FACE OF STONE – EP Review: “Sex, Guns, Race and Money”

Face of Stone3
Marc Palmer & Brad Schecter

Face of Stone is a Los Angeles-based collaborative music project of songwriter, guitarist and producer Marc Palmer and singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Brad Schecter. Each has years of professional experience both as solo artists and with other bands. Marc has been a musician for over 30 years, also serving as lead guitarist for venerable Grammy-nominated L.A. band The Busboys. Brad was previously in Scarred and Blue Embrace, and has also released music as a solo artist, including his acclaimed debut album Live Your Dreams in 2015 (read my review here). With Face of Stone, they combine Marc’s talent for writing hard-hitting guitar-driven melodies and bringing them to life with his prowess on the six-string, and Brad’s talent for penning compelling lyrics, vocal melodies and harmonies, as well as his strong vocals and musicianship. Their mission is to produce their own unique brand of metallic hard rock.

After years of hard work and a few setbacks along the way, Face of Stone has at last dropped their long-awaited EP Sex, Guns, Race and Money, released on the 4th of July via their label Black Grunge Records. The EP is not only hard-hitting and dark, but also socially and politically relevant, exploring subjects like political unrest, sexism, the struggles and mental abuse of love gone wrong, as well as larger themes of biblical significance, and the illusion and slow death of the American Dream.

Kicking off the EP is “Hurry Up and Wait“, an interesting track with a long, musically complex and dramatic intro that borders on progressive rock. After a minute or so, a darkly beautiful melody settles in, highlighted by Marc’s intricate layered guitars and a relentless onslaught of crashing cymbals. Brad’s powerful, resonant vocals express a sense of exasperation as he laments about what seems to be our overall lack of control over the external forces that affect our lives: “Shiny objects don’t just mesmerize. more times they often lie. Too bad it doesn’t matter what we give or if we try. We find out what’s important, hopefully before we die. Through all the pain and sorrow, hurry up and wait.” I especially like the soaring vocal harmonies in the final chorus.

Continuing on a similar theme, “United Shutdown (Sex, Guns, Race and Money)” is a scathing attack on the political and economic forces that have gained power by dividing us and force-feeding us an endless stream of lies and hate. The song is kind of a metal rock answer to Public Enemy’s classic “Fight the Power”, with lyrics strongly advocating us to take back the power: “See what pawns we have become. Surrendered our power, must be undone. Only you can seek the truth. Fight back now or forever be used.” Once again, Marc dazzles us with blistering guitar work as Brad’s commanding impassioned vocals drive home the urgency of the lyrics.

Dark Rocker” is a hard-driving kiss-off song to an old flame he’s fallen out of love with. Brad stated that he wanted the choruses to sound like a Trump tweet: “But something happened to you, I guess you just got old. You never left me, but you’re a dark rocker, not anymore. Sad!” Musically, the song features a frantic, pummeling rhythm that hits a sweet spot between punk, metal and rock’n’roll. Marc’s reverb-heavy distorted guitars are fantastic, and Brad’s colorful, spirited vocals are terrific as always.

Red Moon Sky” was the very first single released by Face of Stone back in April 2018 and it’s a belter. (You can read my review here.) The song blasts open with a barrage of raging riffs, chugging bass and pummeling drums, punctuated by tasty bits of distorted guitar that give the song added punch. Marc’s electrifying riff in the bridge is fire, and Brad’s raw, impassioned vocals bring chills as he snarls the lyrics that touch on the thin line between love and hate that can occur in a tempestuous relationship plagued by bad feelings and distrust: “Not one to deny what you need to feel fulfilled. Just not the one to do it. You’re not someone who is capable of change. No matter what, you stay the same.” The song spent more than four months on my Weekly Top 30 over the summer of 2018, and ended up at #50 on my Top 100 Songs of 2018 list.

