Monday, July 31, 2017

Quantum Split - Amercia (2017)

Written by Scott Wigley, posted by blog admin

Quantum Split is a band with something to say and a great vehicle for saying it. Their merger of soul elements, including a few drops of light funk and blues, with hard rock histrionics creates an unique hybrid in the modern music scene today. Straight rock or hard rock has been rendered a little passé by changing fashions, but Quantum Split provides a roadmap for how the genre can continue to enjoy commercial and social relevance. Led by vocalist and songwriter Soleil Laurent, Quantum Split bring massive musical firepower to bear through guitarist Adrian Read and drummer Anthony Anderson, but bassist Ivan Hardy proves an invaluable component of the band’s sound and gives them an impressive bottom end. The songwriting is nuanced, full of white-knuckle passion, and immensely musical, but a superb production job frames it all quite nicely.

The title song of the release, “America”, has direct lyrics speaking to the experience of many in our modern culture without relying on dogma or overtly political statements. It begins at a slow simmer with neatly arranged melodic lines from Read’s guitar that are spiked, ever so slightly, but a light funky bounce. Attentive listeners will hear, however, that the storm is coming. The track eventually erupts and Read’s guitar work blazes at a high temperature with the rhythm section thrashing away behind him. When this band works up a musical head of steam, they roll over listeners with all the muscle of a bulldozer. Laurent’s voice cuts through the sonic din and puts her stamp on the track with vocals dredged up from the bottom of her soul. Some might expect the band to return to the pensive opening music near the song’s end, but Quantum Split keep up the intensity throughout.

“Runaway” is a much more dynamically arranged tune with music that moves back and forth from quietly melancholy passages into a full on rock assault and back again. The alternating moods give it a different sort of richness than what we heard on the opener and Laurent’s voice does a great job filling the song with dramatic turns. The same penchant for strong melody distinguishing the opener is intact here even if it manifests itself in a distinctly darker fashion. The chorus is particularly memorable thanks to some brief pauses and Quantum Split show the same aversion to self-indulgence here that we heard on the title track. The song scarcely clocks in over the four minute mark and it provides more than enough time for each member to make their presence felt. This is a band that makes their heart clear to anyone who cares to listen. Quantum Split is engaged with life, love what they do, and every bit of that is reflected in the music they write and record.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Russ Still and the Moonshiners - Still Cookin' (2017)

Written by David Shouse, posted by blog admin

Georgia country rockers Russ Still and the Moonshiners are lost in time.  The problem is it’s 2017 and these guys think that big guitars, dynamic songwriting, tight rhythm playing and a singer who doesn’t need studio polish to get a vocal tone are going to get them through. There’s certainly still a sizeable audience out there for this sort of gritty, profoundly American music.  The Georgia Music Awards recently lauded Russ Still and the Moonshiners “Country Band of the Year” and there’s a reason for it; the band’s music has chops, panache and plenty of killer fret-work to feast your ears on. 

Still Cookin’ is the band’s 2nd full-length outing and they are in fine form throughout.  The only minor thing that might help the record is putting one of the big acoustic/piano/guitar workouts like “I Can’t” or “10, 000 Ways” at the end of the record.  It’s strictly a construction issue; the album feels a little front-loaded with these big, larger than life numbers. Listeners can definitely hear in these tunes that they are the band’s equivalent to iconic classics like “Highway Song” or “Green Grass and High Tides” and deserve more climatic slots. Placing them closer to the album’s end allows them, as well, to frame Still’s powerful voice in the most dramatic light possible.

Elsewhere, the tightly meshed music unit serve up thunderous Southern rock riffs and leads on “Promised Land” and “Workin’ Class Hunter,” take a gleaming acoustic foundation and turn it into electric gold on the ornery “Long Way from Home,” deliver excellent call/response lead and background vocals along with driving guitar licks in “Glorine’s” before merging acoustic/ and electric atmospherics across the gravel road rollick of “Goin’ Fishin’”. The anthemic “Juantia” gives the band another opportunity for a particularly on target cut highlighting many of the band’s greatest strengths. Stellar production provides clarity to each instrument and highlighting the infectiously locked-on playing of every musician. The aforementioned lack of a major production number near album’s end is a minor weakness, but not one ever threatening to drag the release down as a whole. If you thought this hybrid of rock and country lingered on forever usurped by the likes of Kenny Chesney or Florida Georgia Line, Russ and his Moonshiners stand as a sharp rebuke to such misplaced beliefs. Big, bold, hickory flavored country rock is alive and well on each of the 9 tracks of Still Cookin’; crack a cold one and enjoy.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Donoma - Falling Forward (2017)

Written by David Shouse, posted by blog admin

Information on this psychotic, tribe-like band is scant.  Donoma, who take their name from an Indian phrasing which translates to “a sight of the sun,” don’t really make available who plays what or the exact formation that the band takes onstage.  The only thing I know for certain is that vocalist/lyricist places her roughhewn poetry and exclamatory vocal stylings at the center of a sound that buzzsaws through blues riffs, goes bonkers on aggro punk tempos, serves patrons drinks of fizzy cocktail jazz and really kicks every genre in the teeth that they decide to tackle.  No instrument is safe as well; the band’s sonic debauchery relying on organic rock staples including bass, guitar and drums but unafraid of expanding its repertoire into keyboards, slide guitar, violins and some possible cello. 

