CD Review: “Bloody But Unbowed” by Halcyon Way

Atlanta metal band Halcyon Way soldiers on with its fourth release, Bloody But Unbowed. It is a fitting title for a band that formed 17 years ago and continue to wave the metal flag down South. The opening track “Deevolution” starts with a stringed section fused with industrial percussion before the guitars and drums kick in. It is a minute-long song that catches the listener off guard. Drummer Aaron Baumoel’s bass drum drives the title track and is accompanied by some thrashing riffs from guitarists Jon Bodan and Max Eve. The guitar leads are a bit weak for such a grandiose track, but overall this is a strong song that must be played live. “Blame” is the lead single on Bloody and is notable for its pulverizing riffs and mechanical drumming which contrasts with frontman Steve Braun’s soaring vocals. There is a tinge of industrial on “Slaves To Silicon” which is appropriate considering the title. This track is a bit slower than the previous songs and has a groove during the song’s verses. “Superpredator” is a bit clunky with its palm muted riffing but is saved by Baumoel’s monolithic drumming. This track is a bit cheesy, but it is still a fun song. “Primal Fear” is an aggressive, dynamic cut with some interesting guitar phrasing that weaves like a maze.

Bloody But Unbowed walks the thin line between seriousness and mirth. Power and progressive bands are known for bombastic and ostentatious musicianship and songwriting (as I have stated in other reviews) but here, the band is clearly having fun. The guitarists are throwing out some nice leads and riffs but do not get too carried away. Braun’s voice is strong and clear, yet goes over the top from time to time. There are hints of Pantera, Dream Theater and Metallica on this album. However, do not expect to hear a song like “One” “Cemetery Gates” or “Pull Me Under.” Halcyon Way does a good job of offering enough variety for everyone. The production is great and special kudos to the drumming production on this album.

Well, Halcyon Way has accomplished its mission on Bloody But Unbowed. It is the fun-loving little brother to Fates Warning and Dream Theater that deserves mention. While grizzled prog and power metal veterans may pass this up, this album is a good introduction to these subgenres. Keep marching on Halcyon Way.

Check out the band’s official Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/halcyonway

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘One More Time For The Fans’ at Fox Theatre Nov. 12

Red Carpet for Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'One More For The Fans'

Red Carpet for Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘One More For The Fans’

 

Review and Photography by Danielle Boise

 

“We love you guys. God Bless you! Thank you for supporting Lynyrd Skynyrd. Let’s keep it going for another 40 years.”  – Johnny Van Zant

 

The musical influence of Skynyrd ricocheted across genres, from Southern Rock to Country and Rock ‘n’ Roll all came out to honor the godfathers of Southern Rock on Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. A day that the city of Atlanta proclaimed as “Lynyrd Skynyrd Day.” A collection of musical greats, heavy hitters in their own right, took the stage at The Fox Theatre to honor and celebrate the magic and wonder of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Acts such as Trace Adkins, Alabama, Gregg Allman, Charlie Daniels, Peter Frampton, Warren Haynes, John Hiatt, Randy Houser, Jason Isbell, Jamey Johnson, Al Kooper, Aaron Lewis, moe., Gov’t Mule, O.A.R., Robert Randolph, Blackberry Smoke, Cheap Trick, Donnie Van Zant and of course, Lynyrd Skynyrd themselves.

The roots of Southern Rock shined at the Fox Theatre as “One More Time For The Fans” paid tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd. County star Randy Houser started the night off with “Whiskey Rock A Roller.” The ever soulful, Robert Randolph was up next as he performed “You Got That Right,” followed by the hard rocking Aaron Lewis putting his own twist on “Saturday Night Special.” Georgia’s own Blackberry Smoke illuminated with “Workin’ for MCA.” O.A.R. infused their own rock roots into “Don’t Ask Me No Questions.” It was perfection to see Cheap Trick perform “Gimme Back My Bullets.” The ever so wonderful American singer, songwriter John Hiatt’s rendition of “Ballad of Curtis Lowe” was a moving moment.  “It’s an honor and a privilege to be part of this tonight,” declared moe.’s Chuck Garvey as they went into “Comin’ Home.”