The gorgeous “Through the Wildnerness” touches on the story of the Jews’ escape from Egypt. At first glance, it seems like a rather odd song choice in the EPs lineup, but the more I thought about it, I believe it fits in with the overall theme of seeking freedom from oppression. It’s a grandiose song of near-epic scale, with dramatic instrumentation highlighted by a haunting jangly guitar riff, and accompanied by a thunderous mix of chugging gnarly and distorted guitars, heavy buzzing bass and explosive percussion that make for an electrifying listen. Brad’s plaintive vocals are chilling as he sings “Hand of god, delivered us. He will guide the way home today. He brought us out of Pharoah’s land. Destroyed him with his hand.”

Sex, Guns, Race and Money is a great little EP that nicely showcases the immense talents of the two musicians of Face of Stone. There’s a lot of power and intensity packed into the EPs 20-minute run time, and if you like great guitar work and expressive vocals combined with exquisite songwriting, you will enjoy this record.

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New Song of the Week – AS SIRENS FALL: “Puppy Squad”

As Sirens Fall

As Sirens Fall is a charismatic and talented alt-rock band based in the northern English city of Leeds. Through their exciting, innovative and edgy style of what they call “aggressive pop”, provocative and entertaining videos, and theatrical live performances, including appearances at such festivals as Download, Bingley Music Live and Camden Rocks, they’ve grown quite a large base of die-hard fans over the past six years or so. The band consists of Mikey Lord (vocals), Will Truby (guitar), brothers Adam (guitar) and Jason Doveston (bass), and Bailey Roper (drums).

Beginning with their 2015 debut single “From Across the Waves”, As Sirens Fall have released a steady stream of singles and EPs, including The Hospital Party in 2016 and Where Lost Things Go in 2018. Their fantastically dark 2019 single “We Go Down Together” has been streamed over 108,000 times on Spotify. They dropped their latest single “Puppy Squad” on May 15, then followed with an electrifying video for the song on the 23rd that I love so much, I’ve chosen it as my New Song of the Week.

About “Puppy Squad”, Mikey states: “This song is about realising that I could stand up for who I am. I don’t have to fit in with people who make me feel small or unimportant. I don’t have to be a sidekick. Neither do you. Be you and turn it up loud til the very end. f ‘em up, puppies!” It’s quite honestly one of the most dramatic and exhilarating songs I’ve heard in a while, with in incendiary onslaught of wailing guitars, buzzsaw bass and eardrum-shattering percussion. Man, can these guys rock! Will and Adam shred their guitars nearly to bits, while Bailey smashes his drums like a wild beast, raising our adrenaline.

And speaking of beasts, Mikey’s vocals are downright feral as he screams and shrieks like a man possessed, raising hairs on the back of my neck. He’s sings at such a breakneck speed in spots that it’s hard to understand all the lyrics, but when he snarls “I’m tasting you before I come alive again” like a seductive vampire, it’s hard to not shudder just a little bit. In the song’s quieter moments, he croons in a purr that’s equal parts sexy and menacing when he sings: “And Lily looked at me from across the room and smiled. And I thought, ‘Ah honey, you’ll never understand what these creatures can do.’ And she looked at me deep, with those gorgeous baby blue eyes. And I laughed. And I said ‘Are you feeling alive, cutie pie?‘”

The soaring vocal harmonies in the chorus are really marvelous too. “Puppy Squad” is fantastic, and I love every single thing about it. Have a listen and like Mikey says, turn it up loud!

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NEVER APART – Single Review: “Hold On Hope”

Never Apart

Never Apart is a female-fronted rock band based in Coventry, England. Rising from the ashes of Operation Guillotine, who disbanded in spring 2019, Never Apart plays a hard-hitting style of rock, showcased by their November 2019 debut single “Damaged”. Comprising the band are Alice (Al) Clarke (lead vocals), Rhys Scott (rhythm guitar), Ben Ollis (lead guitar), Nathan Gummery (bass) and Jake Dalton (drums). Today, May 22, they’re back with their second single “Hold On Hope“, and it’s another banger.

