IAMWARFACE – Album Review: “Year of the Dragon”

I’ve stated it before, and will say it again – British electro-rock band IAMWARFACE can do no wrong when it comes to making music. From the moment I first heard their debut single “Say My Name” in 2016 – which I likened to being hit by an atomic blast – I’ve been a huge fan. Their aggressive name is a fitting metaphor for their bombastic, groove-based sound, and in the three years since their debut, they’ve continued to deliver one incredible song after another. Three of their four singles: “Say My Name”, “Closer” and “Fear the Future” (all of which I’ve reviewed) have reached #1 on my Weekly Top 30 chart, with “Closer” finishing in the top 10 of my Top 100 Songs of 2018. Now, they’re set to finally unleash their first album Year of the Dragon, which drops September 6th. The album contains their first four singles, as well as six new tracks and four remixes.

IAMWARFACE new
Photo by Caitlin Stokes

Based in London and Brighton, England, IAMWARFACE consists of founder and frontman Matt Warneford (songwriting, vocals), Lou Matthews (guitars), Tom Howe (DJ synth), Mike Smith (bass) and Adam Stanley (drums). Influenced by some of their favorite bands and artists such as Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, Kasabian, Muse, Big Black Delta, Nero, Queens of the Stone Age, Tears For Fears, MGMT and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, IAMWARFACE creates music that’s aggressive, melodically complex and always exciting.

The opening track on Year of the DragonSay My Name” certainly embodies those qualities, with an explosive barrage of gnarly guitars, screaming synths and thunderous percussion, driven by a deep, buzzing bassline. Warneford’s fierce, mind-blowing vocals are almost frightening as he wails and shrieks the lyrics. This incredible song still gives me chills three years later!

Next up is the gloriously bombastic kiss-off song “You Don’t Love Me Anymore“, which was their second single. Once again, they live up to their name by delivering a furious onslaught of jangly guitars, heavy bass and smashing drumbeats. It’s loud, in-your-face, and melodically beautiful, and the hard-driving guitar work is fantastic. Warneford’s impassioned vocals are positively chilling as he wails “Whoa oh oh, you were right, you don’t love me anymore!” The cool video shows the band performing the song wearing fluorescent body paint.

To Die For” is one of the new tracks, and I love it! The song immediately hooks us in with an assault of crashing drumbeats and a deep, wobbly bassline, then a mesmerizing spacey synth riff kicks in, creating a mysterious soundscape for Warneford’s marvelous vocals. The music intensifies with tortured guitars and piercing synths in the chorus as he laments “Seems like I’m alive for, something I could die for.

Fear the Future” was their most recent single, released this past February, and one of their best songs. The biting lyrics speak to the banal music and entertainment, bullshit and fear-mongering being fed to the masses in a pernicious attempt to dumb-down and divide us. Musically, the song features the band’s signature aggressive instrumentation and massive, driving rhythms, making for a incredibly powerful and exhilarating song that slams us against the wall. The disturbing video brilliantly brings the dark lyrics to life.

Now we get to what I consider to be their greatest song, the monumental and gorgeous “Closer“. Wow, this song is a masterpiece! It opens with a mysterious throbbing synth chord that slowly builds into a stunning and dramatic soundscape that envelops us as Warneford laments of an obsessive and destructive relationship. The song then erupts into a maelstrom of tortured wailing synths, grimy guitars, buzz-saw bass, and explosive percussion, punctuated by almost violently crashing cymbals that emphasize the feelings of desolation expressed in the bitter lyrics. But then, Warneford fervently sings that their love affair that now lies in tatters might still be salvageable: “Feel I’m walking on shattered glass. This romance just has to end, to reset, erase, begin again. And I’ll move, move closer. Yes I’ll move closer to you.” The spooky, strangely beautiful video shows a woman in a shabby gossamer dress dancing in a filthy abandoned warehouse as Warneford sings the song.

From this point on, all the tracks are new to us, and all of them superb. The rousing “Get So High” seems to channel a bit of MGMT with its trippy and melodic synth-driven grooves and chugging riffs of gnarly guitars. “Atomic White Gold” brings a pulsating mix of chiming and reverb-drenched fuzzy guitars, swirling synths and blasting drumbeats, wrapped in a dark, captivating melody. Smith’s deep, throbbing bass is a highlight here, giving the track incredible depth. Warneford’s vocals soar as he sings “Atomic white gold. Just like the real thing.” The extended wailing guitar run in the outro is awesome, sounding like a cross between an air-raid siren and incoming bombs.

