EMPIRE TO ASHES – Single Review: “My Own Phantom Limb”

Empire to Ashes is a new ambient / post-rock / alternative electronica project of Jamie Denton, a former member and bassist of the now disbanded New Zealand five-piece Poison Skies (who I loved and featured a year ago on this blog, which you can read here). So far, Empire to Ashes has been a solo project, but Jamie states that it may possibly end up as a collaborative project with other New Zealand musicians at some point in the future.

Through his music, Jamie explained that his aim is “to explore how far melodies can be bent or removed before they break.” He added that his “project is designed to produce questions, not answers.” And after listening to his debut single “My Own Phantom Limb,” which dropped today, I would attest that he fulfills his objective. The nearly six-minute long track takes us on a journey into a gorgeous soundscape of moody synths that chime and soar.

The track opens with what sounds like distorted, static-filled voices coming from a radio not fully tuned into a station, then chiming synths wash over us as Jamie’s otherworldly spoken word vocals enter the picture. His expertise as a bassist comes into play as he lays down a heavy throbbing bass line that gives the track weight, sharply contrasting with the airy synth chords. A hypnotic drumbeat settles in as the synths begin to soar, while a simple piano riff weaves in and out. Along the way, we hear sounds of gentle winds blowing. As the music fades, the song comes full circle, ending with a repeat of the static-filled voices.

The equally gorgeous and compelling video includes footage of frenetic urban life interwoven with calm scenes of nature, such as a forest with falling snow, and sunsets. Halfway through, a woman is shown sleeping, curled up in a fetal position on a bed of fresh snow, as the shadow of a person’s hands move over her as if to shield her from the elements. The imagery then returns to scenes of nature and the city which continue through to the end of the video.

I love this song, and look forward to hearing more from this project. Connect with Empire to Ashes on Facebook and stream “My Own Phantom Limb” on Spotify or purchase on iTunes

ANDY K LELAND – Single Review: “Home Grown Muck”

Andy K Leland is an Italian singer/songwriter with a wicked sense of humor. In his bio, Andy – who was born Andrea Marcellini – calls himself Andrea’s “shadow-self,” adding that “the two selves fear each other.” Andy released his debut single “The Kingdom” in February, which I previously reviewed, and has now dropped his follow-up single “Home Grown Muck.” Like “The Kingdom,” “Home Grown Muck” offers up rather negative, biting lyrics that sharply contrast with Andy’s pleasing, upbeat acoustic guitar and quirky vocals. It seems he may be telling us to not take life so seriously after all.

Andy K Leland

About “Home Grown Muck,” Andy explains: “Can’t tell much about the song since it came out itself. And that’s cool. The only thing I remember is how dark was all around me. As for the meaning, guess it’s about me, interaction, disillusionment, sort of…Also, I do think we all need a real, actual “share button.”

Once I was clever
Now I’m the same
But I’m just frying and it’s not a blast anymore

There’s a lack of sharing
However we just pretend we’re gold
But the point is that we’re just home grown muck

Once I was clever
Now I’m more than numb
But I’m just trying to oh…
I’m trying nothing at all

There’s a lack of sharing
However we just pretend we’re gold
But the point is that we’re the scum of the world

Oh, lord please bring me something warm just like opium
But don’t dare to keep the change

Oh oh uh-oh-oh oh

Show Andy some love by following him on: Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream his music on  Soundcloud or purchase on Bandcamp

WILDCOHEN – Single Review: “Jacksons Son”

Indie duo WildCohen make music that’s hard to categorize. The Sheffield, UK duo, comprised of producer and multi instrumentalist Jody Wildgoose and songwriter and multi instrumentalist Rob Cohen, play songs that run the gamut from new wave psychedelic to folk and pop to alternative rock, and everything in between.  Jody plays bass and sings, and Rob plays guitars and also sings. According to an interview with Local Sound Focus, both guys were in previous bands (Jody in Various Vegetables, and Rob in Marmalade Sun), and decided to record together starting about two years ago out of mutual admiration for each others’ work.