The song storms through the gates with a barrage of gnarly guitars and pummeling drumbeats, then a strong, thumping beat kicks in and we’re off to the races. Ben and Rhys slice through the airwaves with chugging riffs of shredded guitars, while Nathan and Jake deliver a hard-driving rhythm with a deep, buzzing bassline and smashing drums, respectively. Though her singing voice is not terribly deep or powerful, Al does nevertheless have a commanding vocal style that’s well-suited to the band’s heavy sound. She nicely holds her own as her vocals rise and fall to match the intensity of the music, without ever being overpowered. As the song progresses, the music and her vocals build to a dramatic crescendo in the final chorus, then fades out with an extended reverb.

The lyrics seem to be about a woman struggling to free herself from an abusive situation or relationship.

Do you ever close your eyes and try to hide the pain inside your mind?
Do you ever long to be so far from this
Your life, it’s hard to hide what’s inside?
You’re the only girl in the lonely world
Fighting to be heard tonight, tonight

Do you ever fake your smile and dry your eyes because it’s all you know?
(Don’t know where to go)
You fell so hard, you fell so fast, your heart shattered like glass
In time it’ll pass
You’re the only girl in the lonely world
Fighting to be heard tonight, tonight

They beat you up, tired to the bone
Fight so hard to be so strong
Hold on hope, you’re not alone
Hold on hope, you’re not alone

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DRAWING ON SCARS – Single Review: “Pressure”

Drawing on Scars is an alternative rock music project based in Atlanta, Georgia. The creative brainchild of songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Will Thacker, Drawing on Scars collaborates with guest vocalists from across the U.S. in the creation of ever-changing music in which the vocalists bring their own unique approach to each song. Generally, Thacker writes and performs all the music, and the different vocalists write the lyrics, which they then interpret in their own distinct style. The result is a music repertoire that always sounds fresh and delivers the unexpected.

Formed in 2012, the project produced an EP featuring seven artists, then went on hiatus in 2017, during which time Thacker formed the band Fieldcrest. He resurrected Drawing on Scars in early 2019, and began releasing a series of singles in quick succession. In August 2019, I reviewed his single “Rewrite”, which featured vocals by Jena Jones, and am now pleased to share his fifth and latest single “Pressure“. The track features dramatic vocals by Julian Michael, whom Thacker had worked with previously.

Once again, Thacker’s masterful musicianship is on full display here, as he wields his guitar like a jack hammer, pummeling us with an unrelenting barrage of jagged riffs. Solely responsible for all the instrumentation, he also does a superb job delivering a pulse-pounding bass line and heavy, thunderous percussion that create a massive wall of sound for Michael’s fearsome vocals. It’s a fairly short track, but sure packs a dynamite stick’s worth of explosive metal rock in under two and a half minutes.

Michael got the inspiration for his lyrics from imagery contained in the dark and surreal video, which was created a few years ago by animator Gabrielle Azi. He explains: “I wrote these lyrics during a time of self exploration and growth. I had joined the Army and experienced new relationships, all which required open mindedness and action while setting aside my fears and insecurities. The barrier in my way was mostly pride and narcissism, as it’s hard to be a genuine person when you weren’t brought up to be available to those sorts of things. This song is about how I forgot what it was like to be, in my eyes, that broken person. It’s about forgiving yourself, learning from mistakes, and overcoming trauma. While the implication of the lyrics may be about death and destruction, they have more of a subtle and less disturbing meaning. This contrast is to paint a picture of what it felt like, versus how simple it all really was. Regardless of what “Pressure” means to me, I want a listener to be able to heal and know that growth happens every day. We can’t change our outside world very often, but we can change how we see ourselves and our perceived worth. Most importantly, we can always treat ourselves and others better.”