By far one of my personal favorite moments of the night was when Gov’t Mule performed “Simple Man.” The nature of the song and the raw power in which Gov’t Mule pour their souls into the song left me speechless. “It’s was an honor to be here tonight and play one of my favorite songs” declared Warren Haynes right before he exited the stage before intermission.

The first half of the show, while each song out did the previous one, ran a bit long, as they had to break down and set up between each act. When the intermission was over, the second half flew by in record time; the house band was on stage for most of the remainder of the night.

Warren Haynes returned to the stage after intermission with “That Smell.” Country act Jamey Johnson followed him up with “Tabulaturi.” Jason Isbell joined the stage next for his rendition of “I Know A Little.”  Musical icon Peter Frampton never stopped smiling as he performed “Call Me The Breeze.” The ever so humble country star Trace Adkins graced the stage with “What’s Your Name.” Donnie Van Zant and Charlie Daniels sang “Down South Jukin” as a duo. With mellow grace, Gregg Allman serenaded the venue with “Tuesday’s Gone,” and was proceeded by Alabama, as they came out in all their glory and did “Gimme Me Three Steps.”

“These guys are making history here tonight. 40 years ago, Lynyrd Skynyrd recorded One More From The Road on this very stage” said the President of The Fox Theatre, Allan C. Vella, to the crowd of enthusiastic fans as he presented Lynyrd Skynyrd with the Marquee Award, an award that is given to artists that come to the Fox and make history. The live recording of One More From The Road would ultimately go platinum and helped save the beloved Fox Theatre from being demolished.

 

“What a great, great night in Atlanta, Georgia tonight. We love each and every one of you. We call you our Lynyrd Nation.” – Johnny Van Zant

 

When Lynyrd Skynyrd finally came out at the end of the night, the theatre lit up an array of elation from the crowd of fans who had been singing along all night the numerous acts that preceded them. It was Skynyrd that people were there to see and were ever so happy to see them take the stage. Skynyrd had all the bands and artists come out to join in and turn “Sweet Home Alabama” into the ultimate jam session. Skynyrd followed up the infectious song with an ode to “Travelin’ Man.” With a projection screen running in the background as Ronnie Van Zant sang along with Johnny – it was a heartwarming moment to see. Of course you cannot end the night without “Free Bird,” and that’s exactly what Lynyrd Skynyrd did. They played as they paid tribute to their fallen members in pictures and words displayed on the screen in the background. It was a beautiful, somber moment; the perfect way to end the night.

 

 

Full Photo Gallery of the Red Carpet Event

Interview: The Gin Rebellion

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, the trio of musicians collectively known as The Gin Rebellion can often be found performing at Dragon Con and different Steampunk conventions around the United States. The band is made up of H.M. and Ophelia Baptista on vocal and guitar duties and Renfield on banjo, accordion and mandolin.

To attend a Gin Rebellion performance is like stepping back in time to a dustier, more devilish era of American lore and the stories they sing are filled with a mixture of intrigue, darkness and romance. Getting caught up in a Gin Rebellion performance is akin to sitting in an old-west saloon or theater, being regaled with tales told by traveling musicians working their way from town to town.

Last year the band recorded and released their first full length album entitled, The Uprising of The Gin Rebellion. The album can be purchased on Bandcamp and is filled with well produced renditions of the band’s original songs. Target Audience Magazine caught up with The Gin Rebellion in Decatur, Georgia to talk about the band, their history and The Uprising.

 

The Gin Rebellion (Renfield, Ophelia and H.M.)

The Gin Rebellion is: Renfield, Ophelia Baptista and H.M.

 

How did Gin Rebellion come together as a band?

