WATERGOD – Album Review: “Watergod”

As I’ve stated before, one of the things I love about Twitter is finding out about new indie artists and bands; in two years I’ve discovered over 5,000! I’ve also made friends with more music lovers and bloggers than I can count, who’ve turned me on to even more musicians and bands. So it was my lucky day when Robert Horvat, who has an excellent blog called Rearview Mirror, contacted me about the indie band Watergod.

Based in Austin, Texas – a city with a thriving music scene that’s produced scores of country, blues and rock artists and bands – Watergod rose from the ashes of their previous psychedelic space rock band Psychonaut. They developed a fresh sound, but retained a bit of their psychedelic sensibility. Comprised of Ethan Schrupp (guitar, vocals), Justin Wilson (bass) and Nicholas Key (drums), Watergod takes an organic, highly collaborative approach to their songwriting and the development of the sound for each track. They’re essentially DIY, but enlisted the help of friend Sean Lochridge in the recording and mixing of their self-titled debut album Watergod, which dropped on the 1st of August.

Watergod 2

In an interview with Robert Horvat of Rearview Mirror, which you can read here, Ethan explained the inspiration and/or meaning behind the band’s name, album title, and each of the tracks:

“To me [Watergod] represents renewal and rebirth. We had taken some time off after our last band [Psychonaut] dissolved, so when we came back together we wanted a fresh start. The inspiration [for the album] was what was going on in my life at the time. Amygdala is about a breakup,  Whaler and Causality were about a girl I was hooking up with after that,  Helios is about being burned by someone you’re trying to help, Motion is about being ostracized for being yourself, Vectors is about succumbing to temptation, and Spirals is about dealing with anger.”

Interestingly, all the song titles consist of a single word. Their music is unconventional, delivering unexpected melodic shifts, guitar change ups and quirky vocals. All this works beautifully to capture and hold our attention, not only within a song but throughout the whole album. We’re compelled to really listen to each nuanced sound and vocal twist and turn, keeping us in a continual state of surprise and wonder. Not one thing about their songs are predictable, and Ethan’s vocals seem to sound different on every track.

Watergod performing

Ethan’s falsetto crooning introduces us to the opening track “Amygdala” then some really lovely guitar work enters, accompanied by snare drums and a light touch of cymbals. All instrumentals ramp up as the track progresses. The guys inject just a touch of jazz on “Causality,” featuring some really fine nimble guitar work, a smooth subtle bass line and lots of gently crashing cymbals. There’s something about Ethan’s vocals that are so beguiling as they go from smooth and comforting to soaring falsetto and back again. The little guitar solo in the last 30 seconds is pure delight. “Vectors” borders on psychedelic with an underlying funky groove, making for an unusual and fascinating track. Ethan’s fuzzy vocals occasionally become echoed with vibrato, adding an otherworldly aura.

Helios” is a perfect example of how Watergod delivers the unexpected. Starting off with a gorgeous, delicate and somewhat melancholy riff, the track has a bit of the psychedelic feel of The Doors’ “The Crystal Ship.” Ethan sings of seeing a deceitful person’s true self in the light of day: “With you nearer, I see you clearer. I see you for what you really are. In the sun.” Halfway through, the guitars become heavier and grittier, as Ethan shrieks his vocals, some of which are distorted. It’s an epic track.

So too with “Whaler,” which flows back and forth from a languid beat with a dreamy atmospheric vibe to a faster tempo with bluesy guitar and heavier percussion. “Motion” is the most psychedelic-sounding track on the album, with heavier bass overlain with shredded, distorted and reverb-heavy guitars. And just as we’ve gotten used to the slow tempo that predominates, the guys dial it up at the close.

Album closer “Spirals” is more melodic, starting off with jangly guitars over a pleasing steady beat. The lyrics speak of letting go of anger: “It will hurt you so much more before you finally learn to let it go. / It’s hard to see the change when it’s so slow.” Ethan’s vocals rise in emotional impact as the guitars become grittier and the percussion more aggressive, until he literally shouts the lyrics later in the song.