I walked in line, I should be dead
Yet I felt the pressure grow
Saw it leaking out of my head
Thought it time for me to go

Cold, dark, lost and crying
He’s not one worth finding
I will never miss his face
Despite what we have found

I have forgotten what was said
There is more that I should know
Evil lying in my bed

Long road, old forgotten
Feet hurt, gross and rotten
I will never miss this place
No matter where this road is bound
He’s lying in the street but I still let him bleed

Sweet silky breeze, sweet silky dreams

I disregarded all my head
I am all I need to know
Auras filling out the edge
Time for this tired soul to go

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Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play 

AMONGST LIARS – Single Review: “Wolf Machine”

Amongst Liars

This past February, I introduced British rock band Amongst Liars to my readers when I reviewed their spectacular debut single “Over and Over”. The song has been streamed over 51,000 times on Spotify, and has spent more than two months on my Weekly Top 30. Based in the Brighton/Eastbourne area along the southern English coast, the band formed in September 2019 from the ashes of the bands Saint Apache and Katalina Kicks, and consists of Ian George (lead vocal, guitar), Leo Burdett (guitar, backing vocals), Ross Towner (bass, backing vocals) and Adam Oarton (drums). Drawing upon alternative rock, grunge and punk, they play a melodic and fierce style of aggressive hard rock. Now they return with their second single “Wolf Machine“, and it’s an appropriately-titled beast of a track.

While Amongst Liars don’t consider themselves a ‘political band’, they certainly don’t shy away from expressing their opinions and anxieties about what’s happening in the world. Band vocalist Ian George explains. “We’re not preaching at anyone or trying to change the world. We’re just saying these are the things that affect and concern us.” With that in mind, “Wolf Machine” speaks of “challenging those in a position of authority and power, not accepting that the hand that we’ve been dealt should define who we are, and calling out inept governments run by power-hungry politicians. The line ‘Bring down the wolf machine’ chanted throughout the song resonates with so many of our world’s population, who are tired of the ‘same old’ mentality.

True to their hard rock roots, the guys deliver a volley of furious riffs, crushing bass and smashing drums to create a thunderous wall of sound. All experienced musicians, Amongst Liars are adept at pushing their respective instruments to their limits to achieve the heaviest sound possible, without going overboard. The result is a relentless barrage of intense, chest-thumping grooves that are the very definition of rock. Then there’s Ian’s raw and powerful vocals that perfectly fit both the hard-hitting music and song message. He sounds downright feral as he snarls the searing lyrics.

Count your blessings watch the other run
No one to listen? learn your lesson?
Blame the government
Turn the summer, to the rain and cold
Keep it close to your heart
Cash your life in before it’s sold

Just you try and stop us
Time to lock and load, now we’re letting go
Don’t get me wrong, I never needed you
Chase your shadow
They bleed and die for you

In this desert, we are the trees
I’m waiting patiently, will you take me please
I’m alive, not sad to see you go
I hope we make it back
Before it’s overgrown

Just you try and stop us
Time to lock and load, now we’re letting go
Don’t get me wrong, I never needed you
Chase your shadow
They bleed and die for you

Yeah

Bring it down
Bring it down
Bring it down
Bring it down
Bring it down

Bring down the wolf machine
Bring down the wolf machine
Bring down the wolf machine
Bring down the wolf

The fascinating and provocative artwork for the single was created by Pierre Engelbrecht.

Follow Amongst Liars:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Over & Over:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Google Play / Amazon

MALLAVORA – Single Review: “Deceiver”

Mallavora
Photos by Aesha Nisar

Bristol, England-based hard rock band Mallavora are making a big splash on the British music scene with their exciting and hard-hitting sound, with features on BBC Introducing and airplay on UK radio station Planet Rock. Hot on the heels of the late March release of their spectacular single “Ego” (you can read my review here), on April 26th they dropped their latest single “Deceiver“, and now follow up with an exciting new video of them performing the song. “Deceiver” is the second single from their forthcoming Paradise EP, due out later this year, and it another winning tune.

