail” is the kind of song that makes me feel like I’ve drifted off somewhere so wonderful that I can’t think of anything better to do than simply lay back and take it all in. With a melody that will carry you in its arms and tell you that everything will be alright, I can’t say much more than that this song is beautiful.

“Darkest Place” is one of the few vocal tunes on this release, but it is no less grand than any of the other theatrics we’ve encountered along the way. For those who aren’t aware, Larkin was the vocalist of Dark Empire’s album, From Refuge To Ruin, and backup vocalist on the album Abnormal by Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal, thus already proving his abilities as a great singer. For this song, he’s mentioned how greatly the album Normal by Bumblefoot had impacted him musically. He takes a page right out of Thal’s book, coming up with a tune that makes the listener reflect on their own life while being absorbed by the music at hand. Larkin did this so well that Bumblefoot actually contributes solos to this song, melding the first perfectly with the mood, then using the second solo to completely change the spirit into something magnificent and uplifting.

I could go on and on about the music that appears on this release. I’m in love with too many of these songs to do them all justice with just one review (even the ones I’ve already mentioned, I don’t feel I’ve adequately described). Whether it be the groovy nature of “Self-Deprecation Boogie”, the funkiness of “Habit Magnet”, or the back and forth melody and riff-ripping nature of “The Situation In Room 205”, I find myself entranced. As I said earlier, this is not an easy listen. There is so much emotional turmoil that one may not be able to successfully take it all in at one time. However, that’s not to say you shouldn’t try. Brian Larkin has proven with Far Enough Into The Void that he is not only a masterful guitar player, but a great songwriter. We’d all do well to learn this sooner than later.

 

For more on Brian Larkin, visit:
Official Website
Buy Far Enough Into The Void: From The Artist | iTunes | Amazon | CDBaby
Facebook
Twitter
Youtube
LinkedIn

 

CD Review: ‘Devil In The Lake’ by Emperors and Elephants

Better B# - TAM Banner

Chicago’s Emperors and Elephants, a band that formed in 2010, has been gathering momentum through the years.  It’s already achieved some radio support for the single, “Your Will,” and has opened for larger acts like SOiL and Pop Evil during tours.  Texas Hippie Coalition guitarist Randy Cooper has just joined the ensemble and helped record the full length debut album, entitled Devil In The Lake, due out on Jan. 21.

You may also enjoy: Interview with Leigh Kakaty of Pop Evil

From the onset, it’s easy to tell that the band are packing. From the huge crunching riffs of the opener, “Bring It Down,” we understand that we’ve come to the right place for some modern rock madness. A solo sneaks up and bites us before we know it, with plenty more on the way, where Randy unleashes bends that dig into the pocket before coming back up for air. The album is littered with heavy-hitters like this one, from “Man Of God,” with its digitized introduction; “Locust,” with drum hits hard enough to break the skin; and the staccato-staggered guitar mayhem of “Deep Sleep.” But the guys realize the need for toning back, and tracks like “Your Will,” “Hit Of Red” and “Change” bring at least a partially acoustic element to accent the heavier tracks that surround them.

I didn’t have the benefit of a lyric sheet for this release, but from the album title and some names, one can quickly ascertain a release of darker material. However, there is a spirit of positivity and hope in the words that are sung. The vocalist, Jesse Andrews, sings with a passion that others should look to emulate. There seems to be a trade-off though, which is that sometimes his passion trumps clarity, leaving me unsure of what’s actually being sung. This is a shame because some of the lyrics are truly touching. This doesn’t prevent the tracks from being powerful and energized; each tune leaps into soaring choruses and possesses something that prevents the spotlight from getting stuck on any one song. I’m never left to guess which track I’m listening to, which is sometimes the case with bands that seem to use one riff recycled for every song.

