‘Black Smoke Rising’ EP by Greta Van Fleet

In the village of Frankenmuth, Michigan, just North of Detroit, four young men calling themselves Greta Van Fleet are re-imagining the British Invasion.  Not in the sense of Paul Revere (or Sybil Ludington, if you’d prefer), but the British Invasion of the 1960s, which saw Englishmen re-imagining American blues in their own ways.  Wouldn’t it be fun, they thought, if it were re-imagined once more, reinvigorating the sounds they love with the youth of modern day?  These three brothers – two of them twins – and their best friend are sending chills through those that hear them, rocketing up to #1 on the iTunes American and Canadian Rock Chart with their 4-song debut EP, Black Smoke Rising, and already selling out most of the dates on their upcoming headlining tour.

The name Greta Van Fleet, in honor of a Frankenmuth town elder, is just one of the unique aspects of this quartet.  While they bring a sound which has roots firmly planted in a half-century long passed, it is far from a throwback.  These musicians bring their individual personalities to the table, harnessing a vast array of inspirations, from the Motown-enthused bassist all the way to the World Music-loving vocalist.  As the influences swirl together, they form a style that is familiar, but fresh.  I will not have been the first to liken their sound to early Zeppelin, and front man Josh Kiszka’s voice bears a striking resemblance to that of Robert Plant’s, to the point of the two occasionally being indistinguishable.  This is especially evident during an emotion-filled cry at the peak of Jake Kiszka’s guitar solo in “Safari Song,” and still again as the opening lines of “Flower Power” cascade through the speakers.  Yet, by the time the EP arrives at its final track, it’s very clear that these young men are brewing up their own creations, not attempting to resell music of days-gone-by.  If I had to single out one song as my favorite, it would be that final, self-titled track, Black Smoke Rising, for the very reason that it sounds the newest.

Greta Van Fleet is a collection of young men with old souls.  Though two are barely old enough to vote, and the other two barely old enough to drink, they’ve grown wise on the records their parents shared with them, filling up on Cream, The Who, and Elvis.  The music they play is neither overly complex, nor is it underplayed, and their lyrics are warm, if not at times inspiring.  Anyone who can listen to this bunch and not be moved in some way, my condolences go to their family.  By all means, pick up this short sample of their material.  And if you’d like to do yourself one better, try to see them on tour.  Black Smoke Rising is but an appetizer of what Greta Van Fleet has in store, and they can’t wait to share it with you.

 

Buy Black Smoke Rising at: iTunes | Amazon

Catch them on tour near you, right now!

For more on Greta Van Fleet, visit:
Official Website
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
YouTube

CD Review: ‘Raw’ EP by Empire Of Gold

Better B# - TAM Logo 2

 

When people think of grunge, the first band that comes to their mind is Nirvana. I’m not here to argue origins, as I’m sure I’ll hear a bunch of Mudhoney or The Melvins references. But Kurt Cobain and his ensemble were the flagship band of this movement, whether they characterized themselves as such or not. Personally, it took me quite a while to appreciate this genre. I had grown up as a lover of classic rock and 80s heavy metal, and when I began listening to grunge, I was also neck-deep in the technique of 80s music virtuosos who were playing Johann Sebastian Bach on electric guitar. But after some time my appreciate grew, so when a fellow by the name of Michael Dole approached me with his solo effort called Empire Of Gold, which falls under this umbrella, I hesitantly listened.

Empire Of Gold’s brand new EP is entitled Raw and it is aptly labeled. There is not a whole lot of production that stands between the listeners and the instruments and it’s even apparent from the album artwork. With the opening track, “What Are You Waiting For?,” we’re met with a barrage of distortion that only builds. Yet, while this very well could have been recorded in Dole’s garage, the Foo Fighters have shown us with Wasting Light that a high cost recording studio isn’t necessary for greatness. I don’t mean to say that Raw is on the same level as that album, but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well these tunes have been put together. Rough as the EP itself might be, it’s obvious Dole has an ear for music.