If you like music that’s experimental and unconventional, Watergod delivers it in heaping quantities on this stellar album. It has some of the most unusual and intellectually stimulating music I’ve heard in a while, yet it’s still accessible and incredibly satisfying.

Connect with Watergod on Facebook and purchase their music on Bandcamp

DISCIPLES OF BABYLON release new album “The Rise and Fall of Babylon” with a concert at the Viper Room

The long-awaited and highly anticipated release of the new Disciples of Babylon (DOB) album The Rise and Fall of Babylon is finally here, and it’s a revelation. I’ve been following the Los Angeles-based rock band since 2015, and it’s been a pleasure watching them grow both musically and professionally. They’ve been gathering national and worldwide acclaim and a rapidly growing base of loyal fans, not only because of their exceptional, dynamic sound and thought-provoking lyrics, but also their appreciation and undying support for their fans. I know I’m in good company when I say that I love this band!

DOB

All accomplished musicians in their own right, DOB are 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. The guys have had quite a year. In June, they performed at the extreme sports event Dew Tour 2017, and on July 8, they kicked off the 2017 Gladiator MMA Championship Series with a performance at the iconic Los Angeles Memorial Sports Coliseum. Also in June, Ramón and Gui had the thrill of playing in the backup band of Luis Fonsi when he performed his monster hit “Despacito” on Conan, and then in September, Chris joined Ramón and Gui to once again play backup for Luis Fonsi’s appearance on Ellen. Doesn’t get much better than that, except for DOB themselves to one day perform on Ellen!

DOB premiered The Rise and Fall of Babylon in front of a capacity crowd on Thursday, October 5 at the legendary Viper Room on the world-famous Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, California, and they all but blew the roof off the place. The crowd reception to the new tracks was ecstatic – no surprise given the band’s exciting and charismatic stage presence. Along with all seven tracks off the new album, they also played songs from their terrific debut EP Welcome to Babylon, plus an awesome cover of Led Zeppelin’s classic “Immigrant Song.”

DOB Viper Room

Here’s a video I shot of them singing their hit song “KARMA.”

The Rise and Fall of Babylon features seven powerhouse tracks, some of which speak to issues facing America today. Eric feels passionately about social justice, and has strong opinions about the current state of affairs in our country, which he took time to express Thursday night. In a previous interview, Eric explained the impetus behind the new album: “These are precarious times we live in. The Rise and Fall of Babylon signifies something that I feel has been a long time coming. Babylon, meaning 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.”

The album was produced by GRAMMY award winner and longtime DOB producer Andres Torres, one of the producers behind the Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee smash hit “Despacito.” 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).

The guys get right down to business with “Freedom,” a thunderous full-frontal assault on tyranny as powerful as anything I’ve heard in a long while. Ramon lays down blistering jaw-dropping riffs as Chris hammers out a galloping beat on the drums, anchored by Gui’s pummeling bass. With a passion that borders on fury, Eric brings goosebumps as he screams the searing lyrics:

Oppress us no more
We’ve waited for this day
Our rights have been taken
Your rule is coming to an end
The faster that we rise above
And we scream from our lungs
Freedom! Give us freedom back!
We crave freedom
Yes, we stand strong

Next up is “Without You,” the album’s lead single that I reviewed upon it’s release in late July. The hard-hitting track is a defiant rebuke to someone who’s betrayed you, killing the love you once felt toward them. Brimming with awesome instrumentals, the track is an exhilarating rock song. Ramón’s guitar work is a thing of wonder, and Gui nearly blows the speakers with his crushing bass line, aided and abetted by Chris’s pounding drums.

DOB slows things down a bit on the beautiful anthem “We Are the Ones,” a hopeful clarion call for us to all come together and unite in our fight against those who try to divide us. An especially notable aspect on this track for me are the gorgeous soaring backing vocals. And speaking of vocals, Eric has a phenomenal singing voice. As I’ve already noted, he can elicit chills with power and fury, or bring us to tears with heartfelt tenderness. He does both on the fantastic, emotion-packed “Lift.” And, needless to say, the guys unleash their sonic weaponry once again with mind-blowing instrumentals.

