CANDID – Single Review: “Lay Me Down”

UK rock band Candid is quickly establishing themselves as one of the most exciting bands on the indie music scene. The Coventry, England foursome released their debut single “Moving On” in the fall of 2016, then followed up with the fantastic single “Rumours” in May, which I reviewed. They’re now back with a new single “Lay Me Down,” which dropped on 6 August, and it’s superb.

Candid is comprised of brothers Rob (rhythm guitar and vocals) and Dan Latimer (lead guitar), Sam Baines (bass) and Ben Williams (drums). Their dynamic sound delivers catchy melodies, outstanding guitars, wicked percussion and Rob Latimer’s commanding vocals. As I noted in my previous review, Candid’s sound has been compared to Catfish and the Bottlemen. That’s fine by me, as I love Catfish and the Bottlemen and now love Candid as well.

Candid

“Lay Me Down” is an exhilarating track with scorching riffs and thunderous percussion.  The instrumentals build to a crescendo at the bridge, and continue through to the end – guitars wailing, cymbals crashing and Rob’s soaring chorus raising the hair on the back of my neck.

The lyrics speak to someone who’s let him down one too many times, causing him to finally quit a relationship that’s beyond repair:  “I won’t believe it, until I know its true, cause I can’t get to you, no matter how hard I tried to oversee it. It’s always someone who tries to get to you, put the thought in your mind. /And no matter how hard I tried to turn the other cheek. No matter how hard I’ve tried to look the other way. So lay me down. Cause nothing can stop me now.

Follow Candid:  Facebook  /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud /  YouTube

Purchase:   iTunes

FICTION PEAKS – Album Review: “Citizen”

Every now and then we all come across an artist or band whose music instantly touches us in a powerful way.  Fiction Peaks is such a band, and I knew they were something special the very first time I heard their music. Incorporating elements of alternative rock, shoegaze, dream pop and electronica, the Dublin, Ireland five-piece combine beguiling melodies and a cornucopia of instruments to create songs of exceptional beauty and complexity. I featured them on this blog a year ago, then again in March when I reviewed two new songs – “Before the End” and “Jinx,” – which you can read here. Those songs are included on their stunning debut album Citizen, which dropped in late April (and I’m finally reviewing at long last).

Citizen

Fiction Peaks is comprised of five remarkable musicians: Joey Doyle (Lead vocals, Guitar, Sampler), Cillian Kenny (Bass, Trumpet), Barry Lyons (Backing Vocals,Synths),  Joáo Francisco (Drums) and Brian Giles (Guitar, Loops).  To say that they’re all masters of their craft is an understatement; their instrumentals are perfection from start to finish, and Doyle’s vocals are sublime. Citizen delivers ten tracks that vary in style and length (from two and a half to over seven minutes), but all feature the band’s exceptional guitar work that’s a primary characteristic of their phenomenal sound.

Fiction Peaks New

Raincheck,” kicks things off with Francisco’s nimble percussion, Giles’ looping guitar and Doyle’s soaring vocals. The layered, multi-textured guitars are fantastic, and Kenny lays down a bass line just heavy enough to keep things grounded. It all builds to a crescendo in the bridge before calming back down, guitars swirling beautifully. The track is nearly six minutes long but feels over in an instant.  The exhilarating, hard-driving “Jinx” arrives on a wave of hammering drums, heavy buzzing bass and frenetic jangly and shredded guitars, proving the guys know how to rock.

And rock they do on the seven minute-long “Shimmer.” The first half of the track offers up awesome crunchy riffs, a mesmerizing bass line, and a head-bobbing drumbeat. At the halfway point, exuberant jangly guitars enter the scene, accompanied by delicate synths, while Doyle sings “The world is yours, this time.” The gentle guitar solo at the outro is wonderful.

As much as I love their rock-oriented songs, it’s on their slower compositions that the beauty of their sound really shines. “Before The End” is a standout and one of my favorites, with a lovely piano movement and Lyons’ warm synths that create an ethereal soundscape. Strings and percussion are added along with acoustic and electric guitars, increasing the song’s power but not diminishing it’s dreamlike quality. The poignant lyrics are beautifully sung by Doyle:

Before the end, before the credits, before the curtain’s drawn on a worn-out day. You shrugged it off. You rolled with the punches. All torn and battle-scarred as night gave way. /You could have walked, ran for the exits. A testament to strength is why we’re here. You have the words, you are the reason, the reason we stand tall in our finest hour. With nothing ventured, there is nothing gained. Tried teaching me to let go. Your stubborn student, your own flesh and blood. It’s only understanding.

The provocative and visually powerful video for “Before The End” was directed by local artist Colm Giles (brother of band member Brian).  According to a write up featured on the website Nialler, Giles explained “My take on ‘Before The End’ was to make an artistic observation of the times we are living in. I did this by looking at elements of the Spanish Civil War – showing ordinary people fighting against fascism. With the current subtle rise of the far right, and populist politics, mistakes of the past can be repeated if we don’t all pay attention.

Another gorgeous track is “Spring’s in Bloom,” with sweeping violins, stunning guitars, gentle percussion and Doyle’s earnest vocals singing the hopeful lyrics about what I’m guessing is a couple awaiting the birth of their first child and trying to make their relationship work out: “We’ll be right, we’ll be fine, until the start of life.”

The band shows its folkish side on the lovely “In for a Penny,” and the title track “Citizen,” a short song with a languid melody, acoustic guitar and beautiful synths. The xylophone at the end is especially nice. The lyrics speak to escaping the cruel burdens society heaps upon us: “Society chisels at the weakest part of us. The chink in our armour is amusement for the rest. But if I had my way, I’d be leaving here today. From my rear view mirror, I’d bid farewell to the fray.”

As its name suggests, “Synesthesia” is an epic synth-heavy track over seven minutes in length. Starting off with a hypnotic repeating synth beat and Doyle’s earnest vocals, at 2:37 the drumbeat quickens, and with his charming Irish brogue, Doyle speaks the words: “We too are only dust, the same substance. Distance is apparent in a not so perfect world. Where we dreamed of living in space. Floating happily as cosmic debris. / Breaking free of industrial zombieland, and the chain of misery. We will open our ears to the whistling of the wind. / The planet is alive, so reach out to the visionary.” As the song progresses, the drumbeat becomes heavier, now accompanied by more powerful synths, soaring strings and exquisite jangly guitars that continue to the end.

Album closer “Electric Galleria” is a phantasmagoria of luxurious, dreamlike synths that float and soar through the airwaves and into our senses. The track is the perfect ending to a magnificent album that is unquestionably one of the best of 2017.

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NELSON REZEK – EP Review: “Nelson Rezek”

Nelson Rezek is a 24 year old singer, songwriter, guitarist, and multi-instrumentalist based in Birmingham, Alabama. I’ve followed him since he was a member of the heavy metal band Broken Rail, which he left about a year ago to pursue his own career as a solo artist, and it’s been gratifying to watch him come into his own and grow artistically. Nelson began his musical journey at the age of 13, when he discovered his passion for playing the electric guitar. While still with Broken Rail, he started writing his own songs, the first of which was “Too Far Broken,” which he released as a single in March 2016. He’s now released his debut self-titled EP, and I’m pleased to review it.

Nelson Rezek

For inspiration in creating his music, Nelson draws on influences from some of his favorite bands like Korn, Three Days Grace, Breaking Benjamin, Slipknot and Stone Sour. He explains: “Writing music is like therapy for me. Great music tells a story, and the beauty of it is it speaks to each person in a unique and personal way. I want to let people know through my music that they are not alone.” His songs address relationships and the myriad emotions they entail, such as lust, betrayal and regret.

Nelson Rezek2

Let me state upfront that Nelson is a phenomenal guitarist, and his complex, hard-driving guitar work is a dominant feature of his powerful sound. The first track “Part of Me” kicks things off with aggressive shredded guitars and hammering percussion. Nelson coaxes some fiery riffs from his six string while he snarls the biting lyrics that speak to someone who’s sucked the life out of the relationship, but he’ll never surrender his soul: “Go ahead and take this lie I own, I don’t fear you anymore. Go ahead and take all that I’ve known, but you’ll never take this part of me.”

Nelson delivers intricate, layered riffs, anchored by crushing bass and pounding drums that threaten to blow the speakers, on the mesmerizing “The Enemy.” With his smoldering vocals, he sings of letting everyone down, including himself:  “I am the enemy. I will let you down. Something inside of me, will always let me down.” He calms things down in the bridge, with a quiet voice over accompanied by a gentle guitar solo, before the music ramps back up to a crescendo in the outro.

He shows his softer side with the gorgeous ballad “Too Far Broken.” The song opens with a gentle riff, then layers of guitar, bass and percussion are added, creating an emotionally powerful track. Nelson fervently sings of his pain from a relationship that’s failed beyond repair: “Where’d you go? Why’d you have to leave it all behind? Too far broken. Can’t you see all this pain you’ve bottled inside of me.” The little guitar riff that’s introduced in the bridge is beautiful.

Prayers of the Guilty” is a high-energy, hard-rocking standout track (though, quite frankly, all are standouts as far as I’m concerned). Fast-paced jangly guitars erupt right from the start, with no let up as Nelson emotionally sings of the guilt he feels over his having let a loved one down. “If I could start a new beginning, would I even get to change the ending. Maybe I wouldn’t feel so empty, but all we got now is prayers of the guilty.”