WildCohen-Photo-by-Carl-Rose-696x462

Their debut album BloochyKoo, released through indie label Spoonjuice Records, features twelve eclectic tracks, and “Jacksons Son” is the first single. The song is a bouncy psychedelic romp that immediately forces the head to bob and hips to sway. Razor sharp synths, accompanied by crisp jangly guitars and crashing cymbals, move along a humming bass line. Gritty distorted vocals and a tumultuous mix of airy and chaotic choruses add to the track’s otherworldly vibe.

The fantastic video features an artful phantasmagoria of colorful psychedelic images of planets interwoven with Jody and Rob performing the song. Check it out:

Follow WildCohen:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Website

Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud

Purchase it:  iTunes /  Amazon /  Bandcamp

MEN WITHOUT ARMIES – EP Review: “Strapped & Loaded”

Men Without Armies is a hard rocking, guitar-driven metal band based in Nashville, Tennessee. The band was formed in 2013 by Canadian guitarist/composer/producer Brennan Dylan, and now includes lyricist Dude Diablo and drummer Derek Bachtold. The band is set to release their new EP Strapped & Loaded on July 20, 2017.

Before I get into my review of their EP, I want to provide a little background on the band and its founding member Brennan Dylan. Born in Vancouver, B.C., raised in Ottawa and then Toronto, he’s had a love and aptitude for music since early childhood. He began playing sax and composing music at the age of 10, and performed classical, jazz & swing in school stage bands. In his bio, Dylan states “When I was 14 I picked up a guitar for the first time; it was like I’d inherited freedom. My high school music teacher told me that guitar wasn’t an instrument. I ignored him and studied rock/metal guitar for the first year.

Brennan D as boy

He wrote rock and metal songs and, while still in high school, performed jazz, rock & blues improv guitar at a local club. He branched out and studied everything from Motorhead to Dick Dale to Bach. He was in a surf band one summer, then moved into electronic music, which he incorporated into hard rock/metal compositions. He eventually moved to Boston to study Performance Guitar at Berklee College of Music, then headed west to LA where he played the Sunset Strip as a solo artist, performing with some major acts, including Michael Angelo Batio, DeathRiders and Gorillaz at the Whisky a GoGo.

In 2010, Dylan released his first self-produced CD Bullet Ride, followed two years later by Broken Glass, which received positive reviews and radio play, including a CBS Radio interview and press in Performer Magazine, NME & Guitar World. In 2013, he dropped his third CD Raining in Berlin. Still restless, he relocated to New York City that same year, where he formed Men Without Armies, about which he explained:

That simple 3 man band was the formula I’d been searching for in the trees rather than the forest. Pure rippin’ metal has been coursing through my veins since I first picked up a guitar. My adventures to incorporate every genre that has a beat into my metal compositions was very necessary and still is. I want to study it all but most of all I want to become a better guitar player and composer. By straying from the herd I think that I can accomplish that…no one has a monopoly on anything, even a flat tire kicks off a beat. I may not like all music genres but I’ve always been able to find great guitar players and/or composers in all I’ve studied.

brennan dylan

Men Without Armies released their debut self-titled EP in 2014, and followed up in 2016 with Walking Through Fire. The band won the prestigious IMEA (International Music and Entertainment Association) award for Best Metal Group in October 2016. They’re now based in Nashville, and ready to drop their third EP Strapped & Loaded next month.

Dylan states that the songs on Strapped & Loaded took more than a year to create and, in the process, he literally became a ‘man without an army’ after the band’s original drummer and bass player/vocalist abruptly quit to follow other pursuits. He had written 53 new songs, which he whittled down to 20 and finally 12 that he fully developed into complete works. With his drummer and bassist now departed, Dylan played all instruments but drums (guitar, bass, keyboards and synths) and hired a session drummer for recording of the songs, as their time at Vibe Studio had already been booked. The vocals were sung by Vibe Studio owner Johnny Burke.

Dylan and Diablo eventually landed Derek Bachtold as their new drummer, and they’re currently recruiting for a new bassist/vocalist. They decided that Strapped & Loaded will now be a six-song EP instead of a 12 song album. But they also recorded the remaining six songs without vocals. Those six instrumentals have been amped with searing guitar solos which have become their trademark and something their fans have come to expect, so they will also be released as a follow up EP to be called Strapped & ReLoaded once they have a new vocalist on board to sing the lyrics.

About the new EP, Dylan explains: “Strapped & Loaded speaks about our times, and three of the songs have a military theme. The song “Strapped & Loaded” is the single and has a double meaning. Dude also wrote it to help give my mom strength and courage to battle her cancer. “Crash ‘n Burn” is all about Vegas. The title for “Fast Life in Hollywood” says it all. “The Gun Show” was written to help bring more awareness of living life inside of our inner cities, to those living the great life in places like Man Hat Tan – grab a coat, got a plane to catch, see ya man.”

Track listing:
1. The Desert Haunts Me
2. The Gun Show
3. Strapped & Loaded
4. Crash ‘n Burn
5. Fast Life in Hollywood
6. A Day in The Life

The Desert Haunts Me” kicks things off with a rousing, hard-driving beat and killer riffs. “It’s the trigger that sets me free. The trigger that sets me free. Bang bang bang bang. Brings the bullets right out of me. The bullets right out of me. Bang bang bang bang. Forced to kill. Enough to thrill. The desert haunts me.” “The Gun Show” ramps up the energy with a frantic beat and awesome rapid-fire riffs that really show off Dylan’s amazing guitar playing skills. The in-your-face lyrics speak to the endless bloodshed of gang violence: “Welcome to the gun show baby, with bullets flying. We’re all locked and loaded, spilling blood with people dying. Welcome to the gun show, and no one’s keeping count. It keeps rising, and rising and rising and rising.

Dylan unleashes his sonic weaponry on the title track “Strapped & Loaded,” with scorching hot riffs that do justice to the intense lyrics that describe the band’s mission and also Dylan’s mother’s battle with cancer. In his gritty vocals, Burke snarls: “Crashing through the gates, a burning hell. Never quit, always with horns up, never ring the bell. Punching stars, we’re rippin’ metal. This is our story for us to tell. Strapped & loaded we will go. There is silence in screaming. There is violence in dreaming. Bullets riddle my mind.

Crash ‘n Burn” offers up more hot, bass-heavy riffs and thunderous percussion, before all hell breaks loose on “Fast Life in Hollywood.” Frenetic guitar riffs, crushing bass and hammering drums make this track a real head-banger that gets the blood pumping, and Dylan’s guitar solo at the finale is jaw-droppingly fantastic!

My favorite track is “A Day in the Life,” a complex song with two distinct melodies. The track opens with a mysterious atmospheric synth chord, then explodes with snarling guitars, crashing drums and Burke’s gruff vocals singing the defiant lyrics: “Fearless we live, yeah, fearless we fight. Fearless we live, yeah, fearless we die.” The tempo abruptly changes to a beautiful melody, with gentler guitars, snare drums, and softer vocals, before the gruff, hard-driving melody returns for two more cycles, making this a musically exciting and compelling song. Dylan lays down one of his signature blistering guitar solos in the bridge.

If you’re a fan of heavy, guitar-driven metal rock, Strapped & Loaded needs to be part of your collection. Show Men Without Armies some love and support by following them on:

Facebook /  Twitter /  YouTube

Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Reverbnation

Purchase it:  Reverbnation

Rusty Shipp “Mortal Ghost”

I discovered the band Rusty Shipp through fellow blogger Zezrie of Jealous Sounds and I love their music! Check out her review and Rusty Shipp’s awesome, hard-driving music.

Jealous Sounds

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On Oct. 24, I wrote up a piece about them crowd funding their latest album “Mortal Ghost”. Rusty Shipp did it! They succeeded, and now, “Mortal Ghost” is here for us to enjoy. It was worth the wait.

The first time Rusty Shipp graced Jealous Sounds was July of last year, when I reviewed their last EP “Hold Fast To Hope” . For the sake of brevity, I’m quoting myself here:
“First the facts: The guys came from all parts of the country to Nashville, found each other (Russ found Andrew on Craig’s list), and formed Rusty Shipp in 2014. The band consists of Russ T. Shipp (honestly his real name!) on lead guitar/ vocals, Andrew Royer on drums, and Dustin Herres on bass. The band has an eclectic range of influences, from 60’s-90’s rock, Hardcore Metal to surf rock. Their first EP, Hold Fast To Hope, was released in 2014…

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YOU’RE AMONG FRIENDS – Album Review: “As We Watch the Years Go…”

Cleveland, Ohio band You’re Among Friends wants their fans – and everyone else for that matter – to feel welcome and comfortable when hearing their music or watching them perform. Comprised of Anthony Doran (lead vocals and guitars), Kevin Trask (bass, keyboards and backing vocals) and Chris Szuch (drums), You’re Among Friends play a laid-back style of funky, blues-infused folk rock that just makes you feel good while being entertained.

You're Among Friends

You’re Among Friends was born in 2007 when Anthony and Kevin, who’d both played in another band, rechristened it with the new name and began reworking songs from the previous band’s repertoire, all of which had been written by Anthony. When I asked him about how they came up with their band name, he explained:

Kevin was the one who first suggested ‘You’re Among Friends’ while we were kicking around some ideas for a band name.  Around the time we started playing together, Kevin had a roommate who played guitar in a band called ‘Wisconsin.’  At one point, [the state of] Wisconsin was using ‘You’re Among Friends’ as a tourism slogan on their bumper stickers and stuff.  So I guess Kevin’s initial idea for our band name was meant to be a subtle nod to his roommate’s band, but I think it was us wanting to be welcoming to listeners and fans that ultimately won me over.

The band’s had five drummers over the past ten years, and Anthony and Kevin have been through many life changes during that time period as well.  Anthony described the bonds that have kept them together as a band:

“Kevin and I have been through a lot together over the years.  We’ve watched each other get married, start careers, buy houses, have children, etc.  Sadly, we also both had younger brothers who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.  Over the decade that this band has been around, Kevin and I have gone from being carefree kids in our early twenties to being in our thirties with all sorts of adult concerns, regrets and responsibilities.  Oddly enough, we seem more committed than ever to our friendship and making this band work.

Our outlook on playing in this band has changed drastically over the years.  We used to take a lot of things very seriously and get all bent out of shape when things didn’t work out exactly the way we planned it.  We’ve learned to take it easy and go with the flow, especially when the situation at hand is out of our control.  We appreciate all of the opportunities that come our way to be able to share our music with people.  We also just thoroughly enjoy playing together.  Some groups of guys go bowling or go to ball games together. We go out, drink a few beers and play our songs for people.  This isn’t a bad way to hang out with your friends if you can pull it off.  Sometimes we even get paid for it!”

Based on the kindness and gratitude Anthony has shown me in our conversations by email, I would definitely like to hang out with him and the band over a few beers.

You’re Among Friends released their debut self-titled album in 2007, a solid effort featuring 11 songs. They followed a year later with a six-track EP In Due Time, then dropped a double-sided single Enjoy Life & Half a Thought in 2010.  You can check out these earlier releases on Spotify or Bandcamp.  The band took a hiatus in the early 2010s and didn’t play for four years. As Doran explained to Scene Magazine: “There wasn’t a falling out; it just happened. We started to have kids and had a lot going on at that time.”

Kevin & Anthony

Once they reconnected in 2015, they began working on a new album As We Watch the Years Go…  Seven of the ten songs on the album had previously been written by Anthony and three – “A Way to Get Away,” “Calling Anyone” and “Dreaming of the Past” – were co-written by Anthony and Kevin. As evidenced by its title, the album explores life and the passage of time, and how it’s affected friendships, relationships, and the band itself. Anthony stated that “being able to record those songs for this album in 2016 seemed like we were finally wrapping up unfinished business.” The album’s cover – a photo of a baseball field – is a tribute to their brothers, who both liked the sport, and the album is dedicated to them.

As We Watch the Years Go… was released at the end of July 2016. The band’s previous drummer Adrian Higgins played drums on all the album tracks. Chris Szuch joined the band as the new drummer in July 2016, just in time to play his first show at the band’s CD release party.  The band’s music features nimble guitar riffs, anchored by sturdy bass lines and just the right amount of percussion to keep everything moving along smoothly. I hear touches of Steely Dan, Elvis Costello and The Grateful Dead in their sound, and Anthony’s vocals really channel Randy Newman at times.

The album kicks off with “Years Go,” which serves as the title track and really sets the tone for the album. Lively guitar riffs, accompanied by a bluesy bass line and gentle percussion, make for a mellow rock and roll song. The lyrics are upbeat yet nostalgic, addressing the inevitable passage of time that seems to move ever faster as we age:  “Remember when we were younger, and the summer seemed to last for years. Now the years are passing, summer moves so fast now. All those days disappear. June turns into July, July turns into August. Soon there is the fall, as pumpkins go to harvest. Then comes the snow, where did the year go? Now I’m an age I never thought I would be. It’s not so bad growing older, because you’re here with me.

Kevin’s funky bass has a starring role on “Any Day Now,” a song about staying optimistic in the face of life’s adversities, both big and small. Anthony lays down some tasty riffs on this track. Being an irresponsible, immature screw-up is the theme of “Building Bridges to Burn,” while “Dumb Complaints” is an honest admission of a chronic whiner (a song I can identify with, being a whiny-ass complainer myself). Anthony plaintively sings: “I can hear you loud and clear babe, you’re sick of all my complaints./ I complain no matter what’s going on. Reach for the moment, and it’s gone. ‘Cause I wasted it on dumb complaints.

One of my favorite tracks is the funky “A Way to Get Away,” an ode to the preference for personal freedom rather than romantic entanglements. “Sneak attack, you’re trying to back me against the wall. You got me under siege, but you’ll never get to watch me fall./ I need a way to get away. I’m looking for a way to get away.’ The terrific distorted guitar solo at the end of the song is pure ear candy.

The guys play the blues on “Sour Grapes,” with some nifty Southern blues-rock guitar riffs over Kevin’s buzzing bass line. And the intricate, layered guitar work on “Calling Anyone” is awesome.

Another of my favorite tracks is “Dreaming of the Past,” a melodic ballad that’s a bit of a departure in sound for the guys. The song begins with lovely synth chords that continue throughout the song, overlain by Anthony’s skillful handling of his guitar, proving without a doubt that he’s quite the axeman.

The album closer “Rope” speaks to ridding your life of toxic people who’ve used you and brought you down.  “Give them enough rope, maybe they’ll hang themselves. You won’t have to blame yourself anymore. Don’t make another excuse for the way you’ve been used, by all of your so-called friends.” I really like the jangly strummed guitars on this track. But then, I love the guitar and bass on all their songs!

As We Watch the Years Go… is a fun and mellow album that makes you think a little bit about life in all its craziness as you’re enjoying the music.

Follow You’re Among Friends: Website/Blog /  Facebook /  Twitter

Stream their music:  Spotify /  Napster /  Google Play /  YouTube

Purhase it:   Bandcamp /  iTunes /  Amazon

SAM CLARK – Song Review: “Out of Reach”

Sam Clark is a talented and charismatic singer/songwriter/actor with a long list of professional accomplishments in TV, film and music. Born and raised in Australia, Sam is now based in Los Angeles, and has just released a terrific new single “Out of Reach,” along with a beautifully-filmed, heartwarming video.

According to his website bio, Sam rose to fame in Australia with his starring role in the long-running TV show Neighbours, for which he was nominated for several awards during the program’s 850+ episode run. He released a debut album Take Me Home in 2010, which generated two singles, “Broken” and “Devastated,” that garnered #1 spots on the ARIA Physical Singles Sales chart. A year later, he dropped the excellent five-track EP my own way…  Sam went on to star in his first feature film Mental, for which he also wrote and performed several original songs. After moving to Los Angeles he starred in the Emmy-winning FOX/Paramount production Grease: Live. He’s now in production on his next album with his Grammy award-winning songwriting partner Bill Grainer. “Out of Reach” is the first single from that album, which is planned for release later this year.

Sam Clark

“Out of Reach” is a lovely pop song about discovering you’re blessed with love you never thought you’d find. Sam explained his inspiration for the song: “I want my songs to be catchy without compromising their lyrical content. If I had to choose a single theme that runs through all my songs, it would be love.