Strongly influenced by progressive rock, groove and doom metal elements from some of their favorite bands like KoЯn, Mastodon, Muse and Alter Bridge, Mallavora create melodic hard rock songs characterized by thunderous riffs, driving rhythms, intelligent lyrics and the incredible sparks that come from having both female and male vocalists with great singing voices. The current lineup consists of Larry Sobieraj (guitar), Ellis James (bass/vocals), Jessica Douek (vocals) and Jack Pedersen (drums).

“Deceiver” explores the theme of domestic abuse, with lyrics describing someone trapped in a toxic relationship. She yearns to break free, but his recurring promises of love, combined with her weakness and lack of self-esteem, prevent her from leaving him. Mallavora skillfully expresses the darkness of the subject matter with an aggressive barrage of Larry’s chugging gnarly riffs, Jack’s pummeling drums and Ellis’ heavy, grinding bass that together sound downright diabolical. Larry’s an amazing guitarist, and his wailing guitar solo in the bridge is a highlight for me. Then there’s Jessica’s powerful, soaring vocals, which beautifully convey the intense emotion and despair described in the lyrics.

Look in his eyes
Love is a lie

She can’t hear anything
Her heads still ringing
The tears on her face
The last result of his embrace

And she can hear him calling
Feels her heart start stalling
She lets her life stay falling down
Without a sound

So wash away the truth
Except the one he told you
Give him your hand to hold
And let the fear within take control
Look in his eyes
Love is a lie
She can’t feel anything
Her heart’s still beating
The rings round her eyes
Revealing how she spent last night

Goes to where she was lying
To find her phone still dialing
But no one’s replying how
Is she gonna leave him now?

You’ve gotta tell the truth
Accept the things he’s done to you
Break free from his hold
It’s your life babe, regain control

Look in his eyes
Love is a lie

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Stream their music: Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase:  BandcampGoogle Play / Amazon

FOUR THOUSAND MILES – Single Review: “Reflections”

Four Thousand Miles is a relatively new and interesting rock band with an international pedigree. Each of its four members are from a different country: England, France, Wales and the United States, hence their name ‘Four Thousand Miles’. They started out as a collaboration over the internet, and quickly grew to become a music project after finding that each of their own unique styles blended well together. The band members are Alex Fearn from Liverpool, England (and former front man of British rock group Diamond Days) on vocals and rhythm guitar, Lionel Pacreau from Bordeaux, France on lead guitar, Alex May from Atlanta Georgia, USA on drums, and Liam Sibbald from Prestatyn, Wales on bass.

4000 Miles - Reflections

The guys have gathered together a couple of times in Liverpool to record music and film videos, and released their excellent debut single “Lonely” this past Valentine’s Day. Now they’re back with their second single “Reflections“, which drops today. The song was mixed and mastered by Simon Jackman at Outhouse Studios in Reading, Berkshire, and is another hard-hitting banger!

The song is darker and heavier than “Lonely”, and more synth-driven. The song opens with eerie synths and a galloping percussive beat that set an ominous tone. Then a brief barrage of fiery riffs ensue, before calming down to a haunting melody as Fearn begins to sing. The EDM touches that arrive late in the first verse are terrific, and contrast nicely with the thunderous, driving riffs and explosive percussion in the choruses. They produce a great back and forth effect that imparts a strong sense of tension, making for a very exciting listen. Pacreau and Fearn are both fine guitarists, and I love the interplay between Pacreau’s blistering riffs and Fearn’s more melodic guitar notes. Sibbald and May keep the pummeling rhythms on firm footing throughout the proceedings. The guys’ collective musicianship is quite impressive!

Fearn has a powerful and emotive vocal style that’s perfectly suited to their dynamic sound. He transitions easily from a plaintive vulnerability to raw, almost feral screams that bring chills. He uses them to maximum effect as he passionately belts out the searing lyrics spoken to a former lover whose actions have stripped him of his sanity and sense of self-worth: “You stole the greatest part of me and now I’m struggling to breathe. Not gonna take much time before I lose my mind!

The dark, beautifully-filmed and expertly-produced video nicely captures the drama and frenetic energy of the song.

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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

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

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.

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