For those of you who are looking for a good time, run far away. Perhaps, however, take a copy of the EP with you for those days where nothing seems to go your way. This release is dripping with self-deprecation and won’t find a welcome place on any mix you might have been putting together for those Summer house parties. But then again, this is grunge, so that’s not surprising. Tracks like the ballad “You (Shouted The Worst You Could Do),” which documents a really brutal end to a relationship, as well as my personal favorite “Help Me” are not happy songs. But there is an occasion for this sort of mood, and I believe this would make a great addition to anything else that might find its way to your ears during those times. Michael Dole and Empire Of Gold can be happy about one thing: Raw is an honest piece of music that holds great promise for the future.

For more on Empire Of Gold, visit:
Official Website
Buy Raw at:  iTunes | From The Band
Facebook
Twitter
Soundcloud

CD Review: ‘Transparency’ by Straight Line Stitch

Better B# - TAM Logo 2

 

Remember the first time you discovered your favorite band? That elation you felt as you listened to the music, a previously unexplored soundscape? That’s a special feeling, and one I decided I’d attempt to recapture. You see, I received a request to review Straight Line Stitch’s new EP, Transparency (due out June 30), and while I’ve heard of the band, I wouldn’t be able to identify any of their songs I may have heard. I thought this was a great opportunity to go into a review of a well-established band with no preconceptions, archiving my thoughts unadulterated by any previous notion of what the band should or shouldn’t sound like. What makes this even more fitting, I have found, is that most of the touring group are newcomers from after the band released its last full-length album The Fight Of Our Lives in 2011 (ignoring the 2014 self-titled EP, as it doesn’t seem to be easily found). Therefore, my review is not tainted by expectations of the band as it existed in the past, but rather by what lay before us at the present.

A friend of mine once wrote a song called “Not Easily Impressed” and later told me, “That song describes you perfectly.” It’s true that I don’t like everything I hear. Really, who does? But this EP, it’s doing something right. Alexis Brown, vocalist and front woman for Straight Line Stitch, has impressed this poor soul! How a voice can transverse from sheer brutality to stunning, silky beauty is a feat that defies the mind. As I listen to the song “Out Of Body” all I can envision is an angelic figure floating through a collapsing, crumbling building, the rapid fire riffs cascading over the voice as it passes unharmed through the tumbling rubble. Okay, so that’s a little esoteric, but the way Alexis’ voice cuts through the intense music the band has written is beautiful. Period.

Their first single, “Dark Matter,” is available for request on the radio and the video for the song “Human Bondage” has premiered on Revolver Magazine’s website. You can also hear the band on the Civil Unrest tour, currently in progress.

There are only three official members of this band at the moment: Alexis Brown on vocals, Darren McClelland on bass, and Jason White on guitar. I am as in the dark as you are as to who recorded what for Transparency, but I approve! The release manages to be ominous, but contains slivers of hope shimmering in its recesses. For proof, take a look at “Face Of God,” certainly one of the heavier tracks on the EP but gushing with positivity. Meanwhile, the percussion is solid and precise and the guitars are heavy, but dynamic. No solos, sadly, but its combination of groove and melody make for an excellent metalcore release.

I think what really struck me about this release is the lyrical content. There seems to be some serious introspection occurring. A coming to terms with who, what, and where you are in this moment. Lines like “I know exactly where I’m at and I’m not looking back…” from the tune “Wilderness” are sung in such a way that…you know, it’s as if you can hear a newfound clarity and joy in Alexis’ voice.  I don’t know what she’s been through or how the band’s evolution has arrived at this point, but I get this sense of a great, bright horizon shining in the distance. I believe, with Transparency under its belt, Straight Line Stitch is ready to face a new day.


For more on Straight Line Stitch, visit:

Facebook
Twitter
Youtube
SLS Merchandise

EP Review: ‘Gone Too Long’ by Milo McMahon

Better B# - TAM Banner

Fuzztones and 50s twang are prominent features of Milo McMahon’s latest EP Gone Too Long. Weighing in at only three songs, this release is just enough to tease your appetite and take you back to the meal line saying “Please sir, may I have some more?” And more is what Milo seems to have in mind, as a recent announcement suggests crowdfunding for his second full-length album may be on the way.

Due to the extremely short nature of this release, let’s break it down song by song!

“Gone Too Long:” We start off with the title track, which is vocally breathy and a bit meditative. I was honestly a bit surprised by the tune, considering other songs I’d heard such as “Big City Hustle,” the title track from Milo’s first album, are more aggressive. On the other hand, the opener here has such an airy-atmosphere that by the time the guitar solo came around it felt as though our host might be floating away.

“Come Get Me Eyes:” This is the song that sucked me in. It leads off with a funky fuzztone riff that keeps building until the vocals come in, swelling with confidence. But the stop and go chorus is what really makes this a winner, with Milo’s voice sailing upwards while the music runs beneath to catch it wherever it may land. And who doesn’t like a singable solo paired with a horn section? I know I do.

And finally, “Buyin’ A Truck:” Truly the most unusual song in terms of subject matter. “I’ve been dreaming about buying a truck and picking you up at the airport.” And yet, that may be why this is the catchiest song on Milo’s short excursion between albums; it draws you in with its unusual lyrics and then plants you down in a seat and provides a refreshing musical treat.

None of these songs will change your world, but are an excellent snack if you’re interested in a little upbeat music that you can cram into a ten minute break.

 

For more on Milo McMahon, visit:
Official Website
Purchase Gone Too Long from:  iTunes | Amazon | From The Band
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram

CD Review: ‘Done With You’ by Confrontational

Better B# - TAM Banner
I’ve been a follower of Massimo Usai’s music for a long time, and it’s no surprise why. Here’s a man who has fronted a diverse number of projects, has received praise from the likes of Tommy Victor (Prong), recorded with Darren Travis (Sadus), and been part of studio sessions with the legendary group Killing Joke. Not only is he a competent multi-instrumentalist, but he is a confident behind-the-scenes man as well, versed in the roles of mixer and producer. Thus, it was no surprise to me to see him emerge once more with this new endeavor, Confrontational.

Confrontational has arisen from the ashes of noise rockers, Recs Of The Flesh, and dark-wave experimenters, Dahlia Indaco. Usai has focused on bringing together “a melodic approach to aggressively catchy tracks” through the use of “layers of synth, lush guitars, and pulsing beats.” What we’re left with is the debut EP, Done With You, a four track escape from the present into a world painted in post-apocalyptic colors. It’s no surprise, then, to see a cover of “Giving Ground” by The Sisterhood (a side project from The Sisters Of Mercy) make an appearance here, as the release would find a comfortable place as part of a soundtrack to many an 80s horror movie. Make no mistake, however, what Usai has made is far from a relic of the past; stagnant and stale. The music is vibrant, full, and undoubtedly addictive.

When I received this release, my music player auto-assigned its genre as “synthpop.” Honestly, I haven’t had much experience listening to bands in that genre, so I decided to go look up others that might fall within that spectrum. Artists such as Chromeo, Devo, and Owl City were on that long list. Each of these is largely different from the other, and Confrontational is just as far removed. The only thing that they have in common is the heavy use of synthesizer within their music, and even the way they incorporate that instrument differs from one to the next. While Chromeo might be best suited for a club environment, and Owl City has blossomed on the radio, and Devo…well, Devo is something to listen to in your basement, Confrontational is something to be felt.

I don’t know how to really describe it to you, but I’ll try. It’s like a building, burgeoning fog. It creeps in around your ankles and thickens until you can’t make out your feet any longer. Then it begins to rise. You’re nervous to move, because you don’t trust the ground to be there anymore. But the fog continues to rise, finally enveloping you. You sense a pulsing, as though your body is resonating with some unseen force. Then sparks of neon explode around you, catching fire to the air for a moment in time before dying off into darkness and being replaced by another in a myriad of color and design. Are you inside or outside? Are you awake or dreaming? Does it really even matter? And this is just the opening track.