Musically, the track has a catchy, upbeat melody, with crisp percussion and warm acoustic guitar throughout. Sam’s charming vocals are incredibly pleasing, and perfectly suited for the positive, heartfelt lyrics: “A hopeless dreamer but I’m wide awake. I never thought that it could feel this way. You are beyond my wildest disbelief. I always thought this kinda love was out of reach.

The delightful video was filmed by Carlos PenaVega and Giovanny Lago, and directed by David Del Rio. It shows Sam arriving home on the day of his birthday, only to be disappointed when he learns all of his friends and family are busy or unable to get together to celebrate with him. He then discovers a pair of hiking boots in a gift box, along with a note that starts him on a treasure hunt that ultimately leads him to a spot in the hills where his friends and girlfriend are waiting for him. Then he gets a big surprise when his parents show up, making him realize he has love in all its forms – romantic, friendship and family.

Both song and video left me feeling happy, and that all’s right with the world. And that’s something we can sure use a lot more of right now!

To learn more about Sam, check out his Website

Show him some love by following on:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream his music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud

Purchase:  iTunes

CALAIS – Song Review: “Seeing It All”

Australian indie rock band Calais strike gold with their fantastic new dance-rock single “Seeing It All.” The gorgeous synth-driven track has a melodic hook big enough to catch a whale, yet is so much more than just an EDM song, thanks to the band’s skillful musicianship.

Formed in 2013, the Brisbane five-piece includes Tim Lollback (Vocals, Synths), Joseph Fleming (Lead Guitar), Guy Stacey (Rhythm Guitar, Vocals), Liam Roberts (Bass), and William Mogg (Drums).  They released their debut single “Animalistic” that same year, then followed up in 2015 with an EP Silhouette, which featured the outstanding single “Time & Space.” Calais has been on an upward trajectory ever since, building a loyal fan base in Brisbane and around the world.

Calais

“Seeing It All” starts off with a gentle throbbing synth chord, then erupts into a powerful dance beat, driven forward by pulsating bass and strong percussion. Nimble guitars enter the picture, accompanied by Lollback’s captivating vocals and backed by soaring atmospheric synths, all meshing beautifully to create an exceptional track. The arrangement and instrumentation are superb, and the guitar work is so richly textured and nuanced that I hear new sounds with each listen.

The song’s lyrics speak to a relationship in which each partner has lost their own individual identity in their quest to be the perfect couple: “I’ve been looking for you in my reflection, and time is passing me by. I’m seeing it all. I’ve been looking for you in my direction, and I don’t know why. I’m seeing it all.

The dark but gorgeous video for “Seeing It All” shows the band performing the song, interspersed with scenes that tell the story line using scattered reflections in shards of broken mirror of a couple who can’t see one without the other when standing together, but become confused and disoriented when they’re by themselves.

Follow Calais:  Website /  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  YouTube

Purchase it:  iTunes /  Amazon

THE IVINS – Album Review: “The Code Duello”

Nashville rockers The Ivins have been making music for quite a while – both together and separately – and after years of challenges, roadblocks and frustration, they finally realized their dream of producing an album of songs that they could share with the world. In late April they released their debut album The Code Duello, and it’s quite an undertaking, with 13 tracks. The various tracks were recorded between September 2013 and January 2017 in New York, Virginia and Nashville, with the assistance of a number of important producers in the music industry, including Michael Rosen (AFI, Papa Roach), Mark Needham (Imagine Dragons, The Killers), Bill Leverty (Firehouse), Beau Hill (Alice Cooper, RATT) and Anthony “Rocky” Gallo  (John Legend, Carrie Underwood).

The Ivins 2017 Promo Photo 2

The Ivins are brothers Jim and Jack Ivins. They share songwriting duties, and Jim plays guitar and sings lead vocals (and also bass and keyboards on the album), and Jack plays drums (as well as guitar, mellotron and backing vocals on the album). More recently, they’ve been joined by Hatton Taylor on lead guitar and Regan Akers on bass and backing vocals to complete the band’s stellar line-up.

In describing The Code Duello, Jim stated “stylistically, I call this a ‘3:00 A.M. album,’ [with] the vibe of the music as the sound of walking through the Lower East Side of Manhattan at 3:00 A.M., inebriated and wearing sunglasses.” When I asked him about the meaning and inspiration behind the album title and theme, he explained:

“A Code Duello is a set of rules for a duel. A fight, if you will. The title couldn’t be more appropriate because this album is about a fight. A fight to get the album made. A fight between us and the music industry. A fight to make rock music viable to an audience increasingly disinterested in the medium. A fight with society’s expectations about what we “should” be doing with our lives. A fight to be heard. A fight for a connection. Much of the album’s lyrical content deals with those themes and our struggles with the music industry.”

The Ivins 2017 Promo Photo 1

Hallmarks of The Ivins’ music are complex melodies, brilliant, multi-textured guitar riffs, and aggressive percussion (courtesy of Jack’s athletic agility with his drum kit) that create a rich and dynamic soundscape. Their unflinching, intelligent lyrics about love, relationship and career struggles are delivered by Jim’s skillful vocals that go from tender and heartfelt to raw and impassioned.

The album kicks off with a siren announcing the arrival of “Freefall,” a powerful song about coming to terms with a partner who’s no longer emotionally invested in a relationship that’s failing. Jim bitterly sings “Your sloth a hurdle in my way. Your passion is clearly concealing apathy. My back’s broken from your weight.” The layered shredded and swirling guitars are outstanding, and Jack’s hammering drums (he’s jackhammer!) and crashing cymbals add heft to this blistering track.

Heartbreakers” erupts with explosive percussion and guitars, and Jim’s vocals are fervent one moment, then a screeching crescendo the next. This hard-driving track is about being interested only in casual sex, not wanting to get emotionally involved but feeling empty afterward: “Didn’t realize they were the same. Didn’t know that they were playing the same game. Didn’t realize nobody cared. Was surprised when they didn’t get hurt. Was surprised when it didn’t work. If this is what I wanted it to be? Then why’d I wake up feeling empty?” Along a similar theme, “Lay Me Down” speaks to looking for an emotional connection in casual encounters, but never finding it: “If you lay me down, thought I’d see God. But all I see’s a nameless face staring at me.

The guys’ awesome guitar work really shines on “Stockholm Syndrome,” where they throw down a cascade of razor-sharp riffs that snarl and chime. Jack pounds the hell out of his drum kit, while Jim’s electronically-altered vocals implore: “Building me up to tear me down. You say I’m not what you crave, and yet now here you are, but I’m screaming stop. You may be gone but you’re living a lie ’cause you could never fully give up and let this die. Standing on shoulders just to say that you’ve grown, but I won’t be your Stockholm syndrome.

A catchy, upbeat melody belies the bittersweet lyrics in “Masquerade.” The track features lovely, intricate guitar work and the guys’ wonderful harmonizing vocals that contrast with its story line about realizing your partner doesn’t really love you and has just been going through the motions. The lyric “If love is blind, then I’m wasting my time with eyes” is especially poignant.

A standout track is “Roam the World,” with instrumentals so terrific they honestly send shivers down my spine. Upon hearing the opening jangly, reverb-heavy guitar riff, it’s clear this song is going to be something special. There’s a lot going on musically, with amazing multi-layered guitars, heavy buzzing bass and power drums, along with some well-placed synths. Jim’s captivating vocals match the music’s power note for note as he sings: “And I can’t stop running away. But even if I die I know I’m home with you. If I die I’ll roam the world with you.”

The band just released a fantastic video for “Roam the World.” Directed by Kylie Rebecca and filmed in black and white, the video stars Ivy Rhodes & Jordan Fitzsimmons as a couple with a complicated relationship, juxtaposed with footage of the band performing the song in an airplane hanger.

One of my personal favorites is “The Seeker,” a stunning rock song with one of the most beautiful guitar hooks I’ve heard in a while. The track opens with dreamy synths, followed by haunting chiming and jangly guitars and heavy doses of strong percussion. Jim plaintively sings:  “Come follow me into the dark. Come and be the second heartbeat for this vagrant life, that which I chose.” I love this song.