Emperors and Elephants is just at the beginning of its career, but it has already achieved quite a promising start. For a debut album… hell, even for a sophomore album, Devil In The Lake is an astounding release. It’s overflowing with passion and teeming with unique tracks that are so solid as to stand up without being book-ended by the others. I applaud the men for coming up with such enjoyable material out of the starting gate. I’ll be interested to see where you go from here.

 


For more on Emperors and Elephants, visit:
Official Website
Buy Devil In The Lake: From The Band!
Facebook
Twitter
Reverbnation

 

CD Review: ‘The Shiver’ EP by Metameric

Better B# - TAM Banner

 

I’m going to do this one backwards. Stop what you’re doing right now and go purchase The Shiver, the new EP by Seattle’s very own Metameric. Never have I been so captured and engrossed by such a new band’s release. Composed of elements of progressive rock, fueled by a sense of urgency, and tinged with a tone that casts a gritty, shadowy atmosphere over each song; I can’t get enough! I have not been this pleasantly caught off-guard since The Mars Volta released their debut album. You would do well to stumble upon them, if you haven’t already fallen for their musical charm.

 

 

For those who would like to know a little more about this short musical venture, read on. For a band that formed in 2011 and has released only one other EP at the very start of their career, The Shiver is an astounding effort. Composed of just five songs, there is so much attention to detail in the arrangement of each as to boggle the mind. Sonically, this four-piece (Kris Darr – bass/vocals; Alex Smolin – guitar/vocals; Robert Reis – guitar; Michael Cotta – drums) is not only cohesive, but supportive of each other. They create haunting atmospheres through layered arpeggios and reverberating chordal swells, coupled with deeply flowing bass lines which twist around notes and over percussion that is wonderfully timed and expertly executed. After being led through moving passages like these, we’re then slammed with crunchy riffs that cradle the vocals in a warm embrace, continually pushing them forward into more and more progressive goodness.

Some releases take me a while to really absorb and appreciate them. Others, like this one, take me a while because I want them to take a while. There is so much that I love about this EP, but I’ll spare you the finer details. Suffice to say, when songs you’ve written hearken back to the oft-forgotten ’90s prog rock band Damn The Machine (“A Great Injustice”), and another could easily slip onto Alice In Chains’ Jar Of Flies EP unnoticed (“Eye Of Providence”), you’re doing something right. These four men have proven not only that they are capable musicians, but that they know what they want musically and have the focus capture those ideas. The Shiver is a beacon for Metameric; it stands brilliantly on the rocky shore of musical opportunity, shining its light onto the vast possibilities that lay before them.

 

For more on Metameric, visit:
Buy The Shiver at: iTunes | Amazon | CDBaby
Facebook
Twitter
Bandcamp
Revernation
Youtube

CD Review: ‘Infection Legacy’ by Death Toll Rising

Better B# - TAM Banner

 

As I listened to the title track from Death Toll Rising’s newest album, Infection Legacy, something clicked. As the guitar wailed into the solo, there was a remarkable melodic sensibility to it. The care given to each note and the smoothness in which they were played gave the section a tender, singable quality, contrasting brilliantly with the pummeling viciousness of the rest of the song. This quickly set me to reminiscing about the similar considerations to melody and precision riffing that were so common in later albums written by Chuck Schuldiner and Death. This sophomore release finds the Edmonton, Alberta, Canada-based boys in top form, bringing with them an almost unending wave of aggression to sate the palettes of death metal enthusiasts.

Opening the LP is a prologue, carried out as a spoken word introduction with an unnamed man in search of a nameless woman who haunts his thoughts. Both seem to be lost in an abyss filled with abominations, which he vows to save the damsel from, even if it means his own detrimental end. From this point until the last, we are greeted with song after song of hostility in which our safety is far from ensured. Vocalist, Jesse Berube, fluctuates from gutteral bellows, laying waste to the lower register, to scraping thrash metal screeches that line this visceral release. If you’re someone who is less accustomed to deciphering death metal vocals, I’d recommend getting the physical copy of the album so you can follow along with the lyrics at home. After you take a peak at those, we find that the album is littered with all manner of acts against humanity. If we take the prologue’s abominations to be those described on this release, we run across not only the supernatural evils that haunt our stories, but perverse, human evils. Genocide, torture, and necrophilia are just some of the topics covered here, at times in gross detail. As the final words of “Revelation Despair” clearly elucidate: “my struggle with humanity – it’s never ending.”

