Friday, November 10, 2017

Black Note Graffiti - Volume 2: Without Nothing I'm You (2017)




Written by David Shouse, posted by blog admin

The second album from Ann Arbor, Michigan based four (recently expanding to five) piece Black Note Graffiti, Volume 2: Without Nothing I’m You reaffirms the strengths of their 2013 debut while showing the advancement, primarily as songwriter, that’s occurred since the band first emerged. Their sound is best described as a mix of subterranean hard rock/metal riffing coupled with unexpected melodicism and alternative rock theatrics. Volume 2 is guided, in a significant way, but the vocal prowess of guitarist and singer Ricardo Ortiz. He’s equally convincing on the more straight ahead rock numbers and more elaborate, atmospheric tracks and brings dramatic weight to the band’s fine lyrics that further elevate them. They are winning an audience despite the diminished commercial stature currently enjoyed by guitar driven music thanks to the overwhelming, careening passion in their performances and the immense likeability of their vocals and overall sound.

It’s a sound with many faces. On the first song, “No Love Lost”, Black Note Graffiti comes swinging out of their corner and connects with listeners in a number of ways. Their talent for constructing memorable choruses is only equaled by their talents for building a song towards those climatic moments, but the body of this song is muscular and clich├ęd tight as a white-knuckled fist. Ortiz delivers his first show-stopping vocal with the track “Such is Art”. It’s the audience’s first beginning to end evidence, as well, of the quantum leaps the band’s songwriting has taken over the last four years. Much of this, naturally, can be lain at the feet of their growth as individuals, but there’s little question that the band’s live experiences garnered since the 2013 debut have made them a tighter musical unit with more songwriting focus than ever before. “Castles” effectively mixes metal and alternative rock tropes in another textbook example of how to use dynamics in this style and a punchy chorus that stands out on an album full of them. “False Start” lives up to its title in some mildly unfortunate ways – the song never seems to really get going and its slightly disjointed musical attack shifts gears too often to establish itself. It benefits, however, from a quality lyric and vocal courtesy of Ortiz.

“Shadows” begins rather artfully with a different approach to percussion than we’ve heard before on Volume 2 and some appropriately considered, even eloquent guitar melodies being sketched out deeper in the mix. The band soon shifts into a more customary mode of attack and the stomping design of the arrangement manages to remain light-footed and airy despite its aggressive pulse. “Natural” is one of the most convincing hard rock/metal moments on Volume 2 and they even find a hard-hitting swing for this song missing from earlier and later efforts alike. It’s a strictly alternative rock vibe, however, they muster for the urgent and brawling finale “Send Off”. If Black Note Graffiti wanted to end Volume 2 on a rousing, fire-breathing note then they have succeeded in a big way. It puts an exclamation point on this eleven song collection in bold ink and solidifies, along with their recent recruiting of second singer Gabrielle Bryant, this outfit’s intent to be around for many years to come.

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