THE WINACHI TRIBE – Single Review: “Transition”

The Winachi Tribe – is that an awesome band name or what! – is a six-man outfit based in and around Leeds, UK. Drawing from a ton of legendary influences such as Parliament-Funkadelic, Sly & The Family Stone, Primal Scream, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Massive Attack, The Stone Roses, Talking Heads, D’angelo, Prince and Daft Punk, their infectious blend of electropop/funk/soul serves up more grooves than a box of vinyl LPs. With tongues firmly planted in their collective cheeks, they refer to their music as “Soul Food Winachi Chicken” – an apt descriptor, as it’s incredibly tasty!

WinachiTribe pic

Formed in 2015, The Winachi Tribe is comprised of Liam Croker (vocals), Antony Egerton (keyboards, programming), Inder Goldfinger (percussion), Mike Bee (lead guitar),  Richard Ritchie (bass) and Sam Tushingham (drums). They’ve collaborated with musicians and producers in both the UK and Southern California, and released several critically acclaimed singles (one of my favorites is “A Room With a Zoo,” for which they also created an imaginative short film directed by Trevor Miller and featuring actor Tommy Flanagan). In April they dropped a fantastic new dance single “Transition,” which I instantly loved at first listen.

I was a huge fan of disco back in the day (I’m old) and quite the dancing fool (I’m still a fool, but I digress…), so it’s natural that I’d love this song. Not that it should be classified as ‘disco,’ but it certainly has a hypnotic EDM beat that grabs you by the hips and doesn’t let go. I defy anyone to sit still to this song for very long. The band employs an abundance of throbbing synths, keyboards, guitars, bass, and percussion to create a lush soundscape overflowing with intoxicating dance grooves. Liam’s beguiling vocals register in the higher range but far below falsetto, and are delightful. Everything about “Transition” is perfectly marvelous, and I love this band!

The lyrics are about not allowing yourself to get stuck in a rut by fearing the unknown, and instead embracing change as learning and growth experiences: “Change don’t bring danger. Change for you is good. It’s a transitional, transitional period. If we seem like strangers, it’s ’cause we’re going through the changes.”

They’ve also recorded a great remix of “Transition” by Daisy O’Dell and featuring The Singularity.

Catch The Winachi Tribe at one of these shows on their Transition UK Tour 2018

MAY 18  –  Stramash, Edinburgh  9 PM
MAY 19  –  Drummonds, Aberdeen  9 PM
MAY 26  –  Bearded Theory’s Spring Gathering, Walton-On-Trent 9 PM
MAY 29  –  Social Bar Doncaster, Doncaster  9 PM
JUN 2  –  Mosborough Music Festival, Don Valley Bowl, Sheffield  8 PM
JUN 9  –  O.L.O.V.O.F. Festival 2018, Cambridge   9 PM
JUN 10  –  Fiddlers Elbow, London
JUL 21  –  Chalfest, Chalford   7 PM
JUL 22  –  Blackthorn Festival, Marple  9 AM
AUG 4  –  Sessions Beer & Gin Festival, Aberdeen  7 PM

Connect with The Winachi Tribe:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes

DANCING ON PLUTO – EP Review: “Paradise Fahrenheit”

Dancing on Pluto

Dancing on Pluto is a talented and charismatic rock band I learned about at the beginning of this year, when I first heard their fantastic single “Feels Good” (which I reviewed). Formed in early 2017 and based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Dancing on Pluto is made up of four long time friends Chas (lead vocals), Josh (drums), Gilbert (guitar) and Ishmael (bass). Drawing influences from many of their favorite genres, including rock, hip hop, R&B, reggae, synth-pop, shoegaze and grunge, they create music that’s eclectic, interesting and unpredictable. They released their superb debut EP Abandon Ship in 2017, followed by “Feels Good” at the end of the year. In April, they dropped their second EP Paradise Fahrenheit, delivering five great new tunes for our listening pleasure.