Bleed Out” starts off with heavy, distorted reverb, then a driving punk rock beat kicks in, compelling us to take to the dance floor. Matthew’s furious riffs and Stanley’s pummeling drumbeats are so fucking good! I really love songs with this kind of hard-driving beat. At the three-minute mark, the tempo slows as Howe’s throbbing industrial synths take over, giving the song a dark, intense vibe that sounds like something Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails could have cooked up together. The track ends with the same heavy, distorted reverb it began with.

IAMWARFACE continue delivering the goods with the hard-hitting “Red Queen“. With a nod to Queens of the Stone Age, the chugging riffs of grimy guitars and massive driving rhythms really get our blood pumping. Matthews is an amazing guitarist, and his work here is nothing short of phenomenal. Warneford laments about his low status in the eyes and heart of the woman he desires: “You are the red queen. I am the lone dog. I would do anything to win back your heart. You are something, I am nothing to you.

Trigons” is a long (7:13 minutes) mostly instrumental track that really showcases this band’s impressive musicianship. Each member is allowed to shine, as the guitars, bass, synths and percussion are distinct, yet meld together beautifully to create a mesmerizing psychedelic fantasia. Warneford’s soaring vocals are sparse, entering only in the latter part of the track, but are powerfully compelling as always.

Year of the Dragon is a phenomenal album that feels almost like a greatest hits compilation, as every single track is outstanding. I loved IAMWARFACE before, and love them even more after hearing this album. Year of the Dragon drops September 6th, but you can pre-order it here.

Track Listing:
1. SAY MY NAME
2. YOU DON’T LOVE ME ANYMORE
3. TO DIE FOR
4. FEAR THE FUTURE
5. CLOSER
6. GET SO HIGH
7. ATOMIC WHITE GOLD
8. BLEED OUT
9. RED QUEEN
10. TRIGONS
11. SAY MY NAME (PAUL PARSONS REMIX)
12. CLOSER (PARIS ALEXANDER REMIX)
13. YOU DON’T LOVE ME ANYMORE (CROSSFLOW REMIX)
14. CLOSER (CONTROL FREAK REMIX)

Catch IAMWARFACE at one of these upcoming shows:

30 August 2019 – Bournemouth, UK (with The Kut, HAWXX, Black Tree Vultures)
7 September 2019- Twickenham, UK (with How To Live, Nick Swettenham)
26 September 2019- London, UK (with The Insect, Graves)
17 November 2019 – Brighton, UK (with Legpuppy, Androids In The Mist)

Connect with IAMWARFACE:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

Concert Review – Young the Giant, Fitz and the Tantrums & COIN at the LA Forum

I don’t attend all that many concerts, as I live in a desert – both literally and culturally. Despite the fact I live in the Coachella Valley – home to one of the most important music festivals on the planet – in order to see most musical acts under the age of 60, I must travel to Los Angeles. So, when I do see a concert, it’s a pretty big deal for me. On Saturday, August 10, I made the two and a half hour drive to West Los Angeles to see a fantastic lineup of bands at the historic Forum. (Former home of the L.A. Lakers, the Forum opened in 1967 but is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places, due to its groundbreaking engineering and structural design.)

It was a great double bill consisting of Young the Giant and Fitz and the Tantrums, with COIN opening. I’d long wanted to see Fitz and the Tantrums in concert, but had never gotten around to it, so when I saw they were performing with another of my favorites Young the Giant, I wasted no time getting tickets. The Forum seats approximately 17,500, and this show appeared to be nearly sold out.

LA Forum
The Los Angeles Forum

The concert started promptly at 7:00 pm when COIN took to the stage and immediately got the audience revved up with their high-energy alternative pop/rock. I wasn’t very familiar with their music, but when I saw in advance they were the opening act, I checked out several of their songs and really liked their sound. Based in Nashville, COIN formed in 2012, and currently consists of Chase Lawrence on lead vocals & synthesizers, Ryan Winnen on drums, and Joe Memmel on lead guitar & backing vocals. Since 2018, they’ve been joined on their tours by bassist Matt Martin.

The stage was set up with a series of vertical panels upon which various graphics and light displays were projected for all three acts. COIN’s visuals were simple, consisting only of the word “@coin” that would appear one line at a time on five of the panels, as if repeatedly typed on a keyboard and displayed on a computer screen. Once all five panels were filled with @coin, the words would disappear, then the process was repeated over and over. It was kind of interesting at first, but eventually grew rather tiresome.

COIN-Forum
COIN

COIN’s music and performance, however, were anything but, as their catchy, upbeat music and lively on-stage personas were quite entertaining, especially their animated front man Chase Lawrence, who bounded about the stage as he sang. They started their set with their dance-pop hit “Growing Pains”, then followed with “Simple Romance”, “Boyfriend”, and their latest single “Crash My Car” – all terrific songs. Lawrence engaged the audience a bit between songs and they continued with “Cemetery”, “I Want it All” and their big hit “Talk Too Much”, finally ending with “Fingers Crossed”. Here’s their exuberant performance of “Boyfriend” that I managed to film most of:

After a brief intermission, Fitz and the Tantrums made their entrance onto the stage to thunderous applause, and quickly got the crowd’s blood pumping with the foot-stomping “Get Right Back”, one of the tracks from their third self-titled album Fitz and the Tantrums. Before I get into their performance, I’ll provide a bit of background and personal perspective.

Fitz & the Tantrums-Forum
Fitz and the Tantrums

The Los Angeles-based band consists of front man/vocalist Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick, the lovely and talented Noelle Scaggs (vocals & percussion), saxophonist extraordinaire James King, as well as Joseph Karnes (bass), Jeremy Ruzumna (keyboards), and John Wicks (drums). They formed in 2008, but the first time I learned about them was in late summer 2013, when I heard their fantastic synth-pop ear worm “Out of My League”. I quickly fell head over heels in love with it, becoming an instant fan of theirs, and caught myself up on their back catalog of songs that were included on their debut album Pickin’ Up the Pieces, as well as purchasing their second album More Than Just a Dream, which I played nearly to death for the next several months.

Their early songs were described as neo soul, somewhat of a modern twist on the classic Motown sound, but with indie and jazz overtones that gave their music a distinctive sound. A particularly noteworthy aspect of their music is that they have no guitarist! Their sound took on more of a pop sensibility on More Than Just a Dream, generating a little backlash from some of their earliest die-hard fans. But overall, it’s an outstanding album containing some great songs like “Out of My League” and “The Walker”, both of which reached #1 on the Billboard Alternative Chart, as well as some other standouts like the soulful “6am” and “Break the Walls”, both of which prominently feature Noelle’s wonderful vocals.

In early 2016, they released “Hand Clap”, the lead single from their self-titled third album, and I was immediately underwhelmed. The song was too poppy and formula for my taste, and I was somewhat disappointed in the new direction their sound was taking. Also, Noelle’s vocals were not being utilized nearly enough. My feelings about the third album are mixed, but there are a few gems like the aforementioned “Get Right Back” and “Burn It Down”. I’ve softened a bit on “Hand Clap”, as it’s so damned catchy, but I still think it’s a mediocre song. OK, now back to the show!

Fitz and the Tantrums kept the energy flowing as they launched into the hard-rocking “Spark” from More Than Just a Dream, then sang one of their earliest songs “Don’t Gotta Work it Out”, which they followed with “Out of My League”, still one of my personal favorites. In between songs, Fitz was very engaging, sharing his thoughts and providing tidbits of background about the band and the songs they performed. He’s now 49 years old, but exudes a more youthful demeanor on stage.

Fitz & the Tantrums
Fitz and the Tantrums

The vertical panels that previously displayed @coin during their set now displayed colorful, rapidly-changing imagery and graphics. Fitz and the Tantrums played for more than an hour, performing 18 songs, including crowd favorite “Moneygrabber”, five from More Than Just a Dream, five from Fitz and the Tantrums, and six from their upcoming fourth album All the Feels, due out in September. One of the tracks they performed from that album was the lead single “123456”, which I didn’t much care for when I first heard it, but it sounded better live. In fact, I found that many of their more recent songs sounded much better live, which is perhaps a testament to their engaging on-stage personalities and musicality. At the very least, those attributes certainly make for a highly entertaining and enjoyable live performance, and I loved every second of theirs!

They closed with a rousing performance of the deliriously catchy “The Walker”. I loved how the home town crowd cheered when Fitz sang the line “I wake up to the City of Angels“.

The intermission following Fitz and the Tantrums’ performance was longer, giving us ample time to use the restroom, get some obscenely overpriced adult beverages, and for our excitement to build in anticipation of seeing the headliners Young the Giant. When they finally appeared on stage, the crowd roared and cheered with delight. They opened their set with “Oblivion” from their fourth and most recent album Mirror Master, then performed one of my favorites “Something to Believe In”, from their critically acclaimed 2016 third album Home of the Strange. Next up was their current single “Heat of the Summer”, another terrific song from Mirror Master.

Young the Giant
Young the Giant

Young the Giant started out in 2004 as a band called The Jakes, with two of the current founding members guitarist Jacob Tilley and vocalist Sameer Gadhia, when they were high school students in Irvine, California. They changed their name in 2010 to Young the Giant while recording their debut album of the same name, and have never looked back. In addition to Tilley and Gadhia, the current lineup includes Eric Cannata (guitar), Payam Doostzadeh (bass), and Francois Comtois (drums). They’re an amazing and talented collective of musicians with a totally unique sound unlike no other, thanks to their exquisite instrumentation and also Gadhia’s gorgeous and distinctive vocal style.

He’s also a strikingly handsome man, with a charismatic on-stage persona. His athletic and sometimes even flamboyant body movements were at times quirky, but always riveting. He appeared on stage wearing a long saffron-colored jacket over dark trousers, and danced about the stage, his jacket flowing about him as he sang. They continued with the beautiful track “Apartment” from their first album Young the Giant, then followed with four tracks from Home of the Strange – “Amerika”, “Nothing’s Over”, “Home of the Strange” and “Titus Was Born”. Next up was the lovely “Firelight” from Mind Over Matter, followed by one of their signature songs and crowd favorite “Cough Syrup”.

They performed three more songs, then said ‘Goodnight’ and walked off stage. They still had not performed some of their biggest hits, so I knew (hoped) they’d return for an encore. They soon reappeared, Gadhia now wearing a sparkly dark blue cape as they sang the song I’d been dying to hear them perform, the beautiful “Superposition.” They followed with the bouncy dance number “Tightrope”, then the sexy “Silvertongue” before closing their set with an electrifying performance of their hard-hitting first single “My Body”, at which point the crowd went wild.

I found it interesting that they performed six songs from each of their two most recent albums, but only three from Young the Giant and two from Mind Over Matter. I was a little disappointed they didn’t perform one of my favorite songs of theirs, the hard-rocking “It’s About Time”. That said, I loved hearing all the songs they did perform, and enjoyed their set immensely. In fact, I love them and their music even more after seeing them live, which is something I think most, if not all, of us feel when seeing artists and bands we like in concert. It’s a special thing to see our favorite artists and bands play their music live, giving us a greater connection to them and their music.

JADED JANE – Single Review: “Trapped”

Jaded Jane3

This past April, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing and writing about the remarkably talented and undeniably charismatic Olsson brothers Axel and Adam who call themselves Jaded Jane. (You can read my article and interview with Axel Jane here.) Originally from Gothenburg, Sweden, but now split between Gothenburg and Glasgow, Jaded Jane seeks to celebrate humanity and diversity through their music, writing compelling songs with positive, life-affirming lyrics. Drawing upon a wide range of influences such as pop, rock, soul, R&B and hip-hop, they create beautiful, piano-driven melodies and lush soundscapes. Since 2015 they’ve produced four outstanding albums, and are now recording their fifth, to be titled “117″ and due out in October.

They’ve just released the first single from the album, a gorgeous, contemplative song called “Trapped“. The deeply moving song was written by Axel Jane Olsson and recorded by Åke Linton. Axel played the beautiful piano melody, and the haunting cello was played by David Bukovinszky, with lovely string arrangements by Mattias Bylund and Nils Petter Ankarlund.