The guys ramp things up with frantic riffs and rapid-fire drums on “Nothing Left to Say,” then segue into the melodically complex “Mountains.” I continue to be blown away by the Ivins brothers’ musicality, as the guitar work on this powerful track is impressive. The lyrics speak to persevering in the face of obstacles and self-doubt: “We’ve come too far. We fell so hard. We’ve come too far to pay for a loss of who we are.

Another standout track is “Tell Me,” perhaps the heaviest and darkest of them all. The story line has the singer on an airplane that may crash, thinking about his past transgressions and regretting things he never got the chance to do. Wanting to atone, he asks for God’s forgiveness. “And life flashes before our eyes. But all I could see was all I hadn’t done. I couldn’t tell the wife I never had goodbye. Love was always what I wanted most, but kept from me through lies.” The song features the guys’ signature intricate, guitar-driven melodies and strong percussion.

Closing out the album is the heartfelt “Bring Life,” about finding the strength to go on after the death of a loved one by holding onto memories of them. “Even though your grave lies in the shade, I know the grass still grows, and brings life to this place of the dead. You bring life to this place of the dead and ease my mind, ’cause even in death you bring me life.

The Code Duello is outstanding from start to finish, and even with 13 tracks, none seem like filler as is sometimes the case with other albums of this length.  The Ivins have a great album on their hands, and it should also be in yours.

Track list:

  1. Freefall
  2. Heartbreakers
  3. Lay Me Down
  4. Out Of Air
  5. Stockholm Syndrome
  6. Made Up Mind
  7. Masquerade
  8. Roam The World
  9. The Seeker
  10. Nothing Left To Say
  11. Mountains
  12. Tell Me
  13. Bring Life

Show The Ivins some love by following them:  Website /  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream their music:  YouTube /  Spotify /  Apple Music

Purchase it:  iTunes /  Amazon

DENSE – EP Review: “Third Eye”

I continue to be astounded by the sheer number of talented young bands today that are making some really great music. Another recent find is DENSE, a psychedelic garage rock band hailing from Leeds, England. Their music is unlike any other band I’ve heard lately, with a sound that’s at once retro and futuristic. They claim as their inspiration such bands as Wand, King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard and Queens of the Stone Age, and though it may be entirely unintentional, I also detect hints of 60s Yardbirds and early 80s Billy Idol. But whatever their influences, their sound has what I would describe as an ‘industrial surfer metal rock’ vibe, and I love it.

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Making this awesome music are Charlie Fossick (Guitar/Vocals), Dylan Metcalf (Bass) and Sam Heffer (Drums).  Despite their youth, their intense music style exhibits an impressive maturity and complexity that would be expected from a more seasoned band. In March, DENSE released their debut EP Third Eye, which according to their bio “was crafted by Charlie Fossick in his bedroom one summer.” And while it may be lo-fi, it certainly makes up for it with a thunderous wall of sound.

DENSE2

The title track “Third Eye” kicks things off with a barrage of gritty, distorted guitars and throbbing bass steeped in reverb, while Heffer hammers out an aggressive beat on his drum kit. Fossick’s electronically enhanced, otherworldly vocals are mesmerizing, and hold their own with the power and intensity of the music note for note. This is one hell of a song!

The video is awesome, with clever psychedelic visuals that perfectly complement the song and its theme.

Distorted buzz saw guitars are in full force on the scorching psychedelic instrumental track “Glutton Free.”  At times, the guitars wail and scream like a raging elephant. Metcalf’s pulsating bass gives the song incredible strength, with added help from Heffer’s pounding drums and crashing cymbals.

Stone” starts off with what sounds like small explosions or basketballs hitting the court on heavy reverb, then a nifty little bass line ensues, followed by an eruption of frantic shredded guitars. At roughly the two minute mark, we’re treated to a catchy guitar riff before the onslaught of shredded, gnashing guitars return to close out the track, which immediately segues into “Shade.” Almost as if DENSE didn’t want “Stone” to end, “Shade” sounds like a continuation of it, but with a slight change up in the melody, and minimal vocals. It’s OK by me, as I didn’t want “Stone” to end either.

Connect with DENSE:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram /  Website

Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud

Purchase the EP on iTunes or download for free by joining their mailing list.