The record starts off with a gallop in the form of “Sick’s” heatstroke, high-speed electrified country guitars challenging Marshall Dillon to a gunfight on the mean streets of Dodge City.  Craggy rhythm breaks incorporate reckless punk rock drumming focus on agile tom fills and forward-mushing beats colliding into the warm bass guitar bed.  Slide licks and trippy background keys give a powerful foundation for vocalist Stephanie Vogt to spill whiskey-fed mantras with growly vocals that would challenge any male competitor in a gravel chewing contest.  “Jack in the Box” retains some blurry country twang but jettisons the genre’s stalwart approach for screaming vocal narration, Touch n’ Go Records’ infected drum n’ bass volatility and shrieking white-noise guitars.  On “Memory” country is blended with powerful, riff-greased blues and coal-mining violins giving way to rollicking tom-tom thrusts and vibrant bass lines.  Vogt proves herself as a vocal chameleon able to handle any style with ease on this one; the nervous nastiness of the prior two tracks morphing into a lizard like slither with melodic, crystalline belting rendering every word clear as day.  Swift, blink and you’ll miss ‘em guitar leads punctuate this mighty piece with just the right amount of psychedelic scorch.  A spot on, deadly accurate cover of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” retains the soulful blues feel of the original with Donoma and Vogt in particular making it their very own.   

The album starts taking even more chances as it goes along with atmospheric ol’ tyme swing/jazz establishing precedence on “He Loves Me Not,” the dance club tinged “Deep Beneath the Woods” and “Another Light’s” orchestral, cosmic country n’ roll. Nihilistic rage returns on “Splinter” where tempos got kooky and screaming guitar/vocal threats reappear with purpose.  Rounding things out “Unfortunate Son” is a hard-nosed, riff-y blues rocker that pairs nicely with the impending swagger of “Otherside,” leaving a pair of ballads “A New Shed of Colors” and instrumental finale “Come with Me” to drench the eardrums in blissful acoustic guitars that match up gracefully with the crooning vocal performance.  All in all, Falling Forward is fantastic sophomore album from a band poised to take on the world.  Sometimes the music gets a bit disjointed but thanks be to God there’s still a rock band out there that isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo.   

Heavy America - ...Now (2017)

Written by Charles Hatton, posted by blog admin

As if delivered to the future in H.G. Wells’ own personal time machine, Heavy America’s …Now is the powerhouse, rock n’ roll answer to the polished folk/progressive rock polluting the airwaves.  Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men seem to be the only names getting the major label nods and widespread audience attention.  Though not terrible bands, these artists are not quite my cup of tea and it’s hard to find bands incorporating blues, country and folk inspirations into more bombastic, memorable hard rock.  Heavy America takes the current stereotype and turns it upside down.  They’ve got a sprawling appeal that could hook in fans of completely different though somehow kindred acts like The Decemberists, Across Tundras, Wolfmother, Howling Rain and even early Witchcraft.

Led by guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Mike Seguin, drummer/percussionist Dan Fried and bassist Budd Lapham, Heavy America are a mercurial power trio hellbent on infiltrating eardrums with a stampede of rustling rock n’ roll fervor.  The atmosphere is dusky yet uplifting on lead-off jam “Proud Shame.”  Seguin’s decipherable, powerfully intoned vocals conjure images of days gone by atop windswept guitar melodies, canyon wide bass lines and vigorous drumming.  Sullen melodies are prominent but fearsome stoner riffs keep the haunting meditations from boredom; a stark contrast of booming guitar work and introspection make for some lively progressions.  Dirt-encrusted grooves and an extended outro jam with a powder keg solo lick render “Bleed Mary” a potent piece of hickory-cooked rock in its own right.  The chorus is succinct, angry and plenty heavy, offsetting the dreamy verses and psychedelic instrumental bridge (heard during the second half) with swipes of mental violence. 

“Pray for Me” distills the band’s knife-edged choruses into a track completely absorbed in the ways of classic, road-burning riff n’ roll.  If Slint’s swirling space rock took a tumble into a vat of moonshine, it would probably end up sounding something like this.  Stop/start blues meets acidic noise-rock tinges on the groovy roll of “Sweet Kisses.”  There’s a math-y, unpredictable shove going in the twitchy rock riffs, swinging bass curves and raucous shuffle beats that makes its melodic shamble eerier than it has a right to be.  On “Casting Stones” Heavy America plod their way through a hulking epic with lengthy, melodic drones ringing of vintage country n’ western music before a pummeling wall of riffs spirals the music into a bottomless abyss of sludgy curmudgeon. 

Elsewhere, “Goliath” stirs up the primordial ooze for a head-down hard rock rapture with plenty of blues tendencies, “I Can Take It” borrows from the buzzing book of psychedelic rock written by Hawkwind and Monster Magnet, “Heavy Eyes” trots along like Neil Young lost in Seattle and Achilles Fail” riffs with the best of them..  All around, Heavy America never miss a step on …Now, a primal rock album that pulls no punches and takes no prisoners. 

Rejectionist Front - Evolve (2017)

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