Axel explains that the song “is about feeling trapped in life, trapped in your circumstances, trapped in a loop of monotony.” Though he laments about feeling lost to the point of no longer recognizing who he really is, he retains a glimmer of hope that his life will get better through faith and love. His smooth, beautiful vocals are heartfelt as he sings:

Trapped in a loop I can’t get out
Stuck in a dream I had a long time ago
What do I really want to do
Now is the only time worth living for

Ah, I am trapped in a loop.
Ah. Am I stuck in a dream, that I had a long time ago

Wrapped up in my identity
Who am I, I no longer know, who I am
Lost my sense of reality
Talking to the man in the mirror now
Cause I don’t know, who I am anymore
Lift me up high where I belong
Fill me up with faith, hope & love again.

The stunning video for “Trapped” was filmed on the streets of Glasgow, and shows the strikingly handsome Axel, who has a dancer’s physique, gracefully moving to the music in different settings.

Connect with Jaded Jane:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase on iTunes / Google Play

New Song of the Week: DRAWING ON SCARS – “Rewrite”

Drawing on Scars Rewrite

I just reviewed a song titled “Under These Scars”, and now turn my attention to Drawing on Scars, an online alternative rock music project based in Atlanta, Georgia. The creative brainchild of songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Will Thacker, Drawing on Scars seeks to collaborate with guest vocalists from across the U.S. in the creation of unique, ever-changing music. Generally, Thacker writes the music and lyrics, which the different vocalists then interpret in their own distinct ways, keeping Drawing on Scars’ repertoire sounding fresh and delivering the unexpected.

Formed in 2012, the project produced an EP featuring seven artists, then went on hiatus in 2017, during which time Thacker formed the band Fieldcrest. He resurrected Drawing on Scars in early 2019, and since March has released four singles, the latest of which is “Rewrite“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.

The song features vocals by Jena Jones, who is also vocalist for Fieldcrest (I reviewed their EP Canvas last October.) The song has an Evanescence feel, not only because of the dark, complex melody and powerful instrumentation, but also because Jones’ strong, resonant vocals remind me of Amy Lee’s. Thacker’s a skilled guitarist, and his work really shines here as he dazzles our ears with crushing riffs of grimy guitars and heavy bass. The spooky synths and thunderous percussion are pretty fantastic too, and combined with the intense guitars, create a massive backdrop for Jones’ mesmerizing vocals. 

The lyrics seem to speak about someone suffering from mental illness or an emotional breakdown, and their desperate plea for help and support in getting their life together. Jones’ emotion-filled vocals beautifully convey the anguish expressed in the powerful lyrics:

I need you here babysitting my thoughts
I can’t control them, they’ll tear me apart
There’s just little things that go straight for my heart
It makes me sick

I hope I can keep control and not let myself down
But I’m a fake, how much can you take
Can’t you see that I’m afraid

Distorted perception of who I am
Help me rewrite it, begin again
This war going on inside of my head

I don’t know how to fix myself
The words that kill me are my own
Oh, I’m the harshest critic I know

Connect with Drawing on Scars: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / YouTube
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play / cdbaby

FALLING INTO RED – Single Review: “Under These Scars”

I’ve been following hard rock band Falling into Red for a while now, and have always enjoyed their aggressive, badass music. Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the band was formed in 2016 by the husband and wife team of Scott (vocals, guitar) and Amy Gainar (vocals, piano/synth). Though they had previously worked with other musicians and in other projects, they wanted to combine their love of heavy guitar-based rock/metal, the hi-tech sound of electronica, the cinematic quality of modern film scores, and powerful melodies to create their own brand of hard-hitting rock music. Soon they were joined by Scott’s brother Ray Gainar on bass, and Dave Miklos on drums. They released their first single “Haunt Me” in late 2016, then followed with several more singles over the next two years, finally releasing their debut self-titled album Falling Into Red in early 2019.

Now they’re back with an exciting new single “Under These Scars“, and I think it’s their best song yet. I loved it the moment I first heard it. The song features Falling Into Red’s signature blistering riffs, hard-driving basslines, thunderous percussion and soaring vocal harmonies. But this time, they’re joined by guest vocalist Dev, who adds some fantastic rap verses to the mix, making for an incredibly powerful and exhilarating track. I love when rock and hip hop collide, which is what made the music of Nu-metal bands like Linkin Park, Rage Against the Machine and Limp Bizkit so damn good.