 

Death Toll Rising provides the listener with a laundry list of malicious subject matter, delivering it on a platter alongside meaty riffs and filling drumbeats. Guitarists Tylor Dory and Drew Copland step in time with one another to unleash rhythm patterns that will knock you down and solos that will immobilize you, and Bryan Newbury’s drumming is as powerful as a jackhammer, though far more musical. “Malice Incarnate” is a great showcase everyone’s talents, with its staccato guitar opening; percussion that pummels the eardrum, pushing the speed up and then pulling it back; and a solo that is not only technically proficient, but actually creates a path for the listener to follow mentally, instead of simply throwing a bunch of notes at them haphazardly.

Infection Legacy is the kind of album that would have no reservations about hitting the listener in the face with a shovel and then using it to bury them behind the local Pizza Hut. Given the brutality of not only the music, but the lyrical subject matter, that would probably be the least of anyone’s worries. However, seeing as I survived the album and am living to tell about it, I should point out that anyone who is a fan of bands like Death or Strapping Young Lad should make a point of giving this a listen. It won’t revolutionize the death metal scene, but I don’t believe that was the intention. I believe it was to give homage to some classic death metal influences while firmly pushing forward the band’s own development. So, sit back, enjoy, and for the love of God, don’t crack open a cold one.


For more on Death Toll Rising, visit:
Official Website
Buy Infection Legacy: From The Band!
Facebook
Twitter
Youtube
Soundcloud

CD Review: ‘Onyx’ by Pop Evil

Better B# - TAM Banner

I’ve been enjoying Pop Evil’s most recent album, Onyx, so much that I nearly forgot that I needed to write a review. This May release, as the name implies, is a sojourn to the dark depths of personal struggle and hardship, while maintaining the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Combining sledgehammer riffs that could help bring drywall crashing down with occasional touches of spacious solitary notes and eery programming, the group have created an experience that never lets the listener get bored.

While I have heard the name Pop Evil before in passing, I must be honest in the fact that I’ve never listened to a single song the band had written until reviewing this record. Boy, what an introduction! The first thing I noticed, which pleased me in no small way, is how you get an earful of every instrument. No one stepping on anyone’s toes or invading anyone else’s space. The next thing I noticed was how huge the sound was, courtesy of the fine production by Johnny K. With an arsenal of just these two, juggernauts like “Trenches” sound exponentially bigger. It doesn’t hurt that the song is incredibly catchy, snagging you with its artificial harmonic hooks to the point that you don’t even want to escape.

 

This Grand Rapids, Mich. act has had a rough history with band members either leaving or taking a break due to injuries. Since the last album, War Of Angels, in 2010, Pop Evil has seen two new members join the fold: Chachi Riot on drums and Nick Feulling on guitar. While my experience with the past members is extremely limited, all I have to do is listen to the current release to hear that they’re doing a fine job, fitting comfortably with vocalist Leigh Kakaty, guitarist Dave Grahs and bassist Matt DiRito.

Onyx is a hard rock album at heart, sneaking in moments of heavy metal guitar riffs, occasional harsh vocals and moments of electronica. The song “Deal With The Devil” hearkens back to Alice In Chains with its verses’ droning vocals, but then changes course and becomes reminiscent of Rob Zombie, displaying Kakaty’s diverse capabilities. The aggression exhibited there continues in other tracks on the album, such as the aforementioned #1 single, “Trenches,” which sees Grahs and Fuelling digging deep; the explosive “Welcome To Reality,” with its infectious grooves; and the static-filled hostility of “Sick Sense.” The weight lightens for a time with the ballads “Torn To Pieces” and “Silence & Scars,” the latter hitting me more emotionally. The band does a wonderful job of balancing its balls-to-the-wall heaviness with moments like these, making everything pack more of a punch.