Confrontational yearns to create an atmosphere as much as it desires to create songs with a killer bassline or entrancing melodies. And you know what? It succeeds on all fronts. These tracks are not simply one-off explorations into a chord progression, but pieces of a developing mood. Done With You is an introduction to a bigger story; the kind of music that weaves a fabric of notes together in order to move the listener to a new place of the composer’s imagination, and each of these songs is one step further towards that realization. Confrontational is a band that you have to let just carry you away, and I can’t wait to see where I end up.

 

For more on Confrontational, visit:
Official Website
Purchase Done With You: From The Band
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram
Youtube

CD Review: Walking With Giants EP

Better B# - TAM Banner


I won’t lie. It was the names that caught my interest. But, from the opening notes ringing out in my ears I knew that this would be worth every moment.

Gary Noon – vocalist, guitarist, bassist, and mastermind behind Walking With Giants – is living every fan’s dream: to play with his heroes. What originally began as a tribute to some of his favorite bands soon became something new entirely. After getting in touch through a mutual friend, Gary had the chance to not only become friends with Sevendust guitarist Clint Lowery and Alter Bridge/Creed drummer Scott Phillips, but to collaborate on a project as well. It’s no wonder the band is named Walking  With Giants. But Noon is no stranger to playing with internationally acclaimed musicians, previously performing in a band called White Knuckles with Chad Szeliga of Breaking Benjamin and Robb Torres of Trapt.

Heavy, melodic, and reflective. Noon, Lowery, and Phillips have decided to tease our senses with this breakout self-titled EP, with Gary telling us “there’s more to come” in his interview with Broken Records Online. You can hear how Noon was inspired by the bands of the other two, though the songs feel more in the vein of Alter Bridge than Sevendust. Considering that I really enjoy both bands, this doesn’t bother me in the slightest. And while I like heavy rock songs, it’s really the groove the guys manage to instill in their music that makes it alluring. For instance, a track like “Answers” remind me of the short-lived group Sick Speed from Rich Ward (Fozzy/Stuck Mojo), as it shares the same groove-filled sensibilities and ariose tendencies, which I greatly admire. And speaking of melodies, co-writers Noon and Lowery have really nailed it here, not only in the guitar playing, but in the vocal delivery as well. The guitars convey the melodious theme between the verses, but then step back and let the vocals and chorus really take it the rest of the way – something other aspiring bands should take into consideration. I know I’m not the only one singing along in their car.

Lyrically, as I said, this release is reflective. It revolves around the theme of a life of struggles and mistakes. As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. Noon writes in a very open way, allowing each track to come across emphatically to the listener. It’s as though he’s not just writing for himself, but speaking out for all of us. As the interview mentioned earlier reveals, the song “Perfect” wasn’t even written with himself in mind, but rather portrays a friend. And really, who doesn’t yearn for a picture-perfect life? We hope that, despite our trials, something wonderful awaits us after the tribulations. And that’s the thing shining through on this album. There’s a positivity in these lyrics that provides a hopeful feeling to those that listen. There’s always time to make a change for the better.

There’s no doubt that veterans Clint Lowery and Scott Phillips have taken Noon to a whole new level. Just watching the production videos, you can see how their inclusion has helped expand Gary’s musical horizon. But the core ideas, and the feeling behind them, are all Gary Noon. It’s his love of this music style that has resulted in such a phenomenal debut release, with all its guitar grooves and melodic tastiness. And it’s those features that he’ll keep in mind when he looks for touring musicians for this project, until the time when Lowery and Phillips are able to join him again for a full-length record. Walking With Giants has excited us with a marvelous start and I can’t wait to see where they’ll wind up next.


Buy the Walking With Giants EP at: iTunes | Amazon

For more on Walking With Giants, visit:
Official Website
Facebook
Twitter
Youtube
Reverbnation