First off, Scott’s raging guitars are mind-blowing, and together with Ray’s relentless driving bass and Dave’s speaker-blowing drums, create a bombastic wall of sound that’s freaking awesome. Second, Scott’s also a great vocalist, and the interplay between his impassioned vocals, Amy’s softer harmonies, and Dev’s rapping is nothing short of spectacular. As Dev sings in one of his verses “When the true colors show, it sends chills to the bone”, and man, I am covered with them!

Lyrically, the song speaks to how we need to learn from our mistakes and work through them to try and become a stronger person. The band stated in on Twitter:  “You make mistakes and they run deep. You need to ask for help…but you don’t. If you make it through, you’ll be stronger than ever… IF you make it through. Until then, you hide Under These Scars.”

“Under These Scars” is a magnificent song, and already among my favorites of 2019. It’s the lead single from their forthcoming second album, and I can’t wait to hear more from this talented band.

Connect with Falling Into Red: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Google Play Amazon

BLACK BEAR KISS – Single Review: “I Wanna Know”

I Wanna Know

British alternative garage-rock band Black Bear Kiss have been on a creative tear since the release of their terrific debut single “Hooks” in April 2018. With their exciting, guitar-driven music, strong charisma and rowdy live performances, the talented five-piece have built a loyal following in their home base of the West Midlands/Shropshire region of England and beyond – even out here in the Coachella Valley of Southern California!

Black Bear Kiss4

Comprised of Chris Leech on lead vocals, Colin Haden on lead guitar, Rob Jones on rhythm guitar, Rich Sach on bass, and Chris Bagnall on drums, Black Bear Kiss have been busy playing gigs and putting out a series of great singles, as well as an EP Fighting Our Corner, which they released this past March. A favorite of this blog, I’ve previously reviewed three of their singles (which you can read by clicking on the links under “Related” at the bottom of this post). Now the prolific band makes a fourth appearance with their latest single “I Wanna Know“, which dropped on August 9th.

The song gets our blood pumping right from the get-go as Haden and Jones lay down chugging riffs of gnarly quitars over Sach’s heavy, buzzing bass line. These guys play as a tight unit, propelling the song forward with their hard-driving rock’n’roll rhythms while Bagnall pounds out the beat. The layered guitars are fantastic, with aggressive, swirling riffs that create an exhilarating backdrop for Leech’s warm, earnest vocals which, along with the stellar guitar work, are a major component of Black Bear Kiss’s outstanding sound.

With regard to the meaning of the lyrics, Leech explained that the song is “about playing live and the buzz that comes from it – plus relying on your bandmates”: “Come a little closer, the room is on fire. But I’m alright, you’re gonna be fine. Ah, this is our time. I wanna know, just how much you’re meaning this. Lookin’ around, can I rely on you? Guided by stars. Wanna feel it. Wanna feel it all. Guided by stars. Take the other way, take the other way home.

“I Wanna Know” is a great tune, and yet another in a string of solid singles by Black Bear Kiss. I hope they’ll continue to strike gold with many more!

Connect with Black Bear Kiss:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their songs on  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes cdbaby

VONUM – EP Review: “Dances in the Dark”

VONUM

Vonum are a British alternative blues rock band based in Manchester, England. Formed more than eight years ago while in their early teens, the trio includes Dominic Nicholls (guitar & lead vocals), Ben Stokes (drums) and Jordan North (bass). Lifelong friends who share a passion for music, the guys have known each other since they were four years old.  Since their formation, Vonum has had several fourth members who’ve come and gone and, earlier this year, the guys decided that they have better chemistry as a three-piece, so will remain a trio going forward.

VONUM young photo
A young VONUM playing their first gig in 2011

Drawing influences from some of their favorite bands like Kaleo, Black Stone Cherry, Shinedown, Alter Bridge and Muse, Vonum play some exceptional bluesy, guitar-driven rock. Their progressive, unconventional melodies, smart lyrics, skilled musicianship, and Dominic’s deep, raw vocal style give their music a maturity and depth that’s quite impressive given their relatively young ages. I’d guess it’s partly attributable no doubt to years spent perfecting their craft and growing into seasoned, albeit still young, musicians. In June (2019), they released their debut EP Dances in the Dark, featuring four tracks. The guys wrote and performed the songs, and the EP was produced by Ed Truby.