Like they did on Abandon Ship, Dancing on Pluto really bends genres and mixes things up on Paradise Fahrenheit – one of the things I love about their music. The first track “Ozone” has a sunny reggae beat, but a hip hop element is added via Chas speed-rapping in the song’s middle. The acoustic and wobbly electric guitars are particularly good, with a tasty little riff in the bridge. The song seems to essentially be about not seeing the forest for the trees, and feeling pessimistic about life: “All I see, nestled in green, tripping over nothin’ by my own damn feet. I can’t see at all, no stars in the sky. No food and I’m starving.” But after spending time in the forest, he finds clarity and peace of mind, and his attitude becomes more optimistic: “Nestled in green. Visibly at ease. The stars are so beautiful.

Where the Wild Things Are” starts off as an uptempo rock song, with buoyant riffs and peppy drums. Halfway through, the track shifts to sort of a ska beat, with jangly guitars and strutting bass. Chas sings of teenage insecurities, self-doubt and the struggle for independence: “I know what people see. I’m scared that you’re too good for me. That’s why I’m always scared. / Is it because I get jealous when I see you in a crowd? Is it because I can’t take you where my thoughts get loud? Am I not beautiful enough for you to want to treat me good?

The joyously uplifting gem “Feels Good” is the song that first made me fall for Dancing on Pluto. Beginning with Chas yelling “It feels good, yeah!“, followed by a few seconds of a simple drumbeat and tapping drumsticks, the track bursts wide open with a barrage of shredded guitars, then settles back down. Chas’ incredible vocal dexterity really shines on this track – sounding as smooth and soulful as John Legend one minute, then raw and loud the next.  The tempo goes from a mellow, bass-driven groove while he croons “When you’re on your own, take time and deep breaths. And when you’re on your own you’ll find out…”, to an explosion of wailing guitars and thunderous drums with the refrain that perfectly describes the song’s affect on me:  “It feels good! It’s so good, right on!”

The guys change things up again with “Snowflakes on Mercury,” which sounds totally different than any of the other tracks on the EP.  The beautiful, languid song has more of a shoegaze vibe, with greater use of synths and keyboards, yet they insert some grungy riffs in the bridge, adding a bit of poignant drama. The lyrics seem to address self-awareness and appraisal: “Snowflakes, I want to see you even when you hurt my eyes. I want to feel you even when you hurt my skin. Falling and floating. You help all of my footprints be seen. So I can see how far I am from where I’ve been. Falling and floating.”

Monet,” is a seven-minute-long rock song with an incredibly pleasing and catchy melody, and marvelous strummed acoustic and electric guitar work. At roughly four minutes in, the tempo slows and riffs of jangly guitar dominate until drums and crashing cymbals return. The instrumentals all quiet down to just a simple acoustic guitar riff to close out the track. The lyrics seem to be about working through problems in a relationship: “I’d paint a picture of love that I can’t put into words for you. / This is your whole life, not just a cause worth fighting for. / I’m standing outside your door, ’cause I thought that I was more than the half-hearted fool you took me for. We’re fine ’cause our creator says so. We’ll be fine.

With Paradise Fahrenheit, Dancing on Pluto have another solid EP under their collective belts as they start to build an impressive discography. I love their music, and look forward to hearing more great and innovative songs from them.

Connect with Dancing on Pluto:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes

MOROSITY – Single Review: “Defend”

Morosity is an unusual band with a unique sound like no other I’m aware of. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Morosity is comprised of front man Jesse Albrecht (Lead Vocals/Guitar), Sean Bachinski (Bass), Jason Wolfe (Violin, Guitar, Mandolin), and Nick Johnson (Drums). They meld progressive rock with folk, psychedelia, Middle Eastern and tribal influences to create their exotic sound that’s captivating, haunting and stunning.

Morosity released their ambitious debut album Misanthrope in 2011 to wide acclaim, and followed in 2017 with the magnificent Low Tide, which I reviewed. They now return with a darkly beautiful new single “Defend,” which dropped on May 11. The track was recorded and mixed by Albrecht in his home studio Evensong Studios, and mastered by Jeremy Ramasir at Intangible Sound. It opens with a rather ominous-sounding guitar riff, then gentle percussion enters, accompanied by Albrecht’s deep, smoldering vocals that exude a sense of bitterness as he calls out someone’s duplicity and lies:

Invading on my faith again
Believe in nothing it’s a sin…a sin
Some things just aren’t meant to bend
The truth is yours not mine amen. Defend

The guitars intensify as hand claps, keyboards, crashing cymbals and heavier drums are added. Albrecht’s vocals become more animated as he decries their unwillingness to change their evil ways:

Offered up in a righteous plan
Extend a loving hand to mend…my friend
But if you can not understand
Leave me no choice but to stand and defend

I tried to be a matador
I can’t believe, you can’t ignore
This is war

All the instruments slow to a disquieting calm in the bridge, giving a sense that, despite the tranquility, all is not well. Albrecht’s gentle vocals are icy as he delivers his final words of condemnation:

Stabbing a snake tongue into your eyes
You’ll never see again, gone blind
Riding a pale horse into the night
You’ll never wake again, no more light

Put your sword back in its place
For all who shake must surely taste
The blood you drink it will be yours
The offered flesh will please the forest
Grow. Grow. Grow.

Connect with Morosity:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase:  BandcampMorosity Store / iTunes

Top 30 Songs for May 13-19, 2018

1. PINK LEMONADE – James Bay (2)
2. THE JOKE – Brandi Carlile (1)
3. BROKEN – lovelytheband (3)
4. HANDYMAN – AWOLNATION (6)
5. &RUN – Sir Sly (5)
6. WHATEVER IT TAKES – Imagine Dragons (4)
7. BAD BAD NEWS – Leon Bridges (8)
8. THIS IS AMERICA – Childish Gambino (N)
9. THE NIGHT HAS AN ALIBI – Wons Phreely + the Horses (7)
10. I FEEL LIKE I’M DROWNING – Two Feet (12)
11. GUIDE YOU IN THE DARK – RECKLESS JACKS (11)
12. THOUGHT CONTAGION – Muse (10)
13. SATURDAY SUN – Vance Joy (14)
14. YOU WORRY ME – Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats (9)
15. IRREVERSIBLE KNOT – DENSE (15)
16. SORRY – Nothing But Thieves (18)
17. SAY AMEN (SATURDAY NIGHT) – Panic! At the Disco (19)
18. CELEBRATE – Dirty Heads, The Unlikely Candidates (21)
19. DEVIL – Shinedown (23)
20. WITHOUT WALLS – Lyia Meta (22)
21. I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY – Blue October (26)
22. DOUBT – Joywave (24)
23. UNWIND – John Defeo (25)
24. ZOMBIE – Bad Wolves (N)
25. ALREADY GONE – Brett Dennen (13)
26. FAVORITE COLOR IS BLUE – Robert DeLong, K.Flay (28)
27. THE GOLD – Manchester Orchestra (16)
28. SEVERED – The Decemberists (17)
29. COLORS – Beck (N)
30. WORLD GONE MAD – Bastille (20)

DENSE – Single Review: “The Smoke”

DENSE The Smoke

Despite seemingly continuous reports announcing its demise, rock music seems to be alive and well, especially in the UK where it’s thriving. One of the more innovative rock bands I’ve been following is DENSE, a young and immensely talented trio from Leeds, England, whose unique sound could best be described as ‘industrial psychedelic surfer garage rock.’ Sounds a bit complex, but when you hear their music you’ll understand what I mean. DENSE consists of Charlie Fossick (Guitar/Vocals), Dylan Metcalf (Bass) and Sam Heffer (Drums). Charlie also produces, mixes and masters their music. Despite their youth, their intense music style exhibits an impressive maturity, complexity and density – implied by their name, perhaps?

I’ve previously featured them twice on this blog, first in 2017 when I reviewed their mind-blowing debut EP Third Eye, then again this past January when I reviewed their monumental single “Irreversible Knot.” Now they’ve dropped another new single “The Smoke,” and it’s a real banger!

An opening spacey synth and little surf guitar riff give way to an explosion of gritty guitars, crushing bass and tumultuous percussion. As the track progresses, the intensity of the music ebbs and flows, allowing each instrument to dominate. One moment there’s a cacophony of raging psychedelic guitar, then an interlude of relative calm with the sounds of Dylan’s heavy throbbing bass and Sam’s simple drumbeat, only to be suddenly broken by a thunderbolt of Charlie’s distorted guitar. It all serves to create a continuous sense of tension that’s a signature component of their dynamic and complex sound. Charlie’s echoed, distorted vocals rise and fall in tandem with the instrumentals, adding to the song’s drama. It’s interesting that his wailing refrain of the title lyric “the smoke” sounds a lot like “bang bang” – at least to my ears.