I wasn’t a fan of Pop Evil when I received this album. I had only heard one song, ever, that this group of rockers had written before I asked for the opportunity to review the whole release. I’m grateful that my intuition wasn’t wrong in thinking that this would be well worth my time! And it is well worth your time too. From start to finish, the tracks that compose this full-length are thoughtfully crafted – both lyrically and musically – and it shows. Just one song is all it takes. I wasn’t a fan of Pop Evil before Onyx, because I’d never listened. But I’m listening now.

 

Be sure to catch Pop Evil on tour!

For more on Pop Evil, visit:
Official Website
Buy Onyx at: iTunes | Amazon
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Youtube

CD Review: ‘Return To The Point Of Departure’ by Mahogany Head Grenade

Better B# - TAM Banner

 

Mahogany Head Grenade is an odd name. I haven’t a clue what it means, but that doesn’t make the music this Dallas-based trio has written any less worthwhile. Having read it called “home grown instraMETAL for your head” made me a bit cautious. Instrumental music is quite difficult to write and play in such a way that maintains my interest. I find that without the variety of a voice and the connection one can get from the lyrics that are paired with a composition, it is really easy for the music to become a bit too full of itself. Luckily, the debut EP, Return To The Point of Departure, is a journey into the realm of grooving riffs and uniquely shaped melodies that keep it from becoming victim to the pitfalls that so many other instrumental albums face.

Instrumental works like this often fall prey to poorly designed songs, if you can even call them songs. Great tracks tend to have strong melodious hooks that catch the audiences’ attention and recur to give the listener a sense of continuity. Tunes that lack vocals have a tendency to ignore this and become a pallet for totally random soloing that doesn’t seem to tie into any particular theme. That’s their problem, especially if it’s not a singable solo; not everyone can be Journey’s Neal Schon after all. Mahogany Head Grenade realize this, taking time to create gripping motifs that are separated with heavy riffs which are just as infectious. Adding to the character of the songs, such as on the opening title track, soundbytes have been included – in this case, from the 1956 radio show X Minus One – to satisfy those listeners who may be apprehensive about a half hour of music that features more guitar playing than words. These two aspects help make the EP hugely enjoyable and adds a little mystique.

 

The band members – which include guitarist Dan Hyer, drummer Mike Pritchett, and bassist James Falcon – are no amateurs to the music scene, but have found a pleasant home here. They realize that a power trio has to have just that: POWER! None of these guys slouch on this release. Hyer burns through his fretboard, Falcon has a forcefully gargantuan bass presence, and Pritchett knows just when to keep a basic back beat and when to rhythmically explore. One needs simply listen to the powerhouse track “Etude War Machine” to appreciate the energy that three men can evoke. But their killer tone also lays in the hands of their producer and engineer, Sterling Winfield (Pantera, Damageplan, Hellyeah), and mastering wizard Maor Appelbaum (Halford, Sepultura), who we must thank for helping the guys come across the speakers as they’ve done.

I had no idea what to expect when I began listening to this release. However, from the mellow, soundbyte-laden mid-point in “Trouble For Trouble” to the techno-beat intro of “Etude War Machine,” this EP has not only kept my attention, but it’s kept me rockin’ as well! The phrasing is uniquely refreshing, making me think of Buckethead at times, and the instruments work together instead of getting in each others’ way. While the songs do seem to be guitar-driven, the bass gets a chance to take center stage on occasion; something that I’d like to see more of in the future. Return To The Point Of Departure runs the gamut from relaxing to intense – even uplifting – and is a great launching point for Mahogany Head Grenade.


For more on Mahogany Head Grenade, visit:
Buy the EP at: iTunes | CDBaby | Amazon | From The Band!
Reverbnation
Facebook
Twitter
Youtube