PAUL IWAN – Double Single Review: “Returning (Red)” & “Returning (Blue)”

Paul Iwan3

I’ve recently been revisiting a lot of artists that I’ve previously featured on this blog, as so many of them are putting out new music. One of my personal favorites is British artist Paul Iwan, a gracious and talented singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Liverpool. Last October, I reviewed his outstanding single “Reward”, which was a cover of the song originally recorded by Liverpool new wave band The Teardrop Explodes. I liked it so much, it spent four months on my Weekly Top 30. Now Paul is back with a new single “Returning”, for which he recorded two different versions – “Returning (Red)” and “Returning (Blue)”.

He wrote the song last year for submission to the Liverpool Acoustic 24 hour Songwriting Challenge at Threshold Festival 2019, and he won! Like many singer-songwriters, Paul’s lyrics often reflect his own life experiences. The theme of the 2019 Challenge was ‘Returning’, which inspired Paul to contemplate his own personal struggles with PTSD and addiction, and explore the concept of returning as it relates to his experiences with relapse and regression. The competition also pushed him to venture outside of his usual comfort zone and into a more acoustic setting, where the song could speak for itself.

Now, a year later he has released two newly recorded versions of the song to coincide with what would have been the first day of Threshold 2020 (unfortunately sidelined by the damned COVID-19 pandemic). The Red version of “Returning” is in Paul’s more typical exuberant alt-rock style, with layered synths, loops and electric guitars, whereas the Blue version is stripped back to a simple arrangement with acoustic guitar, piano, vibraphone and subtle percussion. The songs were performed and produced by Paul at Studio 45 in Liverpool, and mixed and mastered by Andy Fernihough at 3rd Planet Studios Liverpool.

So I lean into my darkness
I touch the trauma with the tips of my fingers
Under this light how can I see?
The shadows are shifting; inviting me in.

You are there
You are there
Suffocating and suffering
I hold my hands
I’ll be watching
And I’ll be waiting for you
I’m returning to my fear, its all I know
I’m returning to my tears, it’s all I know.

I know my storm is coming in
Whatever I’ve taken
You hold my soul my memories
This face in the mirror
The face of my nightmare
Lost and corrupted

I’m returning from a distance
But my reflection is all I see
I’m yearning for the past
The one I thought I’d lost forever
So much pain within

I’m returning to my fear
It’s all I know

I like both versions a lot, but I think I prefer the Blue version if I had to choose one over the other. I like the higher clarity of sound in the Blue version, where the lovely piano keys and acoustic guitar really stand out. Also, Paul has a distinctive and vibrant tenor singing voice, and with the more subdued instrumentals, the power of his vocals and lyrics are allowed to shine through. Take a listen to each version, and decide for yourself.

 

Connect with Paul Iwan: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Reverbnation
Purchase on BandcampAmazonMusic Glue

New Song of the Week – THESE WICKED RIVERS: “Floyd”

Three years ago, British rock band These Wicked Rivers blew me away with their phenomenal album II (you can read my review here). Since forming in 2014, the Derby, England-based four-piece have gained a huge following in the UK and beyond with their melodic and riff-heavy blues-infused style of rock’n’roll. Making the music are John Hartwell (lead vocals/guitar), Arran Day (guitar, vocals), Sam Williams (bass) and Dan Southall (drums, vocals). It’s been a while since they’ve put out new music, but thankfully, they returned to the studio to record their second album Eden, which is due for release on May 22nd. In February, they released “Shine On”, the first single from the forthcoming album, and now follow-up with their second single “Floyd“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.

These Wicked Rivers get right down to business, as “Floyd” blasts open with a thunderous onslaught of gritty distorted guitars and smashing drumbeats. I love the contrast between the calmer verses, with their bluesy riffs, throbbing bass and softly pummeling drums all creating a menacing vibe that adds to the building sense of tension, and the explosive choruses where all hell breaks loose. It’s fucking amazing rock played the way it should be played! The guys are highly-skilled musicians who play as an impeccably tight unit and deliver the rock goods to perfection. Hartwell has a powerful and vibrant singing voice that’s well-suited to their hard-driving style of blues rock. The way he transitions back and forth from earnest croons to impassioned spine-tingling wails is impressive.