By this point in the album, I’m practically speechless at how incredibly good it is, wondering if DOB can sustain the high quality of the songs. I’m quickly reassured within seconds of hearing “Idiosyncracies,” a pile-driver of a track about struggling to keep a failing relationship from breaking apart: “I’ll fight to keep my sanity. I really want to believe in us, in you and me. There’s harmony, yeah! But I’ll fight to keep my spirit free.” And they keep on delivering the goods with the uplifting anthem “Simple Life.” This is one gorgeous rock song. Everything about it is perfection – lyrics, instrumentals, Eric’s vocals, and the superb production and arrangement.

The guys close the album with “Civilized,” a real head-banger of a tune. Gui sets the rhythm with a pulse-pounding bass line, then Ramon dives in with scorching riffs while Chris commences to attack his drum kit with all the strength he can muster. Eric snarls the lyrics that speak to someone he’s obsessed with who’s hurting him: “I’m out of my head, every time I realize all those things you said to me. So cruel, unkind. From the moment I wake, with every step that I take, draws me closer into you.”

The Rise and Fall of Babylon is a meticulously crafted album on every level, and a testament to the exceptional songwriting and musicianship of these four supremely talented gentlemen. It’s an effort they should be extremely proud of, and I’m so proud of them! I’ve gotten to know them all personally, and they’re as humble and kind as they are skilled at making music. I’m honored to be their friend.

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

Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / YouTube

Purchase: iTunes / Amazon

FIE! FIE! FIE! – Double Single Review: “Edge of Space/Everything I Told You”

Edge of Space Art work

Fie! Fie! Fie! is an indie alternative rock band from West Yorkshire, England, and they have a glorious name you’ll never forget. Formed in April 2013 by seasoned musicians Daniel Varley and Pete Long – both of whom play some pretty amazing guitar – the band also includes bassist Avon Blyth and multi-instrumentalist Matt Burnside. Varley sings lead vocals, and the other band members provide backing vocals.

Fie Fie Fie

The band released their first collection of tracks, Live Solo Sessions, in late 2013 when it consisted only of Varley and Long. In 2014, Blyth was added to the lineup, giving the band a much stronger and fuller sound. They released the single “The Alternative” in 2015, followed by the album Can You Hear This?  In 2016, Burnside joined Fie! Fie! Fie!, and they subsequently released a live album Live at St. Mary’s later that year, as well as a fantastic single “Hit the Spanish Main.” The band has now released a new double A side single “Edge of Space/Everything I Told You,” which dropped in early August, and I think it’s one of their best works yet.

I was blown away by “Edge of Space” at first listen, as it has one of the most arresting guitar-driven melodies I’ve heard in a while. The song immediately hooks us in with what sounds like lush synths but in reality is an effect that Pete put down on one of his guitar tracks, along with an achingly beautiful guitar riff that burns itself into your mind. It stayed with me long afterward, leaving me humming the melody and wanting to hear the song again and again. Besides the stunning guitars and synths, the percussion and bass are perfection. Using metaphors of space exploration, Varley passionately sings about finding enough forgiveness to salvage a damaged relationship, or possibly a damaged world:

Could you find a way, a way to see past this
Past the mess that we both left, could you see through it
Gliding through the stratosphere, could fall off, float away
There’s bigger fears alone up here as we try to find our way
If you could see through my eyes 75 miles high

The tracks ends with snippets of what sound like old recordings of astronauts speaking from their spaceships, and a final dramatic flourish of distorted guitar.

“Everything I Told You” is a mellower track, with a pleasing folk rhythm delivered by silky layered acoustic guitars hovering over a smooth bass line and gentle percussion. The guitar work on this track is sublime, and Varley’s earnest vocals are backed by a lovely, almost dreamlike harmonizing chorus. All the ingredients you need for a truly great song.