Reach Out” opens the EP with a moody little riff that immediately grabs my attention, then once the rhythm section kicks in with a deep, bluesy bassline and tumultuous drums, I’m hooked. Dom lays down gnarly riffs while plaintively crooning “She’s a grape to my red wine. She’s my one true life line.” As the song progresses, the guys continue delivering bluesy grooves, punctuated by a blistering guitar solo in the bridge. They keep the bluesy vibes rolling on “Double D-Light“, a lusty, hard-rocking tune about sexual attraction. Dom fervently sings: “It’s getting a little frisky. The air’s so tight. The days are getting stronger. The heat’s a-lasting longer. Now don’t put me on, you’re double d-light.” Once again, he lets loose with a brief but fiery guitar solo in the bridge.

Angel Queen Dancer” is a standout track that really showcases the guys’ great songwriting and musicianship skills. They weave together a compelling story line with a mesmerizing melody, drawing us in and holding our attention for the entire five-minute run time. Dom’s intricate guitar work is nicely complimented by Ben and Jordan’s tight, bluesy rhythms, making for a dynamic and incredibly satisfying track. Dom sounds better than ever as he ardently sings in his raspy, almost sultry voice of feeling besotted by a woman: “It’s her that I adore. She’s a hell of a mover. How do I say ‘scuse me miss, let me get out your way’. She’s an angel queen dancer. She knows just what I mean.” His guitar solo in the bridge is fire, and the piano keys in the final chorus are a nice touch.

Here’s a great Balcony Sessions stripped-down acoustic performance of the song:

The final track “When” is a darker, more intense song. It starts off calmly with Jordan’s deep bass riff, then a delicate synth, guitar and a somber drumbeat enter as Dom laments about the internal demons tormenting him: “When, when, when, when will it stop? The devil inside don’t know when to hide. Oh when, when, when, when will it stop? The thoughts aren’t me, and my mind ain’t free. / Dark cloud knocking at my door. Louder, louder, it’s hard to ignore.” The music eventually ramps up with chugging riffs of gnarly guitars, buzzing bass and pounding drums that continue through to the end for a dramatic finish.

Dances in the Dark is an excellent little EP, and an impressive debut for these three talented lads. All four tracks are superb, and I only wish there were more of them! If you like well-crafted blues rock and great guitar work, you’ll enjoy this EP. I hope we’ll be hearing new music from Vonum very soon.

Connect with Vonum:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase their music on  Google Play / iTunes

FOLLOW NO ONE – Single Review: “Fear No Evil”

Follow No One is the music project of two highly accomplished musicians from different parts of the world and two completely separate musical backgrounds – singer/songwriter and pianist Rich Hall, who’s originally from Nashville, Tennessee, but now based in Denver, Colorado, and guitar virtuoso Pedro Murino Almeida from Lisbon, Portugal, but with roots in Brazil. Rich began performing at a young age in theater, but found his true calling performing and writing music. Pedro was classically trained in music composition, with a successful career involving his own musical acts, and his work has been featured in film and video. Their dynamic style of rock music is influenced by such giants as Dream Theater, Alter Bridge, Foo Fighters, Avenged Sevenfold, Imagine Dragons and Three Days Grace.

The duo released their debut EP, simply titled “5“, in September 2017, which featured five hard-hitting tracks. (My review of the EP has been one of my most successful, earning nearly 300 views.) They followed in 2018 with an excellent cover of the David Bowie song “I’m Afraid of Americans”, then “Your Time of Dying” in March 2019. Now they’re back with a killer new single “Fear No Evil”, which dropped August 9th. The song was inspired by Hall’s study of Demonic Possession, a topic he has researched for many years. The track has had quite a journey during its creation, having been recorded in both Portugal and the U.S., and mixed by Jarrod Headley (Music Supervisor for the History Channel program Counting Cars), before finally being mastered in Dallas.