Give this amazing song a listen and decide for yourself.

Connect with DENSE:  FacebookTwitter / Instagram

V A L E – Single Review: “Better Place”

VALE

UK indie pop band V A L E  set the winter airwaves ablaze this past January with their gorgeous debut single “Fire.” Now the East Midlands duo – consisting of Will Bond (vocals, piano, synths & guitar) and Olly Walton (drums & synths) – return with a breathtaking new single “Better Place.” Employing lush synths and a seductive dance beat in a similar style to that which made “Fire” such a marvelous track, with “Better Place” V A L E has created an emotionally stirring and achingly beautiful dream pop song.

Starting off with dramatic piano keys, the guys add layers of sparkling synths and a gorgeous, mesmerizing guitar riff, all set to a pulsating dance beat that grabs us by the ears, hips and heart. Will’s smooth vocals are captivating as he fervently sings of the betrayal that’s caused him pain and led to the breakup of their relationship:

You were the reason I was riding on the wave
You pulled the plug now I’m sinking
I stood and watched you turn my trust into the grave
I don’t know what I was thinking

I gave you everything so why’d you misbehave?
You knew my love was unblinking
And all the times I turned an eye and still forgave
You let me down now I’m drinking

Ooh, I still think about ya
Ooh, I still see your face
Ooh, life goes on without ya
Ooh, need to find a better place

With just two stellar singles thus far, V A L E is already establishing themselves as an act on the rise and one to watch. I love their songs and look forward to hearing more from them soon.

Connect with VALE: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

“Better Place” will be available for streaming or purchase on all major music platforms on May 25th.

SEPIA – Album Review: “Drop Dead, Gorgeous..”

Sepia Drop Dead Gorgeous

Sepia is a four-piece modern rock band from Baltimore, Maryland that I have the pleasure of reviewing today. Drawing from a myriad of influences ranging from rock, 90’s grunge and punk to folk and pop, they create exceptional songs with arresting melodies, intelligent lyrics and wicked riffs. Making all this great music are Ryan Beckelman (lead vocals, guitar), Derek Falzoi (drums, percussion),  Colleen Becker (bass), and Chris Gray (lead guitar).

Sepia2

Following up on their 2014 debut album …break my heart, in March they released their sophomore effort Drop Dead, Gorgeous.. – one of the better albums I’ve heard this year, with the absolute best title. The band describes their intent behind the album’s creation: “This…album explores the edgy side of everyday life. Carefully telling a story of love, loss, and self deprecation…without taking ourselves too seriously.  The album embraces the cynical world of life, relationships, competition, success and failures. Conflict and duality are often found in shades of gray, or more notably, “sepia tones”, but now can be heard and felt through Sepia tunes!”

The album opens with the hard-hitting “Change For You,” an exhilarating guitar-driven rock song that sets the tone for things to come. The thunderous percussion, grimy riffs and fuzzy bass are fantastic, and really showcase the band’s impressive musicianship.  Ryan’s passionately sings the biting lyrics that speak to someone who’s been all take and no give in the relationship: ” You lie like a rug, but I’m the one who’s trampled. / Why can’t you change for me, when I’ve changed so much for you. I never spoke my mind, cause I thought you’d get the clue. I’m looking right at you girl, but it’s me you’re looking through.”

Cool” has a bit of a Nirvana vibe with grungy guitars and a strong driving beat. The distorted riffs in the bridge are terrific, as are Ryan’s vocals as he castigates someone who’s always putting him down “You’re so critical, when I stumble, when I fall. I hope you know, I hope you know this isn’t cool anymore.” One of the standout tracks that was also released as a single is “Marionette.” The song immediately hooks us with an enthralling little acoustic guitar riff, then heavier electric guitar, bass and percussion ensue. I love the song’s captivating melody, and the recurring guitar riff is marvelous.

Home” is a really nice soft-rock track with gently distorted riffs, tambourine, and lots of crashing cymbals. The optimistic lyrics are from someone essentially telling his better half how much she means to him: “Your laughter, your laughter is all that I’m after. You’re my home and my life.” “Better Out Than In” is an emotionally-charged rock song that speaks to the personal struggle with alcohol abuse. “My insides turn to outsides out on the curb. My sign says occupied and please don’t disturb. Better out than in. Where do we begin. The bottom of this bottle is calling my name. With no regard for health and no one to blame.”