Renfield: I guess H.M. and I had been playing for two years together before the band really became the band it is today.

H.M.: We started as a two-man band with Renfield and myself and we performed a few years at Steampunk World’s Fair in New Jersey. We met Ophelia through a mutual friend and we all ended up having similar musical sensibilities.

Ophelia: It really was a happy little accident. I was playing a song for a friend of mine and wanted to demonstrate how I was working with lyrics and music. His roommates [H.M. and Renfield] ran upstairs, brought down an accordion and a guitar and I thought: “Okay, I guess I’m in a band now!”

 

What is your normal writing process?

H.M.: We write in our own mental spaces and when we feel comfortable enough, we will bring it to the rest of the band and present what we have. If we’re having trouble trying to figure out another verse, we will work together to find an idea. Or, sometime we have everything figured out lyrically and the tune is there, but we need to figure out what chords go with it.

Ophelia: I’ve found that we all add a little bit of something to everything we write. One song is not entirely one person’s or the others. The song that I had been playing the night we met went through many changes with my band-mates before it actually came to the “Freak Show” that you hear today… literally and figuratively.

Or, if there is a song that is great but we don’t feel there is enough dynamic change to it, we try and determine what can we do to add those dynamics. While old-time music is fun, classic and familiar, it is still very traditional and can be the same from verse to verse unless you add little changes to make it more interesting throughout.

 

How long (individually) had you been doing music before you came together?

Renfield: I’d been playing music in some form or another since my junior year of high school. I started off playing in punk and grindcore bands and slowly started to get into bluegrass and more of the origins of what we think of today as popular music. That kind of drew me into the Steampunk scene, with the old-time music mixed with an edge of punk music.

I started out with a two-instrument set for $100.00, a mandolin and a guitar. It was an acoustic guitar that I could play with anything and then get an electric when I got better. But I had this mandolin as well, and so I began incorporating that into these punk bands. We did “Dropkick Murphys” inspired stuff, like Celtic Punk. I wanted to do more of a Bluegrass Punk since we were all Americans… that American folk edge with punk music. The accordion I picked up really recently, like four years ago.

Ophelia: When I was about six, my mom started noticing that I was able to recognize pitches, so she started me in music instruction pretty early. I want to say I was about 8 years old when I joined my next door neighbor’s children’s chorus and the vocal training really began. It wasn’t just bringing a bunch of cute kids together to have them sing a song… no, we were learning full on vocal technique.

Singing was easy, but then I realized that I needed to learn other things to get your songs written. It wasn’t until I started to go to renaissance festivals that I wanted to really bring this music together, and Celtic style music really clicked with me. It gave me a reason to pick up an instrument and learn to play, so I ended up teaching myself how to play the guitar.

H.M.: I started singing, as a lot of people do, in a church choir and doing children’s productions at the church. I started in band at middle school and it was there that I really learned how to read and understand sheet music. I tried doing chorus in 9th grade, but I didn’t feel it fit my expressions of 14-15 year old angsty teenager, so I shifted over to art where I had a greater passion at the time. I first really started to play guitar a few years ago when I was in a theatrical production of “Evita,” playing Agustín Magaldi. Playing him was the cheesiest cheese ball that I ever cheesed, and the hammiest ham that I have ever hammed. It really was a ham and cheese situation.

I tried writing songs before, inspired by my interest of Japanese Rock at the time. Before Renfield and I met, I thought that there really was no good American music anymore. When he and I started going over our musical interests and I listened to what he was listening to, I realized that “oh, there’s actual people making music that you don’t hear on the radio ever, and it’s really good!” So that is when I shifted where I was with music from this rock style to more into the storytelling style that we prefer.

 

Music Video for 'The Vagabond'

 

“Steampunk” is such a nebulous term, open to interpretation. If you were forced to label your music, what would you call it?

Ophelia: The shortest description that I could possibly give is “Retro Folk Fusion.”

