‘Rise Among Rivals’ by Rise Among Rivals

Transcendent Events always sets up great concerts featuring a stunning array of Baltimore-area bands. I had the pleasure of attending their Halloween event about three weeks ago, and more than a few bands turned my head. One of those acts was a new group called Rise Among Rivals, a hard rock band whose self-titled EP became available just this summer. Despite only recently emerging on the scene, it was evident that they are not suffering for a fan base, taking stage to an immediately ecstatic crowd. I quickly understood the rationale, as energy erupted off this foursome, delivering an emotional, yet precise, performance.

I did myself a favor and grabbed a copy of their singular release to get a better idea of what makes this band tick. What I found were six extremely catchy, well-played tracks; tightly executed rhythms, powerful bass presence, and passionate vocal phrasing. “Left Alone” is a particular favorite of mine, with whistling pipe organs laying the groundwork for David Gascon’s [vocals] emotive vocals to warble overtop, as though they’re passing through a cascading sheet of water, before the dual-guitar sledge of Gascon and Jim Poggi crash down upon us. Jamey McElroy’s immense basslines shake us from underneath, jutting upward with the heartbeat of Christopher Tepper’s percussion. There’s a computerized effect during the song, seemingly imitated by the guitars through slides and other fretboard pyrotechnics, which adds even more flair to an already enjoyable experience. This focus on the second track isn’t meant to diminish the others. I certainly want to address tracks like “Bliss,” with its delicious, bass-heavy launch from the starting gate, the use of both a traditional kit and electronic drum samples to widen the flavor palette, as well as the dynamic see-saw of soft and heavy sections. This last point draws the ear to the spacious verses as well as the explosive chorus, and emphasizes both that much more.

Lyrically, Rise Among Rivals largely focuses on relationships that have overstayed their welcome, along with a bit of self-reflection for good measure. While this is certainly not your soundtrack for a happy-go-lucky romantic comedy, there is a note of positivity throughout in the fact that the protagonist of this story is aware of the problems they face and are doing their best to get out of them (the only exception being “Bliss”). And, as I’ve already noted, Gascon is solidly expressive from start to finish, easily drawing the listener into this world to connect with the music.

Rise Among Rivals’ first release is tremendously enjoyable. They have garnered well-deserved attention through six songs that are powerful and catchy, and have shown themselves to be a heavyweight contender during their live shows. If they continue this trajectory, having already accumulated quite the following in less than six months, I would not be surprised to see them start to support national acts before much longer. I’ll definitely be paying close attention to what this foursome chooses to deliver in the future, because I have no doubt that it will be fantastic.

Purchase Rise Among Rivals at: iTunes | Amazon | CDBaby

For more on Rise Among Rivals, visit: Facebook | Twitter | Spotify | YouTube

Skitzo Calypso: Revived & Live!

When I began doing concert photography, one of the first shows I covered was at the House Of Rock, north of Baltimore, in 2013. My wife (girlfriend at the time) and I were there to see Eye Empire perform, but there were a slew of openers to test our lenses out on first. One of those bands, it so happened to be, was Skitzo Calypso. In fact, I distinctly remember holding the door open for Brad Cox and company as we were making our way into the restaurant, unaware of who it was until later that night. So, how wonderful is it that five years later I had the honor of photographing their return to the stage, not to mention getting to see several other great acts alongside them, at Transcendent Events’ Halloween show on October 27 at the Metro Gallery in Baltimore?

Rise Among Rivals: Facebook | Twitter | iTunes | Amazon

One of those acts is a fairly new band called Rise Among Rivals, whose debut, self-titled EP only dropped in June. Yet, it was very clear from the moment they took the stage that they possess a large and enthusiastic fanbase. And I can understand why: they deal out a heavy-yet-catchy band of hard rock, and it’s executed extremely well. Throw in the fact that they’re all extremely animated individuals, and you have a set which is not only fun to listen to, but watch to boot.

Skitzo Calypso: Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Bandcamp

Skitzo Calypso’s return to the stage — after a two year absence — was well received. Particular highlights for me were two songs off their recent release entitled A.L.I.C.E., “Reaching For An Emerald Sky,” and “The Tortured and the Hare,” both of which exploded with energy and drove the band and the crowd forward into the night. Of course, I state that as someone who was pressed up against the stage, banging my head to the rhythm of Gary Holmes’ bass drum. Still, looking around and making sure not to headbutt anyone as I lost myself in the music gave me a decent sense that I was not alone in my enjoyment. One person who was definitely enjoying himself was bassist Tyler Garrett, who was like a man possessed the entire night. He’d scream to the sky and fall upon the floor, all while keeping the foundation in place for the dual-guitar assault of Patrick Sise and Bryan Holmes as they ripped through track after track. Part way through the set, frontman and vocalist Brad Cox took a moment to speak from the heart about the late Chris O’Rourke, former Skitzo guitarist and friend, and dedicated their song “Until My Heart 5tops Beating” to his memory. Though obviously an emotional moment for him, he carried on in his usual manner, literally sweating energy and belting out note after note. Fans were enjoying the show so much that, by the time the end arrived, the band had to convince them to leave. Reluctantly, they dispersed, but certainly happier than they arrived after having received a healthy serving of rock n’ roll, not to mention a bag of Skittles in standard Skitzo Calypso fashion.