The excellent video starts off with a woman in emotional distress who releases a letter into a lake. Then Nelson and his back-up musicians are shown performing the song in a natural setting, interspersed with with flashbacks of the woman ignoring her father’s calls because she was busy with her band, and scenes of her regretfully recalling happier times spent with him as a child. The video was directed by Kevin Wayne.

The hard-hitting “Drive Me Crazy” lives up to its title, as Nelson drives us crazy with an infectious melody and scorching hot riffs. Songs like this with a hard-driving beat and killer guitar work always get me going, and this is one of the best I’ve heard in a while. It’s a real head-banger that’s best enjoyed played full-blast!

Every time I listen to Nelson’s songs, I’m blown away by his strong musicianship and amazing guitar playing. Nelson Rezek is a strong, expertly-crafted debut effort that he should be proud of. I’m impressed by his hard work and determination to make the best music possible, and will continue following him on his musical journey. I encourage my readers to do the same by connecting with him on  Facebook /  Twitter /  YouTube

Stream his music: Spotify / ReverbnationSoundcloud

Purchase it:  BandcampiTunes

DISCIPLES OF BABYLON – Single Review: “Without You”

DOB

L.A. alternative rock band Disciples of Babylon have released their first official single “Without You” from their forthcoming album The Rise and Fall of Babylon, scheduled to drop this October. I recently wrote a piece announcing the album, which you can read here. As I’ve stated in previous posts about them, Disciples of Babylon (DOB) are one of my favorite indie bands, so I’ve been anxious to hear new music from them, and “Without You” does not disappoint.

DOB consists of Eric Knight on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Ramón Blanco on lead guitar, Gui Bodi on bass and backing vocals, and Chris Toeller on drums. All are seasoned musicians who collectively bring a lot of talent to the band, creating a dynamic signature sound defined by epic melodies, Ramón’s killer guitar work, Gui’s monumental bass lines, Chris’s nimble percussion, and Eric’s commanding vocals. Their song lyrics are always deeply compelling, whether addressing social injustice, troubled relationships or the personal struggle to find truth and meaning in our lives.

“Without You” is loaded with all those signature elements, immediately blasting through the speakers with a soaring chorus and an assault of powerful instrumentals. Chris aggressively pounds out the beat while Gui lays down an impressive bass line, establishing a solid foundation for Ramón’s mind-blowing riffs. This man can play guitar, and I’m confident that as his career continues to grow, he’ll be included among the great guitarists of today.

With his impassioned vocals, Eric snarls the biting lyrics that speak to someone who’s betrayed you, killing the love you once felt toward them: “Without You, I can’t get past these lies that I lived with you. I doubt you could ever feel the same as I’ve felt for you. But this fight, has spiraled me out of control.”

It’s an awesome track, and a harbinger of more to come from The Rise and Fall of Babylon.

Follow Disciples of Babylon:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / YouTube

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COUNCIL – Single Review: “The World is on Fire”

Alternative pop/rock band COUNCIL has been on an upward trajectory since the release of their debut EP Rust to Gold in November 2016 (which I reviewed and you can read here). Based in rural upstate New York, the band consists of three handsome brothers –Patrick, Doug and Andy Reeves.  Patrick (bass and lead vocals) and Doug (drums) are twins, and Andy (guitar) is a year younger, and I think it’s awesome that all three are talented musicians who’ve chosen to work together as a band, not to mention humble guys who are kind, gracious and appreciative of their fans.

Council bros

Rust to Gold, which was self released, has been wildly successful, garnering over 2.6 million streams in 16 countries on Spotify. The superb lead single “Rust To Gold” spent the most time of any song on Apple’s prestigious A-List Alternative Chart this year. It also spent 14 weeks on my Weekly Top 20, peaking at #7. The guys have now dropped their new single “The World is on Fire,” and it’s certain to be another big hit. The single’s being released through AWAL and Tom Sarig’s AntiFragile Records, and was produced by Justin Gray (Dirty Heads, John Legend), and mixed by Mark Needham (The Killers, Imagine Dragons).

“The World is on Fire” is an exuberant anthem that immediately grabs hold with a catchy, irresistible melody. The track kicks off with a galloping drumbeat and fuzzy synths that quickly build to a crescendo, before blasting open with Andy’s aggressive jangly guitar, Patrick’s heavy buzzing bass, and Doug pounding out the hard-driving beat with all the strength he can muster. Andy lays down some pretty awesome riffs, and there are moments where Patrick’s bass comes close to blowing the speakers.

With his impassioned vocals, Patrick sings about letting go of our lust and greed that threatens to destroy mankind, and learning to accept what’s really important and meaningful in our lives: “The world is on fire./I’ve seen enough, the violent birth of our souls. I’ve seen the lust, and I know it’s time to let it go./ Sometimes less is more than you’ll ever need. Love is like a war, but you better be sure where you place your desires.”