H.M.: Without staying “Steampunk Music,” that’s a fairly good summarization.

Ophelia: Part of the thing with Steampunk style music is that it blends influences from all around the world during a specific era. Going from the 1880’s – 1940’s or so, that music is so good.

 

Are there any specific musical influences that you as artists have?

H.M.: I sort of realize that while I like a few musicians, one of the few people that I look forward to and want to write like is Rufus Wainwright. He is dynamic in his music, passionate in his sound and diverse in his story.

Ophelia: I have a few influences, but one of my favorites would have to be Unwoman, because we kind of come from a similar vein of songwriting. I also really love the songwriting of Robin Jackson from Vagabond Opera. His lyrics are so complex in meaning and wording. The sounds of his words match and click against each other and become instruments in themselves. That’s sort of what I try to aim for with the wording of my poetry. I try to write like him, without writing too much like him.

Renfield: I’d say that my current favorites are probably The Dirt Daubers or the Legendary Shack Shakers. Both are based around the same core group. They are kind of rockabilly or bluegrass, depending how they feel. They really inspire me with the wide range of music they do.

 

How did the actual recording of your album come together?

H.M.: We had the assistance of Dimitri of The Extraordinary Contraptions. We recorded in his recording space and he was our sound engineer and contributed bass tracks to it.

Ophelia: We also had our friend Nathaniel Johnstone of the Nathaniel Johnstone Band and previously of Abney Park record violin tracks for the album. A close friend of mine, Andrew McKee of The Brobdingnagian Bards did all the mixing and mastering for us. He did a fantastic job and was very patient through the process. Renfield designed the CD cover art and did all the layout for that.

As far as the songs, we put together all of the ones that were original and we believed were performance and recording ready. From there, we did our normal stage setup with the core instruments from the shows, but recording added a whole new level of creativity.

H.M.: Being able to play more than one instrument on a track was wonderful. On “Freak Show,” Renfield was playing both the mandolin and accordion.

Renfield: We played “Freak Show” live at The Steampunk World’s Fair a couple years back and one of my friends, Painless Parker, was in the audience. He had his mandolin and I had him join us on the song. I gave him the chords, he played along and it sounded fantastic. So, on the album I really wanted to bring the mandolin into it. Just for fun, there’s this little breakdown towards the end and right when it kicks back in I thought I would do an 80’s metal pick slide on the mandolin.

Ophelia: That really confused our music mix master. I remember during “Vagabond” when he was mixing, he said “It’s really weird… the banjo actually sounds a bit like a steel drum. Is it supposed to be like that?” We had to tell him “yes, Renfield is playing like that on purpose.”

Renfield: I can be a bit percussive.

 

As an independent, self published band, what valuable lessons have you learned for the next time you head into the studio?

H.M.: Figuring out and writing down all of the tempos that you are going to use beforehand so that you solidly know how fast or slow you want the song to be performed. That recording is going to be around a long time.

Ophelia: Test with the mics first and make sure that you have the right equipment available. I remember we had to re-record vocals at one point because the headphones I was using actually bled out sound on to the track. Also, make sure everyone is on the same level as far as compatibility, especially software. We ran into some conversion issues as well.

H.M.: Where maybe our best takes didn’t make it, but our sound engineer was able to blend it into a cohesive and clean sound.

Renfield: Make sure to practice playing the songs on all the instruments that you are considering using during the recording. As I mentioned before, with the recording of “Freak Show,” that was the first time I had played it on mandolin. Next time I am going to make sure to play through all of the songs on all of my instruments in order to be a bit more prepared. I am hoping to add few newer and smaller instruments to my repertoire for next time as well.

 

The Gin Rebellion can be seen performing at TeslaCon in Middleton, Wisconsin in November and Anachrocon in Atlanta, Georgia in February.

Visit The Gin Rebellion’s website and Facebook page for more information on the band and their activities.