Floyd seems to be a metaphor for the conscience of the town – which appears to be sadly lacking these days. All sorts of bad behavior – drinking, drugs, gambling, stealing and sexual affairs – are shown occurring in the video under the watchful eyes of a mysterious bearded man named Floyd. The band told me that most cannot see Floyd, but those who do/can see him, know why. As soon as they see him he’s gone, yet haunts their conscience. The photos we see him throw onto the ground in the woods at the end are of some of the people he’s observed committing their transgressions.

Floyd sits still on the cold wet night
Shackled to the sins he’s indebted to find
the fake facade printed in their eyes
Is what he heeds of the people playing out their lives
But Floyd knows the truth
He knows the lies
He knows all of the evil that you lock down inside

Floyd don’t come around here no more
Been seen in town once or twice before
The people speak of his judging eyes
But Floyd don’t come around here no more, Floyd don’t come around here
No more

People see Floyd around the town
He moves from street to street blending in with the crowds
But those who stop and catch his marble eyes
Usually know the reason why
‘Cause Floyd knows the truth
He knows the lies
He’s the judge, jury, councillor of freedom and exile

“Floyd” is a wickedly good song, and one of the best yet from this talented band. Based on the high quality of it and “Shine On”, Eden looks to be another stellar album.

Follow These Wicked Rivers:  WebsiteFacebookTwitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / SoundcloudApple Music
Purchase:  iTunesGoogle Play

JOHNNY KOWALSKI AND THE SEXY WEIRDOS – Album Review: “Until The Day”

Johnny Kowalski & Sexy Wizards album

One of the quirkiest and most enjoyable bands I’ve had the pleasure of featuring on this blog is Johnny Kowalski and the Sexy Weirdos. Based in Birmingham, England, the self-described “body-snatching carnival punk band” fuse Celtic, Balkan and Gypsy folk melodies with reggae, ska, mariachi, punk and rock’n’roll to create a uniquely eccentric sound that’s totally original, eclectic, and deliriously entertaining. In 2017, I reviewed their wonderfully marvelous album European English, and am now pleased to feature their latest release Until The Day, which dropped March 19.

Like many bands, they’ve experienced changes in personnel over the years since forming in 2009. Their current lineup consists of frontman Johnny Kowalski (Vocals, Lead Guitar), Chris Yates (Bass), Ilias Lintzos (Percussion), Matthew Osborne (Drums) and Katherine McWilliam (Violin). McWilliam is also violinist and vocalist for the Celtic rock band Quill, and her image is featured in the wonderful artwork for Until The Day, which was designed by Kat Bennett.

Until the Day is the fourth album by Johnny Kowalski and the Sexy Weirdos, and continues their tradition for making fun, generally upbeat songs while also touching on political and cultural issues of the day. Kowalski told me that while the album “doesn’t ignore the multitude of horrors being inflicted upon the world right now“, it’s also about “finding some hope and something to live for despite all that, even if that’s something as simple as celebrating the people around you.”

Things kick off with the title track “Until The Day“, a lively song that nicely encapsulates the album’s overall theme. McWilliam’s spirited violin takes center stage here, accompanied by gnarly guitars, exuberant drumbeats and a bit of funky bass to round out the proceedings. With his distinctive smoky vocals and delightful Brummie accent, Kowalski croons to his beloved about soldiering on together through good times and bad: “Let go of your secrets they’ll be safe with me / From the floor of this bedsit into eternity / We could live like pirates, each day standing tall / Fuck and fight for freedom until the day we fall.

The mood abruptly changes with “Flowers For Antifa“, a dark and aggressive song of protest against fascism. The raucous, punk-infused melody and harsh instrumentals are the perfect backdrop for Kowalski’s raspy, emotionally-charged vocals that sound a lot like The Clash’s Joe Strummer as he rails against those who fall prey to the hateful and divisive rhetoric of would-be fascist politicians and media talking heads. A verse in the lyrics express support for the militant anti-fascist movement Antifa: “I gave my money to buy flowers for Antifa / And to get the chance to shoot you I would trade in my guitar / When the war is over we will dance in sweet release / Feasting on the bones of all your sycophants and chiefs / Fall in fall out of line…” The song ramps up to a near-frenzy at the end, with Kowalski angrily shrieking “Good night alt right!” I wholeheartedly agree!

Smug Song” is a classic Sexy Weirdos tune, featuring a rousing gypsy folk vibe delivered with a colorful mix of instruments, highlighted by Lintzos’ electrifying percussive beats and McWilliams plucky violin notes. She lets loose with a terrific violin solo in the bridge that continues through to the end of the track. Next up is “Batch Music“, the first of two instrumental tracks on the album. The blending of fuzz-coated heavy electric guitar and bouyant violin give the song a strong Celtic rock feel.