In addition to awesome guitar-driven rock, Sepia also creates some very fine ballads. One is “Delaware,” a lovely, bittersweet folk rock song about the end of a relationship where one of them checked out emotionally long ago. “And if you’re looking for your crazy train. You are on the right track. So spend your last days in Delaware. Out of sight and out of mind. I am doing fine. Your excuses are tired. But there’ll be time to sleep when you are dead.” Ryan’s heartfelt vocals are really nice, and the acoustic and electric guitar work is terrific. Another is “Blindside,” a gorgeous ballad that reminds me of a few songs by The Script.

Born Yesterday” is a grunge-rock song that seems to be about how falling in love can sometimes make you lose all good sense and throw caution out the window: “You make me stupid. Like I was born yesterday. They said we couldn’t so we did it anyway.” “Hard to Tell” is a fast-paced rock song with a galloping drum beat and twangy guitars that impart of bit of a Western vibe. The band closes out the album with the powerful track “The Invincible.” Starting out with mysterious synths, the song erupts into a barrage of distorted guitars, buzzing bass and tumultuous percussion.  The lyrics speak of someone who’s shut themself off from emotional involvement, possibly from past hurts or the fear of being hurt again: “Figured out exactly who you’re supposed to be. Locked your chest and threw away the key. The invincible.”

Drop Dead, Gorgeous.. is a superb album from a band with a strong sense of who they are and what they want to express though their music. Their skill at writing engaging melodies and thoughtful lyrics, then expertly performing them, makes for an incredible listening experience. I hope we won’t have to wait another four years for Sepia to release their next album.

Connect with Sepia:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Reverbnation / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Bandcamp

BLUE HELIX – Single & Video Review: “Anti-Social Butterfly”

Blue Helix is an outstanding alternative hard rock band I’ve been following on Twitter for a while, and I’m pleased to finally feature them on this blog. With roots in both Washington state and São Paulo, Brazil, they’re an international band based in the small city of Puyallup, which lies in the shadow of Mt. Rainier approximately 35 miles south of Seattle. Founded by front man, guitarist and lead vocalist Sami Chohfi in 2008, Blue Helix also includes Arman Birang on guitar, Brandon “Wolf” Gebhardt on bass, and Marco Bicca on drums.

Blue Helix

About their multi-cultural origins, Marco is from Brazil, and Sami – who is half Brazilian and lived there earlier in his life and continues to live there part of the year – drove from his home in Florida to Seattle in 2001 at the age of 18 with the purpose of forming a band. In an interview with the webzine Voodoo Queen Digital Magazine, Sami stated that his inspiration to become a musician came from “seeing a video on MTV from a band called Nirvana. It changed my life entirely. Music was all I had to heal me and shield me from my difficult childhood.” He’s also a big fan of the Foo Fighters, Soundgarden, and the late Chris Cornell, so relocating to Seattle made perfect sense. After moving to Washington, he eventually met Arman and Wolf, who already lived there. Interestingly, Blue Helix recently completed their first-ever tour of Brazil during the second half of March.

They released their debut EP Light the Wick in 2008, followed by a second EP Coda in 2011 and a full album Tale of Two Halves in 2014. In late 2017 they dropped their outstanding EP Anti-Social Butterfly, which addressed topical issues like overcoming self-doubt, feelings of powerlessness and fear resulting from bullying and abuse. Sami was bullied at school and at home, and wanted to write a song and create a video that would help give hope and empowerment to people who’ve suffered from any form of bullying. The powerful title track “Anti-Social Butterfly” is the result.

Anti social butterfly

Musically, the track at once bursts wide open to sounds of Marco’s pounding drums and wildly crashing cymbals. Arman’s razor-sharp riffs swirl and rip through the airwaves, anchored by Wolf’s heavy buzzing bass. Sami’s vocals are raw and impassioned as he snarls the biting lyrics denouncing those who put him down, stripping him of his dignity and self-worth, and rising up to throw off the emotional chains and become the person he was meant to be. His vocals lower to a seductive, almost sinister tone in the bridge, only to explode into visceral screams as guitars rage and Marco nearly beats his drums to the breaking point. It’s a hard-hitting track that leaves you spent by the end.