The guys keep the energy level at full throttle from start to finish, and I love their soaring harmonic choruses. Hell, I love everything about this fantastic song that gets better with each listen!

Connect with Council:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation

Purchase it:  iTunes / Bandcamp

DISCIPLES OF BABYLON unveil first song “Freedom” from their forthcoming album ‘The Rise and Fall of Babylon’

Hollywood, California-based rock band Disciples of Babylon unveil “Freedom,” the first track from their forthcoming album The Rise and Fall of Babylon, today, and it’s awesome! “Freedom” is immediately available to fans who pre-order the album (pre-order begins Friday July 14 at 3:30 p.m. ET). The lead single “Without You” is scheduled to be released the week of July 24.

“These are precarious times we live in,” exclaims front man Eric Knight. “The Rise and Fall of Babylon signifies something that I feel has been a long time coming. Babylon, meaning our country (the USA) is slowly spinning out of control and entering into vast turmoil. I feel we are at the beginnings of a revolution. one of which the likes we’ve never seen before. As a nation, we are no longer viewed in the regard we once were. The title reflects this shift and quite possibly a prelude of what’s to come.”

Disciples of Babylon (DOB) was founded in 2012, and includes Eric Knight on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Ramon Blanco on lead guitar, Gui Bodi on bass and backing vocals, and Chris Toeller on drums. The band draws its influence from such Rock legends as Muse, The Foo Fighters, Queen, The Who, Stone Temple Pilots, U2 & Led Zeppelin. According to the band’s bio, “Our main musical aspirations are to incorporate key stylistic elements of all great Rock music eras into our music to create a large stadium-worthy sound that thrills all audiences, and proves once and for all that Rock music is here to stay.”  I say hooray to that!

All seasoned musicians, the individual members of DOB, prior to joining the band, have accumulated several national releases independently, some having opened for some of the biggest names in Rock music, including Aerosmith, KISS, The Dave Matthews Band, and Kid Rock. The individual band members have toured extensively throughout the United States and abroad, and more recently, DOB was featured at the Vans’ Warped Tour in 2016. In June, the band performed at the extreme sports event Dew Tour 2017, and just last weekend on July 8, they kicked off the 2017 Gladiator MMA Championship Series with a performance at the iconic Los Angeles Memorial Sports Coliseum.

DOB released their fantastic debut EP Welcome to Babylon in late 2015, which I reviewed. They will now follow up with their first full-length album The Rise and Fall of Babylon, which is scheduled for release in October. It was produced by GRAMMY award winner and longtime DOB producer Andres Torres, one of the producers behind the Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee mega-hit of the summer “Despacito” (which has held the #1 position on the Billboard Hot 100 for nine weeks and counting). The album was mixed by GRAMMY award winner Curt Schneider (Augustana, Richie Sambora, Joe Bonamassa), and mastered by Dave Kutch (Bruno Mars, The Strokes, Outkast, Joe Perry).

DOB The Rise And Fall Of Babylon Album Cover
DOB The Rise And Fall Of Babylon Album Cover

The Rise and Fall of Babylon | Track Listing
1. Freedom
2. Without You
3. We Are The Ones
4. Lift
5. Idiosyncrasies
6. Simple Life
7. Civilized

Follow Disciples of Babylon:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon

LOST IN THE CITY Release New Single “You Stopped This Train”

One year ago, Kansas City alternative rock band Lost in the City released their monumental debut album Genesis, which I reviewed and you can read here. Now, after toiling in the studio with Bret Liber at Red Roof Productions (who’s also a musician in his own right, with the rock band Young Medicine), they just dropped the first single “You Stopped This Train” from their forthcoming album Leaving Home, due out later this year.

Lost in the City band pic

Lost in the City is Shane Radford (Lead Vocals/Guitar/Keys/Synths), Dustin Proctor (Guitar), Cullan Wiley (Bass) and Kyle Constant (Drums). They play dynamic post-punk alternative rock loaded with thunderous chords, blistering guitar riffs, heavy drums and passion-filled vocals.  For their new album, Bret Liber also played keyboards in addition to recording, mixing and mastering the tracks.

“You Stopped This Train” is a hard-hitting rock song about someone who’s chosen to abandon a relationship the singer believed was strong and lasting. Musically, the track features Radford and Proctor’s gritty, shredded guitars and Constant’s pounding drums, all anchored by Wiley’s powerful bass. The screaming guitars at the end of the track are fantastic, and perfectly convey the pain expressed in the biting lyrics. Radford’s vocals are full of raw emotion as he wails “You stopped this train when everything was going great. You walked away as you let it fall apart.” And I love the guys’ soaring harmonic choruses.

It’s a terrific first song, and based on the quality of four other tracks I’ve been given the pleasure of hearing in advance, I can tell you that Leaving Home is going to be a killer album!

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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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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

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