The track blasts open with an explosion of Almeida’s gritty, chugging guitar, while Hall fervently wails the opening lyrics. Almeida’s guitar soon settles into an intricate back and forth dance of melodic jangly riffs alternating with some serious shredding and mind-blowing distortion. Holy hell, this man can play the guitar! Fortified with a rock-solid rhythm section of crushing bass and thunderous percussion, Almeida lays down a riveting backdrop for Hall’s colorful, impassioned vocals as he plaintively laments:

I tried to believe
And the people let me down
I gave them every chance
Changed every circumstance
People you think you can trust
Are not even people at all
Imagination or indoctrination
Chipping away at the edges of your soul
See no evil
Hear no evil

“Fear No Evil” is a fantastic, powerhouse track that gets better with each listen. Almeida’s guitar work is among the best I’ve heard lately, and both he and Hall make a formidable pair, delivering outstanding and hard-driving rock with every song they release.

Connect with Follow No One:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  SoundcloudSpotify / Tidal / Google PlayYouTube
Purchase:  iTunesAmazon

LYIA META – Single Review: “Deserving of Love”

lyia meta2

One of my favorite female vocalists is Malaysian singer-songwriter Lyia Meta. Based in Kuala Lumpur, Lyia is a lovely woman both inside and out, with a dazzling powerhouse voice. With her deep, resonant vocal style and ability to cover multiple genres ranging from blues and rock to pop and country with ease, she’s become an international star, winning numerous music awards over the past several years. I first featured her in early 2018 when I reviewed her gorgeous single “Without Walls”, then again this past January when I wrote about her pop-rock anthem “All of My Love”. Lyia now returns with a dramatic new single “Deserving of Love“, her first foray into metal rock.

About the song, Lyia told me “This is the first time I am doing/writing metal. As a multi-genre artist, I try not to limit myself, and because my heart/influence is rooted in rock and blues it seemed a natural sort of thing to gravitate toward this. As I started this adventure with [producer] Mike Hall, I must say I was a bundle of nerves throughout the entire process. Almost all my songs are written from a personal place. So this song is no different.”

“Deserving of Love” storms right out of the gate with an explosive mix of Mike Hall’s shredded guitar and Lyia’s raw, impassioned vocals. Soon enough, Mike delivers thunderous staccato riffs as Lyia demands to be heard and understood in her desperate longing to be loved.

Don’t cut me down
Cos’ I speak the words you need to hear
Don’t shut me out
Don’t cut me down

The dramatic soaring chorale vocals in the chorus have a chilling, almost Gothic feel that gives the track incredible power and depth. By this time, Mike’s shredding his guitar nearly to the breaking point as Lyia unleashes all of the raw emotion she can gather as she pleads:

Do you hear me?
Bare my soul I’m in need

Lay it there see me bleed
I’m so weary but I’m so deserving of love
So deserving of love
I’m deserving of love

“Deserving of Love” is a terrific song, and Lyia does quite an admirable job singing heavy metal. So play this one loud! As a side note, Lyia is also an accomplished visual artist, and designed the striking artwork for the single.

Connect with Lyia: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Reverbnation
Purchase on iTunes / Amazon

New Song of the Week: DAVID VIVIAN – “Always”

David Vivian

Two months ago I featured singer-songwriter and guitarist David Vivian upon the release of his third single “Weekend”. Now the Santa Barbara, California-based musician is back with his beautiful new single “Always“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. David states that “Always” is “about the idea of trying to find someone in one’s art when that can only ever be a mediation.”

The song opens with a haunting little guitar riff, then expands with pleasing keyboard, bass and percussive synths to create a dreamy backdrop for David’s silky, ethereal vocals. He lays down some fine, intricate guitar work throughout the track, and his solo in the bridge is really wonderful. “Always” is a fairly simple track, but has a quiet intensity that hits us in the feels. It’s a beautiful song, and another in a string of excellent singles from this promising young artist.

Dear love, sorry I hurt you
Please know I didn’t mean to
And know I’ll always want you
I can’t explain—I’ve just got to
And I just want you to know

That I was wrong
So wrong
Yes I thought I
Could find you in a song
But I was wrong
I took too long

Dear love, I don’t deserve you
Until all this pain has left you
I want you to have it all
Let’s throw a party, let’s have a ball
And know I’ll be here if you fall
Yes I’ll be here if you fall

Yes I was wrong
So wrong
Yes I thought I
Could find you in a song
But I was wrong
I took too long

Connect with David on Facebook / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase on  Bandcamp / Apple Music / Google Play