If you’re in the UK, you can catch Fie! Fie! Fie! at one of these upcoming shows:

4 Oct 2017    The White Bear, Barnsley
7 Oct 2017     The Spread Eagle, York
14 Oct 2017    Oxjam, Huddersfield
18 Oct 2017    SoFar Sounds, Bradford
20 Oct 2017    The Highfield Bradford, Idle
28 Oct 2017    Oxjam, The Town Hall, Hebden Bridge
24 Nov 2017    Hot Banana Music, Holmfirth
26 Nov 2017    The Beck, Brighouse
02 Dec 2017    The Tan Hill Inn, Richmond

Connect with Fie! Fie! Fie!:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation

Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

CARY BALSANO – Single Review: “Horizon”

 

Cary Balsano

Cary Balsano is a talented young singer/songwriter originally from Italy who’s now based in Liverpool, England. He’s written and recorded scores of songs both as a solo artist and in collaboration with others, and recently released a beautiful new single “Horizon,” accompanied by a stunning video.

The song and video convey a sense of powerful connection with the world and, to my mind, the title “Horizon” symbolizes the brief but meaningful time we spend on this earth. Cary’s deeply personal and moving lyrics speak of life, love and loss, most notably of his father:

Living by the day, dealing with your grace
All I want is a kid to name
Hoping for some fun, looked in a grave where I saw my father’s face
We got a love and I made my mistakes
And I’ve got nothing to prove to you
We’ve got a lot to learn ’round this fire place
It’s called life and I have lost

Musically, the track has a quiet intensity, with soothing acoustic guitar and gentle percussion that keeps the track grounded but never overpowers. Cary’s beguiling vocals are filled with emotion, yet comforting at the same time. Take a listen:

Connect with Cary:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream his music on  Spotify

DEAD ON ARRIVAL – EP Review: “Chasing Tides”

It’s back to the UK to shine my spotlight on metal rock band Dead On Arrival. The Derbyshire four-piece was formed in 2011, and consists of Jack Dughan (Lead Vocals & Rhythm Guitar), Ben Calver (Lead Guitar & Backing Vocals), Connor Woodward (Bass) and George Lathbury (Drums). Drawing on influences from some of their favorite bands such as Metallica, Machine Head, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Asking Alexandria and Bring Me The Horizon, the guys make aggressive rock that’s melodic, raw and in-your-face. As they state on their Facebook bio, “Our passion is to write, produce and release our own music and then play it live and LOUD.

Dead on Arrival
Photo by Pete Key

Dead On Arrival released a full length debut album From the Ashes in 2016, and now return with a terrific EP Chasing Tides, which dropped on August 18. The EP delivers four scorching tracks that clearly demonstrate the band’s growth, both in songwriting and musicianship. Their song lyrics address themes of dysfunction and betrayal within ourselves, our relationships and our government leaders, and their ferocious instrumentals perfectly convey the strong feelings expressed in the lyrics.

Chasing Tides

Vulture in the Waves,” released as a single in late 2016, kicks things off with an onslaught of shredded guitars, powerful throbbing bass and pounding drums – all hallmarks of the band’s hard-hitting sound. Dughan wails the lyrics that speak of someone wracked with guilt and tormented by his actions:

Oh I’m the vulture in the waves
Chasing tides to escape my mistakes
Because I couldn’t live on
Knowing what I’ve done
And I hide in the shadows
It’s the only way to survive

Hammering drums and blazing riffs continue unabated on the hard-driving “Inside” and “Corrupted World.” Calver’s shredded and distorted guitars are mind-blowing, and the bass so heavy I felt it in my core. On the latter track, Dughan implores, “This is a final call. We will stand tall and fight against this corruption.”

As if the first three tracks aren’t aggressive enough, the guys unleash their full sonic arsenal on the bombastic “Sickening Thing.” The frantic guitar riffs rain down like thunderbolts, and Lathbury attacks his drums like a wild beast, nearly blowing out the speakers – and my ear drums! Woodward lays down a face-melting bass line, and Dughans’ fiery vocals match the brutal music note for note. It’s my favorite of the four tracks, and really shows what these guys are capable of.