I carry weight as heavy as scars
I wear my pain like it’s art
If it’s time to let it all go
Maybe I can take a piece to hold

You don’t like the man I am
Like I ruined all your plans
He said “Son, it’s just a tiny phase or maybe time to revelate”

Anti-social Butterfly
Spread your wings and learn to lie
You take me for a broken man
But baby I’m your biggest fan

And I would sell my soul
There’s nothing left to save at all
They’ve taken everything
And If I could I’d wish it all away
I’d disassociate, drive them all insane
This has become my own type of hell

I just wanna feel something
I just wanna be someone else
I just wanna feel something now
You don’t like the man I am
Like I ruined all your plans
I’m an Anti-social Butterfly
And I am here to take what’s mine

The powerful video is a perfect embodiment of the song’s lyrics. Scenes of the band performing the song at a boxing ring – with Sami standing inside of it – are interwoven with an unfolding story of a young man being bullied in high school. He then decides to bulk up and train to be a boxer, ultimately defeating his worst tormentor in the ring at the end. It’s fantastic, and for someone like me who was also bullied as a child both at home and at school, incredibly satisfying.

Connect with Blue Helix:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify /  Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Bandcamp / cdbaby

Top 30 Songs for May 6-12, 2018

1. THE JOKE – Brandi Carlile (2)
2. PINK LEMONADE – James Bay (3)
3. BROKEN – lovelytheband (1)
4. WHATEVER IT TAKES – Imagine Dragons (4)
5. &RUN – Sir Sly (6)
6. HANDYMAN – AWOLNATION (7)
7. THE NIGHT HAS AN ALIBI – Wons Phreely + the Horses (8)
8. BAD BAD NEWS – Leon Bridges (9)
9. YOU WORRY ME – Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats (5)
10. THOUGHT CONTAGION – Muse (11)
11. GUIDE YOU IN THE DARK – RECKLESS JACKS (15)
12. I FEEL LIKE I’M DROWNING – Two Feet (17)
13. ALREADY GONE – Brett Dennen (14)
14. SATURDAY SUN – Vance Joy (16)
15. IRREVERSIBLE KNOT – DENSE (18)
16. THE GOLD – Manchester Orchestra (13)
17. SEVERED – The Decemberists (12)
18. SORRY – Nothing But Thieves (22)
19. SAY AMEN (SATURDAY NIGHT) – Panic! At the Disco (23)
20. WORLD GONE MAD – Bastille (10)
21. CELEBRATE – Dirty Heads, The Unlikely Candidates (27)
22. WITHOUT WALLS – Lyia Meta (24)
23. DEVIL – Shinedown (25)
24. DOUBT – Joywave (26)
25. UNWIND – John Defeo (28)
26. I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY – Blue October (30)
27. MY MY MY! – Troye Sivan (19)
28. FAVORITE COLOR IS BLUE – Robert DeLong, K.Flay (N)
29. TWO HIGH – Moon Taxi (20)
30. ALL THE STARS – Kendrick Lamar, SZA (21)

DAVID OAKES – Album Review: “TheMENACE”

David Oakes is a talented musician and composer of electronic alternative rock music based in Wales, UK. In the early 2000’s, he was a guitarist with the British rock band Kotow, for who he also played drums when they performed live shows. Over the past five years or so, he’s produced a tremendous output of instrumental music as a solo artist, ranging from gentle synth-driven compositions to aggressive guitar-driven hard rock, and everything in between. His latest effort, which officially drops today, is TheMENACE, a brilliant album that’s easily his best work yet.

David Oakes

I’ve gotten to know David over the past couple of years, and featured him on this blog in 2016. He’s a huge fan of Dream Theater, Mastodon, Metallica and Green Day, all of whom have been major influences on his music. He’s also a perfectionist and his own biggest critic, and reworks his tracks until he feels they’re just right. It’s been fun watching his creative process unfold and albums take shape as he shared his demos with me and a small group of friends who follow him on Twitter, asking us for feedback as they were being recorded. We’ve all enjoyed the songs he’s created the past few years, but were collectively blown away by the tracks that are included on TheMENACE. He really poured everything he had into this album, and it shows.

David explained his intention in creating this album: “The Menace is a very loose concept. I kept it intentionally vague and a lot of the guitar parts are very similar on purpose. As you know I like an album to feel like an ALBUM and not ‘Here’s 10 random songs in no particular order.‘” The tracks are darker and more aggressive than many of his previous compositions, which is appropriate given the album’s title, and for the first time he’s added distorted vocals, giving the songs even greater impact and depth. Regarding the lyrics, David stated: “Weirdly – none of the lyrics were planned out. But, as time went on I realised that nearly all of the lyrics could be about #45 (our awful President Trump – my words). Purely by accident. I guess it got in there subconsciously. But the lyrics are so vague that they could be about a lot of things.”

The Slammer (Intro)” kicks off TheMENACE with ominous synths that immediately set the album’s dark tone. A lone guitar riff ensues, then a powerful hypnotic drumbeat takes over as the synths and guitars gradually build to a crescendo before calming back down. Then it’s a quick segue to “The Slammer“, a hard-driving track that lives up to its title. The frenetic drumbeat, raw synths and barrage of fuzzy guitars are fantastic, and I love David’s heavily distorted gravelly vocals as he drones “Hey what do you see? Is this how it’s going to be? Is this what you want?

The awesome title track “The Menace” has everything I love in electronic rock – layers of multi-textured synths, scorching guitar riffs, and a colossal driving beat that aims straight for the hips. I seriously defy anyone to sit still for this track! David’s heavily distorted vocals have a…well…menacing otherworldly vibe as he chants “You’ve got to go. You’re a menace to society. You’re a menace to everyone.” Though five minutes long, it’s so good that it seems over in an instant

The Monster” has a thumping EDM beat, with loads of gritty synths and intricate gnarly riffs. David employs some pretty impressive vocal gymnastics on this track as he sings “You’ve got a monster in your sights. You gotta make it through the night.” “The Distant Horizon” is one of the darker tracks on the album, with ominous drawn-out synths, very gritty guitars and dirty bass. His distorted vocals have an almost treacherous, seductive quality as he urges self-gratification” “If there’s anywhere you wanna go, just go. If there’s anything you wanna do, just do.” The track would be perfect for a sci-fi movie soundtrack.

David dials it up to full speed on “The Event Horizon.” The song is like a shot of adrenaline, with a frantic, head-bobbing EDM beat, The mysterious synths give the track a bit of an 80’s new wave/techno Depeche Mode vibe, and the guitar work is outstanding. Things get a little funky on the aptly named “Funkotron.” The melody and arrangement on this track are phenomenal, as are the synths and intricate guitar work. And it goes without saying that David’s vocals are terrific. It’s an awesome song, and one of my favorites on the album.

The Resistance” is a hard-driving track with a fast-paced EDM beat that had me doing a lap dance in my chair. The guitars and instrumentals are amazing, as always. With echoed vocals, David defiantly sings “We won’t go down without a fight. / We will keep fighting for our lives.” The Revolution” opens with industrial-sounding synths, then expands into a breathtaking soundscape of brooding, soaring synths and gorgeous chiming and wailing guitars. This instrumental track is a little slice of auditory heaven, and gives me chills every time.

As we near the end of the album, each new track is a new revelation. “The Finale Part 1” opens with gorgeous sweeping synths and jangly guitar that remind me of early Coldplay, then explodes into a rousing fusillade of layered guitars, synths and percussion. David proclaims the end of any emotional commitment: “I don’t need, I don’t need you anymore. I don’t want you, want you anymore. Everything you thought you had is gone. Everything you thought you knew is wrong.”  “The Finale Part 2” is a different interpretation of the song, with more of a new wave/punk vibe, sort of how it might sound if played by A Flock of Seagulls or The Cure.

TheMENACE is a genuine masterpiece from start to finish, and as I stated at the beginning of this review, David’s finest work yet in my opinion. He’s an amazing guitarist, and his skill for using synthesizers to create such incredible melodies and arrangements is impressive. This album is a must-have for anyone who’s a fan of guitar-driven electronic rock music.

TheMENACE is actually a double album, with the second being an instrumental-only version, plus two bonus tracks not found on the first. It’s also available on the streaming and purchase sites listed below. The Kotow album Demise of the Monsters is also available on Spotify.

Stream his music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on  iTunes