The band shows their playful side on “Next Year“, which sounds to me like an old drinking song. The lyrics speak to letting loose and opening oneself up to any and all experiences and debaucheries that come along, and to hell with the consequences. We’ll worry about that shit tomorrow. “Pull down the ceiling again / Contact all your crazy friends / Wasted in weird foreign streets / Making memories we will not repeat / The circus is coming to town / Pretty girls bury your frowns / Weird women and men / They might not come again / Ah, fuck it, they’ll be back next year.” The delightful video shows Kowalski and a lovely, scantily clad woman taking turns on a stripper pole in the middle of a rather stylish room, while the other sits in a chair with their back to the person dancing.

Anarchist Barbeque (Egg For McGregor)” is the second instrumental, and once again, the combination of electric guitars, strong percussion and spirited violin give the song a wonderful Celtic folk-rock feel. The final track “The Dead Yard” continues the Celtic-gypsy vibe, with a bouncy violin-driven melody, gnarly electric guitars, a pulsating bass line and a frantic mix of exuberant percussion and snappy drums. I’m not certain about the song’s meaning, but my guess is that it’s about how on a certain level, our own truths are the ones that really matter to us in the end: “Deceivers will naysay but we’ll still be here / Believe us as we slay / The things you hold dear are gone / I’ll see you in the dead yard once again.” But whatever the meaning, it’s a fantastic song from a musical standpoint, and a fine finish to a terrific and highly satisfying album.

Connect with the band:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on BandcampGoogle Play

KROSST OUT – Single/Video Review: “Funerals”

Krosst Out Funerals

One of the things I most enjoy about being a music blogger is getting to know a lot of musicians and bands through social media, and following them on their musical journeys over time. An artist I’ve grown particularly fond of is Krosst Out, a singer-songwriter and rapper from Toronto, Canada. I first learned about him in early 2017, when he reached out to me about his debut EP Life of the Party, an outstanding work that examined the darker aspects of party life, along with the sex, drugs and alcohol abuse that often go hand in hand. (I reviewed that EP, as well as one of his later singles, both of which you can find under “Related” at the end of this post.)

Born and raised in the small Ontario town of Campbellford, he first studied piano as a child, then took up the bass guitar in his teens. Influenced by the music of artists such as Manafest, Eminem, Underoath, Rage Against The Machine, System Of A Down, Vinnie Paz, Nas, and Marilyn Manson, he developed a love for alternative rock, hip hop and rap. He played in various local bands, developing his rapping skills along the way, and eventually moved to Toronto, where he started writing his own songs. Drawing upon the aforementioned influences, he fuses hip hop with grunge, alt-rock and punk to create his own unique sound. Like a lot of hip hop artists, his songs draw heavily from his own life experiences, with honest, raw and introspective lyrics.

On March 13, he dropped his latest single “Funerals“, and followed up with a brilliant companion video for the song that was filmed and directed by Eric Soto. The track was produced by Adam Van Ameringen, recorded at Pink Distortion Music in Toronto, and mixed and mastered by Sean Savage.

“Funerals” is a deeply personal song for Krosst Out, and touches on how he’s changed and grown since leaving Campbellford. It’s often challenging when people leave home and move away to make a new life for themselves, and though we generally maintain a sense of love and fondness toward family and friends we left behind, the distance and passage of time can complicate or often diminish relationships. Krosst Out told me the song title “Funerals” is a metaphor for the death of his old self. “I feel like I’ve just grown so much that I’m unrecognizable now, but at the same time, if I wanted to go [back] home I couldn’t. Also, the more you grow, the more you have people that will hate you for that.”

The song opens with Krosst Out telling us who he is now, accompanied by resonant keyboard notes:

I’m not that kid that you used to know
Now I’m living life so unusual
Less weddings and more of these funerals

The tempo then abruptly shifts to a heavy dub step beat, as the music expands with a dramatic mix of spooky psychedelic synths, deep, throbbing bass, glittery keyboards and some of the sickest percussive synths I’ve heard in a while. The instrumentals are really superb, creating a dark and moody backdrop for Krosst Out’s impassioned free style rapping as he laments about the guilt trips foisted upon him by his mother and friends:

You’re always telling me that I don’t pick up that phone much anymore
And you don’t call home
Why are the people that you’ve got ignored
Saying that you’re one of us
But it’s pretty clear that you’re not
You think that you’re better
You think that you’re big now
Move from the small town
Go and get the big stuff
Now that your ego’s even bigger now
And you fucking forgot our names, wow

From that same town where nothing ever happened
But that was back then
Fuck those memories you can have em
I’m past it
I’m not that kid that you used to know
Want black roses at my funeral
And I’m sorry mom, but I’m not that kid that you used to know

He goes on to sing that his new life isn’t all a bed of roses either:

But if you have to know I hate this city
Cause I been here too long
And I know that I can’t go home
Cause I don’t belong
And no I don’t need no phone call
Hold on, spare me the sad song
I don’t need to hear about the old me
It should be quite clear that’s what I don’t need
I’m just a grown man who can’t afford these groceries
If you think the grass is greener on my side
It’s not really

The fascinating video was filmed mostly in a church, and shows Krosst Out singing the song as if addressing an imaginary congregation. He then goes into a restroom, where he cuts off all his hair, and is later shown as his new self singing the song in a gymnasium, as well as outside at night, digging a hole with a shovel, seemingly for the purpose of burying his old self.

Connect with Krosst Out:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / SoundcloudApple Music
Purchase on BandcampGoogle Play

MALLAVORA – Single Review: “Ego:

Mallavora4
Photos by Aesha Nisar

Bristol, England-based Mallavora are a young hard rock band on the rise. Their exciting, hard-driving sound is strongly influenced by progressive rock, groove and doom metal elements. They’ve released two terrific singles, beginning with “Clockwork Drunk” in 2017 and followed by “Daylight” in 2019, and have been featured on Planet Rock and BBC Introducing. 2019 also brought changes in their lineup with the addition of a new female vocalist, as well as the recording of four new songs that will be featured on their forthcoming Paradise EP, due out later this year. They plan to release all of the songs as singles over the coming months, the first of which is “Ego“, which drops today, March 29.

Mallavora Ego artwork

Mallavora’s new lineup consists of Larry Sobieraj (guitar), Ellis James (bass/vocals), Jessica Ansell (vocals) and Jack Pedersen (drums). About the new single “Ego”, they state that it’s about “autophobia”, generally defined as a phobia of isolation, specifically a dread of being alone or isolated, but oddly also having a morbid fear of being egotistical. The lyrics are about “confronting a tortured soul consumed by fear of itself.”

The song opens strong with a thunderous explosion of gnarly riffs, driving bass and pummeling drumbeats. What’s unusual is that the first lyrics we hear are actually the chorus, passionately sung by the dramatic vocal harmonies of Jessica and Ellis that remind me a bit of Evanescence:

Holds me tight
Her grip’s all I can feel
Seeps through my dreams
I can’t tell what is real
Why can’t you just set me free
I’m begging
Take this voice from me

The music calms down to a melodic interlude in the verses, highlighted by Larry’s gorgeous chiming guitar and Jessica and Ellis’ stunning vocal harmonies. Their vibrant singing voices are somewhat similar in tone, and sound really incredible together.

She’s in my head again
Twisting words and sense she bends
Plunged into my soul
Washed away my pure with cold
Tore out my heart my love my empathy
Left me just with lust and insecurity

Crept away into my mind
Left no place for me to hide
Darkest truths untold
Dreaming of losing control
I can’t hold back what’s beneath the skin
She will break out and torture everything

The music ramps up to a feverish crescendo in the final chorus as the band unleash their arsenal of sonic weaponry. Larry shreds his guitar to the breaking point as he lays down intense reverb-soaked riffs of distortion, while Ellis and Jack nearly blow out the speakers with their punishing bass and smashing drums. And, of course, Jessica and Ellis’ vocal harmonies are spine-tingling.

You did it to yourself
Forgot your mental health 

“Ego” is a spectacular and beautifully-crafted song, and a big step forward for Mallavora. It’s great to see a band’s music and songwriting improve over time, and I’m confident they’ll have a bright and successful future.

Sadly, like so many other artists who’ve seen their tours canceled in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, Mallavora have had to postpone their April mini-tour as well. They hope to be able to go on tour later in the year. The artwork for “Ego”, as well as the EP and all upcoming singles was done by Caitlin Shephard.

Connect with Mallavora:  Facebook / Instagram
Stream their music: SpotifyApple Music
Purchase:  Google PlayAmazon

NOVUS CANTUS Creates a Stunning Video for their NPR Tiny Desk Contest Submission

Novus Cantus

Yesterday, I wrote about COUNCIL, a band from New York State consisting of three brothers, and today I turn to another music act from New York State and also consisting of brothers, known as Novus Cantus. Comprised of Alexander (vocals and guitar) and Christian Herasimtschuk (drums and percussion), they’re also one of the more unique acts I’ve had the pleasure of featuring on this blog. (You can read my prior reviews under “Related” at the bottom of this post.)

Hailing from the Hudson River Valley in and around Poughkeepsie, Novus Cantus draw from an eclectic mix of influences including traditional ethnic music like flamenco and Hungarian folk, classical Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque, and rock – particularly that of Jethro Tull, Gipsy Kings and Metallica – to create their rich and exotic sound. They’ve been performing and recording together since 2010, and have released a number of superb songs that I urge my readers to check out on one of the music sites listed below.

The duo recently submitted a stunning video performance of their captivating song “Sophia” to NPR for their 2020 Tiny Desk Concert competition. Capitalizing on the Medieval sound of the track, which is itself a celebration of the famed Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul, Turkey, they created a video showing them performing the song in a Renaissance setting. The video starts off with them portrayed as if they were in a classic old-world painting, then one by one each of them comes alive to perform the song. It’s like a beautiful painting of two troubadours come to life. They produced the brilliant video with the artistic and technical insights of James MacBrien and Julie Casper-Roth, who also provided the necessary equipment to make it all come together.

Watch the enchanting video:

Connect with Novus Cantus:  Website / Facebook / Twitter
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  cdbaby / Reverbnation / iTunes

New Song of the Week – COUNCIL: “Savages”

Council Savages

I’ve been following New York alternative rock band COUNCIL for the past four years, and have featured them on this blog a number of times, beginning in 2016 when I reviewed their debut EP Rust to Gold, and most recently in June 2019 with the release of their single “Born Ready”. (You can check out those reviews under “Related” at the bottom of this post.) Through their signature sweeping melodies, bold instrumentation and anthemic choruses, COUNCIL’s dynamic sound has been compared to Imagine Dragons. Their magnificent life-affirming single “Rust to Gold” received worldwide acclaim, including being played at the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics and the FIFA World Cup, as well as on American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, World Of Dance and Premier League. It’s been streamed more than 7 million times on Spotify, and ended up on my list of 100 Best Songs of 2017.

Council3

COUNCIL is comprised of three strikingly handsome brothers – Patrick, Doug and Andy Reeves. Patrick (bass and lead vocals) and Doug (drums) are twins, and Andy (guitar) is a year younger. Raised on a farm in rural upstate New York, they now split their time between tending the family farm and working on their music in New York City. The guys have just released their latest single “Savages“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.

It’s a darkly beautiful and grandiose anthem, highlighted by a complex mix of dramatic industrial synths. The track opens with spooky synths and haunting plucked guitar notes that set an ominous tone. The music then expands with sharp percussive synths, deep bass and thunderous echoed reverb sounds that add a palpable sense of tension and foreboding. The instrumentals are really spectacular, and the finest of any song COUNCIL has done thus far.

The lyrics speak of a couple for whom the love that originally brought them together has turned into hate and acrimony for one another. Patrick fervently laments that they now behave like savages to each other, his vocals soaring to a passionate wail in the chorus.

All the plans that we made were just a lost cause
It’s like we turn a parade into a death march
A dirty angel landed on my shoulder
She said be calm and let the drums take over
I’m just trying to blow these ashes into sparks
We live like savages, savages…oh oh, savages!

Connect with Council:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / ReverbnationApple Music
Purchase it:  iTunesGoogle Play

BRENNAN DYLAN – EP Review: “Walking Through Fire”

As a music blogger, I follow thousands of artists and bands on social media, and have written about several hundred of them on this blog. Many are extremely talented musicians, songwriters, composers and/or performers, and one of the guitarists who really stands out in the crowd is Brennan Dylan. Originally from Canada and now based in Nashville, he’s a beast on his six-string, and has been compared to Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Jeff Beck. Today I’m shining my spotlight on his 2016 EP Walking Through Fire, a fantastic work featuring six guitar-driven instrumental tracks.

Born in Vancouver, B.C., raised in Ottawa and then Toronto, Dylan has had a love and aptitude for music since early childhood. He began playing sax and composing music at the age of 10. He told me that, by playing sax, he learned how to play individual note melodies and to improvise. His parents encouraged him to think outside the box and explore music by writing his own creations. In his bio, he recalls: “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

In high school, he started writing rock and metal songs, and performed classical, jazz and swing in school stage bands. He also performed jazz, rock and blues improv guitar at a local club 2-3 times a week with local/touring acts. He studied classical guitar, delving into 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 and metal songs he wrote. He beautifully articulates his passion and inspiration for rock and metal:

“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.

He eventually relocated 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 his band Men Without Armies. They released a self-titled EP Men Without Armies in 2014, but then Dylan literally became a ‘man without an army’ after the band’s drummer and bassist/vocalist abruptly quit to follow other pursuits.

Men Without Armies Walking Through Fire

He had written a number of new songs and wanted to record some of them for a second EP, but with his drummer and bassist/vocalist gone, Dylan decided to release six of the songs as instrumental-only tracks. For the recording of what would become Walking Through Fire, he played all instruments, including guitar, bass, keyboards and synths, and hired a sound engineer to program the drums. He also produced all his own songs.

An imaginative and creative songwriter, Dylan told me he composes in his head, mentally hearing all the melodies, instruments and sounds, then laying them down in the studio. “I go into the studio with ideas only. I compose as Mozart composed. ‘Falling Through Skies’ is a perfect example. On my final day [of working on] Walking Through Fire, I created ‘Falling Through Skies’ on the way to the studio.”

Each of the six tracks are fairly similar, melodically speaking, starting with a foundation of sweeping synths, and highlighted by spectacular extended guitar solos that serve to showcase Dylan’s extraordinary guitar-playing skills. The first track “Drowning Tide” is a great example, with jaw-dropping shredded riffs of swirling and distorted guitars. As someone who cannot play a single instrument, watching Dylan play his guitar in the video is a religious experience for me. He literally owns his instrument, his fingers running up and down the fretboard like a true jedi master as he makes it wail and sing. No lyrics or vocals are necessary here, as the explosive riffs and melodic keyboard synths more than speak for themselves.

On “Conquer the Emperor” he delivers staccato machine-gun riffs that bring chills, backed by beautiful, haunting piano keys. “Breaking Away” opens with lovely melodic synths, then expands with a dramatic and intricate guitar solo, accompanied by a deep, buzzing bass line that continues throughout the track, finally calming back down to the synths we heard at the open. “Courage Before Glory” and “Resistance” are gorgeous extravaganzas of wailing guitars, staccato riffs and inspiring piano keys, all evoking a strong sense of courage as inferred by the song titles.

The final track “Falling Through Skies” is fantastic, with breathtaking guitar work that truly boggles my mind and ears! He coaxes sounds from his six-string that somehow manage to musically capture the adrenaline rush fighter pilots must feel as they zoom through the air at top speed, aiming their fire at opposing targets while trying to evade incoming fire. Holy shit, this man can play the guitar! He created the perfect video for the track using dramatic World War II film footage of fighter pilots conducting bombing raids and engaging in aerial battles.

Track listing:
1. Drowning Tide
2. Conquer the Emperor
3. Break Away
4. Courage Before Glory
5. Resistance
6. Falling Through Skies

Walking Through Fire is outstanding, and if you love intense, guitar-driven metal rock, you will enjoy this EP. Dylan will soon be heading back into the studio to record songs with Men Without Armies for an upcoming EP.

Follow:  Facebook /  Twitter /  YouTube
Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Reverbnation
Purchase:  Reverbnation

TUNGZ – Single Review: “Can’t We Just Be Friends Again”

Tungz single art

I recently learned about British band Tungz when their PR rep reached out to me about a possible review of their latest single “Can’t We Just Be Friends Again“, and after listening to a few of their songs I’m now a big fan of this charming foursome. Formed in early 2017, and based in Bristol & London, Tungz is comprised of Jamie Maier (guitar, vocals), Nicky Green (keyboards, vocals), Ollie Horne (bass) and Rick Holland (drums). Drawing from elements of pop, funk, soul and disco, they create wonderful music that’s upbeat, melodic and overflowing with smooth, soulful grooves. Having two vocalists also gives their songs extra vibrance and color.

Tungz

They released their enchanting debut single “Window Love” in 2018, then followed up with the delightful “Fruit”. In October 2019, they dropped their self-produced EP Okay, featuring four outstanding tracks that are far and away better than okay. They now return with ‘Can’t We Just Be Friends Again’, released via their label Heist Or Hit on March 12th.

About the song, the band states “The track is an open dialogue about wanting to snap back to being happy with someone you’ve only ever really been cool with before. [The opening line] ‘This is BS and we said this was golden paradise’ expresses the weird frustration that comes with trying to argue with someone you don’t know how to argue with because you’ve never had need to do so. It’s about two people who’ve never really started an argument trying to end one. This track feels like a statement to us. But it’s also a question. That’s why we left off the question mark. We went heavy on the production – it’s gonna be a nightmare to work out how to play it live.

Starting with a lively mix of bouncy percussive drum beats as a foundation, the guys add layers of swirling and warbling synths, funky guitars and throbbing bass to create a sexy and soulful sound with a retro 80s vibe. As I listened to the song, I sensed a familiarity that took a bit of thinking, but it eventually dawned on me that it sounds like some of the songs by 80s British bands Go West and Scritti Politti. Jaime sings lead vocals on this track, and I love his smooth voice and fervent delivery that beautifully conveys the urgency expressed by the lyrics:

This is BS
And we said this was golden paradise
Pretty pointless
This isn’t even what we are like

It doesn’t have to be so hard (Can’t you see what you’ve done to me?)
Aren’t we both on the same team? (Take a look what you did to me)
Can’t we just skip this part (Can’t you see what you’ve done to me?)
If we both want the same thing? (Take a look what you did to me)

(Blame myself but it’s bad for my health to blame myself when you’re not blameless either)

Can’t we just be friends again?
Can’t we just be friends again?
You know it’ll be easier on me

Sadly, due to the nasty virus now plaguing the world, their tour to promote the new single ended after the first show at Bristol venue Rough Trade. They hope to restart the tour this summer, music gods willing.

Follow TUNGZ:  WebsiteFacebookTwitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  SpotifySoundcloudApple MusicYouTube
Purchase:  BandcampGoogle Play

HOLLOW INTENT – Single Review: “Superhero”

Hollow Intent Superhero

Since forming in 2016, Wilmington, North Carolina-based hard rock band Hollow Intent have been perfecting their explosive, guitar-driven sound and building a growing base of loyal fans. Their hard work finally started to pay off in 2019, when in May they were nominated for the 2019 Carolina Music Award’s Best Rock Group, with front man Will Baker also nominated for Best Rock Male. Then in August, they released their outstanding debut EP Monster to widespread critical acclaim (including from yours truly, which you can read here).

In addition to Baker, who plays guitar and sings vocals, Hollow Intent includes Mark Davis on drums, Shane Noren on bass, and Wesley Seven on guitar. The fearsome foursome are now back with a hard-hitting new single “Superhero“, which dropped March 20. The band states that the song is “about anyone with a ‘disability’ or ‘ailment’ that has the courage to shine through anything! Your weakness is a strength!

The guys deliver another stellar track, maintaining their perfect score in terms of overall song quality. “Superhero” storms through the gates with an explosive barrage of raging guitars, pulse-pounding bass and smashing drumbeats set to a beautiful sweeping melody. The gnarly guitars are punctuated by pummeling jack-hammer riffs that together create a thunderous wall of sound for Baker’s ferocious vocals. As I pointed out in my review of Monster, he has a phenomenal vocal range that sounds beautiful and pleasing when singing clean, and positively feral when he launches into his metalcore screams and growls. His ability to transition from one vocal style to the other and back again is really impressive. It’s a gorgeous hard rock banger.

They also produced their very first video for one of their songs, which was directed by Jaiden Hord Frost, and filmed at The Warehouse Music Hall in Laurinburg, North Carolina. The video shows the band performing the song, interspersed with dramatic scenes of a young couple played by Will’s brother Nathan Baker and Annabelle Sanchez being held captive by a threatening-looking guy played by Tom Fuller. The unfolding drama seems to be a virtual imagining by the young man as he plays a kind of game on his laptop. The young man finally realizes that his eccentricities are nothing to be ashamed of, and summons his inner ‘superhero’ to overcome the bad guy and save their lives. The video ends with the words “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”

Connect with Hollow Intent:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Monster” on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / Google Play