Connect with Dead on Arrival:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music on  Spotify and purchase on iTunes

UPRIGHT MAN – Album Review: “Upright Man”

Upright Man Cover blue

Upright Man is a New York City-based rock band who released their debut self-titled album yesterday August 18, 2017. And after just one listen through of Upright Man, I must unequivocally state that it’s magnificent. Poetic lyrics are paired with bold instrumentals and soaring harmonic vocals to create ten stellar tracks that elicit strong feelings for the listener (they certainly did for me). The album was flawlessly produced by Marc Copely (Roseanne Cash, B.B. King, Billy Squire) and Zev Katz (Jeff Beck, Hall & Oates, Aretha Franklin), and engineered by Bruce Sugar (Ringo Starr, Joe Walsh) at Avatar Studios and Sear Sound in NYC, and at Blackbird Studios in Nashville.

But the creative minds and musical talent behind all this fantastic music are Aidan Dolan (guitar/vocals), Nick Katz (bass/vocals), and Max Yassky (drums/percussion/backing vocals). The guys met while studying classical music composition at New York University, where they played together on various projects ranging from classical ensembles to rock bands. Their strong chemistry ultimately led them to form Upright Man. Influenced by some of their favorite bands like Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Crowded House, Little Feat, Led Zeppelin and XTC, they combine elements of alternative, psychedelic, roots rock and classic rock with complex harmonies and melodies to create their own unique sound.

Aidan explains, “Our different musical backgrounds make for an explosive chemical reaction that creates something none of us would have alone.” Nick adds, “We have an intense compulsion to write songs together, and do so constantly.” “Our goal is to write great songs, play genuine music and share it with the world,” says Max.

Upright Man

We’re introduced to Upright Man with the sweeping opening track “Elysia.” The song is melodic rock candy, with layered jangly guitars, sharp percussion, brilliant keyboards and captivating vocals. In fact, their colorful instrumentation and harmonic vocals are a defining element of the band’s wonderful sound, also beautifully demonstrated on the next track “Agorognostic.”

Say What You Mean” really shows what these guys can do, with complex rhythmic change-ups that go from calm, strummed guitar one minute to fierce guitar riffs accompanied by a cascade of crashing cymbals the next. Aidan snarls: “Is it what you really want? Was it what you really want? Is it everything you want?/ Everybody cares what you think. But nobody cares what you think.”

The title track “Upright Man” is a terrific post-grunge rock song with a hypnotic beat, fantastic gritty riffs and Nick’s assertive buzzing bass. The guys’ vocals are in perfect harmony as they sing: “Cities built on soot and ash. Follow the fate of those who’ve past. It was the dream of an upright man to be loved. I fell down from the sky to become up on high.  Then Aidan wails: “So tell me why won’t you stand with me. Baby tell me you love me. I don’t need the truth. I just need you.” The down-tempo “Ecstasy” offers up moody synths and mellow vocals, punctuated by flourishes of electric guitar and crashing cymbals that reach a crescendo before ending in a reverb-heavy haze.

Keyboards take center stage on the stunning “Three Easy Pieces,” a standout track and my favorite on the album. The combination of lush piano, delicate synths, electric guitar, gentle percussion and the guys’ lovely harmonizing vocals are positively gorgeous, creating a dreamy soundscape. Aidan’s vocals are sublime as he sings: “The TV said I need a life. Ain’t I livin’ life? You can’t live on porcelain and wine. When you’re hungry you’ll find what you need.”

Another favorite is “Alaska,” a languid, rather melancholy song about searching for one’s place in the world, but not quite getting there: “Got a tattoo says ‘Alaska’ but I’ve never been. 20 questions I could ask you but I’ll never win. Oh I just get so cold. Hold me darling, deliver me from shivering.” As to now be an accepted fact, the instrumentals and vocals are mesmerizing.

The guys dial up the energy on “Designer Mind” and “Animals.” Both are great rock tracks with assertive percussion, strong, gravelly bass and dynamic, multi-textured guitar work. Album closer “Checked Out” delivers a captivating melody and incredible layered instrumentals, including keys, intricate guitars, crisp percussion, sweeping synths and Aidan’s smooth vocals. This is another standout track that proves without doubt that Upright Man is an exceptionally talented collective. They’ve got a brilliant debut album on their hands, and it should be in yours.

To learn more about Upright Man, check out their Website and social media: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud

Purchase: iTunes / Amazon

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.

Follow Fiction Peaks:  Facebook / TwitterInstagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud

Purchase it:  BandcampiTunes

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

Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon