FOLLOW DEEP – Album Review: “Will You Still Love Me…”

Follow Deep album art

Follow Deep is a young indie/alternative rock band from Hull, England who are making quite a name for themselves on the UK music scene with their dynamic, innovative music and high-energy performances. Making the music are Luke Bushby (vocals, guitar & bass), Joe Ingram (bass, keyboards & saxophone), and Jed Pearson (drums, vocals). The talented trio skillfully blend elements of alternative, progressive, psychedelic and grunge rock to create their unique, eclectic sound, with an added bonus of having two vocalists and a saxophonist in the mix.

They released their debut single “Bad Influence” in December 2017, then dropped an EP of the same name in July 2018. They followed up with several new singles in 2019, and in December, released their debut album Will You Still Love Me, which I’m finally getting around to reviewing. The album features ten songs addressing the highs and lows of love, along with the myriad perils of entering into romantic relationships.

Follow Deep

The brilliant opening track “Before The Storm” is a shining example of Follow Deep’s solid songwriting and musicianship. The song has everything I love in a great rock song: a complex melody, a strong, driving bassline, intricate, multi-textured guitars, explosive percussion and superb vocals that span a wide emotional range. The aggressive gnarly riffs contrast nicely with the more subdued jangly guitars and deep bass during the track’s calmer interludes, and along with the dramatic stop-start breaks in the melody, keep the song’s overall tension on a high level. I really like Luke’s voice, which goes from a seductive croon as he sings “You’re a fan of Mozart / I love him too / But it’s now your time to…“, then launches into a chilling full-blown scream with “Sing!” I also love his well-placed shouts of “Woo” and the harmonica riff that comes later in the track.  The lyrics seem to speak to our darker impulses, and possibly someone suffering the effects of PTSD. In an voice electronically altered to sound evil and menacing, we hear the words “Do you know what it is to be a monster? You have no idea.”

The band has released two videos for the song, first a lyric video to coincide with the album release last December, then an official video at the end of February. I’ve included them both, as the film footage in the lyric video nicely complements the lyrics, whereas the official video shows the band performing the song.

Next up is the album’s lead single “Alive“, a terrific rock song about the overpowering feelings that hit us when we fall hard for someone: “Cuz you are the reason that I’m not OK. Cuz you are the reason that I’m in pieces.” The dual contrasting vocals of Luke and Jed are highlights on this track and also the sexy and grungy “Sweet Innocence“, one of my favorites on the album. A torrent of grimy guitars and crashing cymbals are layered over a deep, throbbing bassline, creating a sizzling-hot backdrop for the guys’ sultry mix of falsetto and deeper vocals as they alternately croon and wail: “Cuz I don’t wanna behave anymore. There’s no good in your heart.” “Press Rewind” is a bittersweet song about a couple facing the fact their relationship is over, and needing to move on. The track has a pleasing guitar-driven melody, backed by some gentle, sweeping keyboard synths.

Another standout for me is “Hearts In Hands“, with its outstanding bluesy guitars and the guys’ passionate vocals making for a really stellar track. “Lifeline” is a hard-driving rocker, with fuzz-coated jangly guitars, crunchy bass and lots of crashing cymbals. But the real treat is Joe’s lively saxophone solo in the bridge, injecting a bit of a jazzy flourish to the track. “Steal A Flower” is a dark, grungy song with a strutting bass-driven melody. Luke laments about a relationship that began with promise, but ended badly. “How did it get so dark? You are not my destiny. I know what we could have been.” The intense, gnarly riffs and heavy percussion that erupt in the final chorus are fantastic.

Paradise” is another fine example of how Follow Deep expertly fuses grunge with progressive and psychedelic elements to great effect. The track starts off with a fairly straightforward grunge rock melody, with some fine guitar work setting the tone. At 2:23, the guys inject a blast of grinding psychedelic riffs and spooky swirling synths that last about 28 seconds before calming back down to the previous melody. Luke admonishes: “I’ve told you once, won’t tell you twice. I’m sick of being nice. Why do you think you’re making it to paradise?” With that, the music abruptly launches back into the psychedelic trip, only this time with an onslaught of screeching, heavily distorted guitars that continue to the end.

The guys pull out all the stops on the final two tracks, beginning with the bombastic “Start A War“. Luke’s blazing guitar work is positively mind-blowing, accompanied by Joe’s lush, ominous synths that seem to channel Depeche Mode. Jed attacks his drum kit like a man possessed, adding tremendous power to this glorious track. On the 7:18 minute long “The Same“, they complete the question they began asking in the album title “Will you still love me the same?” This monumental track has more of a prog-rock feel, starting off slowly with a hauntingly beautiful little acoustic guitar riff. Gradually, the music expands into a thunderous soundscape, then Joe enters with a terrific, moody sax solo that’s pure bliss. At 3:50, the music calms down to the gentle acoustic guitar of the beginning, while Luke repeatedly croons the question in a lovely falsetto: “When I’m no longer here no more, will you still love me the same?” The music intensifies again, this time into a gorgeous extended instrumental, highlighted by a stunning guitar solo that continues for the last two minutes before fading out. It’s a magnificent track.

Will You Still Love Me… is a superb album from this very talented and creative trio who make up Follow Deep. I don’t know their ages, but I’m guessing they’re barely in their 20s, and their music has a maturity and complexity that’s quite impressive. With so many elements in the mix, there’s a lot going on here from a musical and compositional standpoint, and I found myself discovering something new with each listen. The guys are great songwriters and musicians, and have much to be proud of with their first full-length album. My lone criticism is that I wish a few more tracks featured Jed’s saxophone, but that’s pretty minor in the overall scheme of things.

Catch Follow Deep at one of these upcoming shows:

Sunday, March 8 – w/Bone Broke Kings, Slackrr & King Boa
West Street Live, Sheffield, UK

Thursday April 16 – w/Dude Trips
The Polar Bear, Kingston upon Hull, UK

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THE MILLION REASONS – EP Review: “If Not for the Fire”

The Million Reasons If Not For the Fire

One of my favorite indie rock bands is Chicago-based The Million Reasons. I became a fan of theirs the instant I heard their magnificent song “Dizzy” in the summer of 2018 (I love it so much it ended up at #69 on my 100 Best Songs of the 2010s list). I’ve closely followed this talented group of guys ever since, and have featured them a number of times on this blog. (You can read my previous reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the bottom of this page.) Having five members, including two guitarists, their sound is dynamic, heavy and melodic, and consistently delivered with killer riffs, tight rhythms and powerful vocals. 

I was sad to learn their vocalist Scott Nadeau left the band last August but, fortunately, they quickly found a phenomenal replacement in Taylor Brennan, a close friend of band drummer Colin Dill. Brennan is also vocalist for Chicago alt-rock band Polarizer (they’re pretty terrific too, so do check out their music). In addition to Brennan and Dill, the other band members include guitarists Mike Nichols and Ken Ugel, and bassist Jason Cillo. Brennan brought not only his vocal talents, but also his great songwriting skills and years of experience, which have expanded The Million Reasons’ musical horizons quite nicely. Whereas their music has primarily been classic rock/rock’n’roll oriented, some of their new songs venture more into progressive rock territory. They’ve also employed additional instrumentation, including keyboards and cello, into some tracks, giving them a fuller and richer sound.

With that in mind, the band set to writing and composing a huge array of songs, four of which they’ve selected for their new EP If Not for the Fire, which dropped February 21st. The songs are rather dark, with brutally honest lyrics that the band describes as “a study of separation and self-discovery.” The EP was beautifully produced by band guitarist Ken Ugel, along with Nick Stetina and Noam Wallenberg, and flawlessly mixed and mastered by Stetina. The other band guitarist Mike Nichols designed the artwork.

They kick things off with the title track “If Not for the Fire”, a bombastic, high-energy rocker that clearly shows the band hasn’t lost their stride. The song opens with a brief flurry of fuzzy guitars and Dill’s power drums, then Cillo lays down a funky little bass solo before everything erupts into a barrage of thunderous musical mayhem, and we’re off to the races. The guys unleash their inner beasts, setting the airwaves aflame with fiery riffs, throbbing bass and explosive drumbeats. Brennan quickly dispels any doubts I may have held regarding the issue of a new vocalist, blowing me away with his incredible vocals. He literally raises goosebumps as he fervently wails the lyrics that speak of his need for an intense, almost obsessive kind of love that thrills and excites: “I came for the curse of / I came for the kiss of / A love divine that paralyzes / What did you come for / If not for the fire to light you up this way.”

The fantastic video, filmed and directed by Philip Goode, shows Brennan seated at a table, struggling to write (something I can identify with as a music blogger), juxtaposed with scenes of the band performing the song and working their magic with their respective instruments. Their energy and charisma are strongly evident.

“Pretty Ones” is a brilliant track, with a complex melodic structure and intricate, yet powerful  instrumentation that give it a monumental prog-rock feel. The dual guitars of Nichols and Ugel are really spectacular here. The lyrics explore the restlessness that exists in some of us – the internal struggle between putting down roots in one place or with one person vs. the desire for eternal freedom and believing the grass is greener somewhere else or with someone else, but also fearing that perhaps we’re just running away from ourselves: “Ever after chasing down the pretty ones / Right back to the place where I am running from / In motion, stuck in motion / I fear it’s just my nature.

The guys slow things down on “No North Star”, a gorgeous but melancholy ballad about a man at the end of his rope, ready to give up all vestiges of hope. The song starts off with a mournful cello and beautiful acoustic guitar, as Brennan forlornly laments about mistakes he’s made: “Four on the floor / As the shower head pours heat on me / Praying to the god of sorry / I’m sure she has questions for me.” Gradually, a lovely piano enters along with more guitar, drums and bass, all of which grow more expansive as the song progresses until reaching a dramatic crescendo at the end, at which point Brennan passionately implores: “Stare in the sunken-in eyes of a ghost of a shell of a half of a half of a man / Saying what good can I be if I couldn’t be better for you / I couldn’t lie when you asked me to lie / But I’ll die if you ask me tonight / I’m going to die anyway / I might as well do it for you.” Though I love all four tracks, “No North Star” is my favorite.

“All You Can Afford” is a dark and heavy kiss-off to a lover who’s pushed the relationship beyond the breaking point: “I’m taking the keys to my heart and your car / I’ll leave you behind / Hoping you’ll find all that you can’t afford / My love, anymore.” The guys deliver blistering riffs and a torrent of hard-driving grooves during the first two-thirds of the track while Brennan sings the lyrics. The music then transitions to an almost cinematic instrumental for the outro, finally ending with a harsh, increasingly loud static-like sound in the final 30 seconds that seems to symbolize a rather violent end – of the relationship perhaps?

If Not for the Fire is a wonderful little fireball of an EP (sorry for the bad pun, but hey, it perfectly describes the work) that packs quite a major punch in it’s 16-minute run time. I love The Million Reasons, and am thrilled to see them continue to grow and evolve through time and personnel changes, something not all bands are able to successfully navigate. Drummer Colin Dill told me they’ve written about 20 new songs, and I cannot wait to hear them!

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Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

New Song of the Week – YARD OF BLONDES: “Lowland”

Yard of Blonds LOWLAND

Yard of Blondes is a French alternative rock band now based in Los Angeles. They started out as a folk pop act made up of singer/songwriter and guitarist/vocalist Vincent Walter Jacob and bassist/vocalist Fanny Hill, and after relocating to L.A., they expanded the band lineup with the addition of guitarist Burak Yerebakan and drummer Forrest Mitchell. They were featured on the 2016 compilation I love you all the time, along with Eagles Of Death Metal, Florence & The Machine, Kings Of Leon, Jimmy Eat World and many more. All the proceeds were given to the victims of the Paris attacks.

I featured Yard of Blondes last July (2019) when I reviewed their marvelously upbeat bilingual single “Je veux danser tout l’été”, along with two other alternative versions, a remix by French superstar DJ and producer Joachim Garraud, and a grungy home demo. The remix was produced in Garraud’s 100% solar-powered RV turned into a recording studio, in the middle of the Mojave desert which is documented in the music video for the song. Since then, they’ve been writing and recording new music for their first full-length album Feed the Moon, due for release later this year. The album was produced by Billy Graziadei (Biohazard, Powerflo), mixed by Michael Patterson (Nine Inch Nails, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) and mastered by Maor Applebaum (Faith No More).

On November 1, 2019 they released the first single “You and I & I” from the forthcoming album, and returned on Valentine’s Day with a second single “Lowland“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. The single is accompanied by the release of a wonderful video produced by Fanny and Vincent, featuring footage filmed at LAX and Disneyland on their phones. About the song, Vincent explains “‘Lowland’ depicts the dark place we always go to when we are distressed. It’s the place where all our monsters live. In the song I feel I’m going back to that dark place, but this time you’ll accompany me to get out of here, just like Orpheus going to get Eurydice from death, except here the roles are reversed because Fanny is the one who is pulling me out from inside.”

The song features chugging riffs of exuberant layered guitars, propelled by hard-driving rhythms. Vincent and Burak’s guitar work is superb, and Forrest’s drums are spot-on, assertive yet restrained where needed. Fanny lays down a solid bass line while lending her soft backing vocals to the mix. Vincent’s beautiful, plaintive vocals convey a strong sense of vulnerability as he pleads for emotional support. Everything explodes in the bridge into a maelstrom of blistering riffs and thunderous percussion, Vincent’s raw, impassioned vocals rising to the occasion, and covering me with chills. It’s a fantastic, exhilarating track.

I got a one way ticket going back to Lowland
Keep me awake before I fall into the quicksand
Every plane I take
Every train I ride
Finally always lead me to that same old place

You take my hand
Sing a lullaby
Light the fireflies
Light the fireflies

I’m on my very own land I know every corner
I know exactly where is hiding the coroner
The tiger is here
Beside the lake of tears
I know exactly though the sun never rises

You take my hand
Sing a lullaby
Light the fireflies
Light the fireflies

Drifted eyes in fear
Scary palms shaking
All around

You take my hand
Sing a lullaby
And light the fireflies
Light the fire
You make me feel alive
Pull me out from inside
Your eyes are like a lighthouse
As you feed the moon I cry

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

AFTER HOUR ANIMALS – Single Review: “Role Play”

After Hour Animals Role Play

After Hour Animals is a metalcore rock band from Miwaukee, Wisconsin, and they’ve just released their new single “Role Play“, featuring guest vocals by Bri Jackson of the band Dreamhouse. After Hour Animals originally formed in 2014, and released a single “Myself in My Head”, but split up two years later. To the delight of their fans, they recently got back together, and now consist of five full time members Nik Djurdjulov (vocals), Armon Salamati (vocals), Brandon Dent (bass), Jasen Johnson (guitar) and Jamie Peña (drums). Bao Vo, who’s also guitarist for Milwaukee metalcore band Under Aegis (who I’ve featured several times on this blog), is a sixth member for live shows.

“Role Play” storms through the gates with hard-driving riffs of gnarly guitars, accompanied by a deep, chugging bass line and a torrent of aggressive drums. Nik’s clean vocals enter first, conveying a heartfelt sense of pain and vulnerability as he sings:”I have reasons to run, take me away. Cause I’m in need of a place to escape.” Then Armon chimes in with fierce metalcore growls in a further expression of anguish: “So let me hike all day and find my place to escape. Cause I have my reasons to run away!” Their contrasting vocal styles play off one another to great effect. As the song progresses, Jasen delivers an awesome wailing guitar solo in the bridge, quickly followed by Bri’s impassioned soaring vocals, which add another layer of texture and excitement to the already dramatic vocal mix.

The extensive and compelling lyrics were written by Nik, and speak to finding an escape from troubles that haunt the mind and spirit in the arms of a lover, even if only for one night. Each of them play a role to provide and find solace in each other, though fleeting. Here’s a snippet of lyrics that drive home the song’s meaning:

In my life I’ve seen
Things that chill me straight down to the bone
Felt love I thought nobody else could know
I wore my heart out on my sleeve only to find out it was just a dream
To believe I could trust in someone else
(I have my reasons to run)
So just for tonight
(Take me away)
Hold me tight
(Cause I’m in need of a place to escape)
But just for tonight
So can you take me away

Wrap your arms around me
Pretend that you love me
Role play that I am something more tonight

The beautifully-filmed video nicely showcases the band’s high energy and strong charisma.

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DIARY OF AN OUTLAW – Single Review: “BIGTIME”

Diary of an Outlaw

Diary of an Outlaw (DOA) is the music project of singer-songwriter, producer and director Angel Synn. He’s a kind and gracious guy too! Originally from Michigan, where he grew up both on a farm and in Detroit, Angel now calls Hollywood, California home. He was once frontman for the rock band Down In Hollywood, but took a long hiatus from music to care for his wife who eventually passed away from cancer. This past summer, he decided to get fully back in the game as Diary of an Outlaw, and started recording new songs. On December 4th, he released “BIGTIME“, a hard-driving banger of a tune that speaks to his passion for music and dreams of making it big. And after all the tough challenges and heartache he’s gone through, he’s now fearless in his quest, and nothing’s gonna deter him from doing everything possible to achieve his goal.

DOA gets right down to business, blasting through the airwaves with an explosive barrage of raging riffs and pummeling drumbeats. He’s a fine guitarist, shredding his guitar like a man hell-bent on destruction through much of the track, but then he lays down a tasty little solo in the bridge, accompanied by some scratching to create a nice, contrasting interlude before the onslaught returns in the final chorus. His raw, commanding vocals remind me a bit of Scott Stapp as he fervently sings “Can’t you feel the music rising like a cannonball straight from your veins? / See the party, feel the people giving energy. Kickin’ ass while I’m taking no names! I am headed for the bigtime!” Keep playing guitar like you do, and it’s guaranteed DOA!

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DARKSOFT – Single Review: “Cybersecurity”

Darksoft Cybersecurity

Darksoft is the music project of Bill Darksoft, an imaginative and talented singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist from Seattle, Washington who I’ve featured twice on this blog in 2019. Inspired the by the high-tech industry of his hometown, he writes songs that address timely and relevant social and cultural issues related to technology. He also operates his own label and website Look Up Records (for which he also writes some pretty awesome reviews), and in addition to his music project, has played with many Seattle acts over the years.

Last February, I reviewed his brilliant debut album Brain, a concept work named for the very first computer virus to attack the internet back in 1986, with each track titled after infamous viruses that followed. Then in July, I reviewed his single “WannaCry”, which addressed the deep cultural and political divide in America, fed by our tendency to stay stuck in our own echo chambers. The enthralling song spent more than three months on my Weekly Top 30. Today. I’m happy to premiere his haunting new single “Cybersecurity“, where he touches on another thorny technological issue.

Like his previous tracks, “Cybersecurity” was written, performed and produced by Darksoft, and mixed and mastered by Mathieu Riede of L453RL4Dy Studios. Using a rich palette of cinematic synths as a foundation, Darksoft layers gauzy riffs of chiming and jangly guitars, along with a perfect balance of snappy percussion, to create a dramatic and sweeping backdrop for his captivating vocals. As I’ve stated in previous reviews, I really like his velvety, almost breathy vocal style, which adds a dreamy, ethereal quality to his sound. He also excels at writing beautiful, compelling melodies, and though I would not label this one as being “catchy”, it nevertheless stayed with me long after hearing it. It’s another winning song.

The lyrics cast doubt on the assumption – or is it really a myth? – that all our data floating around out there in cyberspace is somehow being kept safe. What’s more, it can even be used to control and manipulate us in harmful ways that we hadn’t imagined.

The past is dying
In saturation
Confusion breeds control
Two points for the man
One humanity
We’re digits in a dream
Cybersecurity

Who can hide the past controls The Now
Information Age playing mind games

There’s something wrong
This picture’s off
What’s under your profile?
Did I do wrong?
Who can tell
When truth is gone
There is no cybersecurity

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Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / cdbaby

INWATER – Single Review: “Nobody Else Than Me”

Inwater Nobody Else Than Me

Although the vast majority of artists I’ve featured on this blog are from either the U.S. or the UK, I do from time to time write about artists and bands from other countries. Just a few days ago, I reviewed a band from Italy, and now turn my spotlight for the first time on lovely Portugal, to Lisbon rock band Inwater. Formed in 2014, the band is comprised of songwriter/producer Miguel Moreira (lead guitar, synths, programming &  backing vocals), songwriter/producer Rui Duarte (rhythm guitar, synths & lead vocals), João Barbosa (drums, percussion & programming), and André Pires (bass & backing vocals).

Although they identify their music as generally falling into the broad category of alternative rock, Inwater draws from a wide range of influences to create their own unique sound, and prefer to not be labeled any one particular genre. As they so eloquently put it, “[We] can be sweet as a little boat on the sea, or as frightful and dreadful as Godzilla emerging from the deep ocean. What best describes our sound is the fact that we recognize in ourselves the ability to reach out and discover what each song needs, and let them always show us the way. This approach gives us the chance to explore an infinite amount of possibilities driven by the song’s potential, and with patience and perseverance, it grows by itself and leads us to a different sight every time. We just have to come ashore and breathe the new air that is waiting for us.” An interesting aspect of their sound is that, listening to their songs, I’d never guess they were from Portugal.

Inwater has spent the past couple of years writing and recording songs for their forthcoming debut album Wet Dreams, and began releasing singles this past February, starting with the lovely and bittersweet “My Tragedy”.  In June, they followed up with a beautiful love song “Plain Heart”, featuring guest vocals by Caroletta The Girl From Chiado, and on November 15, they dropped their third single “Nobody Else Than Me“, which I’m reviewing today.

True to their desire to remain eclectic, the song starts off with an 80s new wave vibe that reminds me a bit of Depeche Mode. The hypnotic melody, deep bass and jangly guitars are fantastic. Then the chorus kicks in, and the song transitions to a faster, pop-rock tempo that’s equally satisfying. The guitar work and lively percussion are terrific, and the 30-second guitar solo in the bridge is particularly good. The track’s arrangement and production values are really outstanding as well. There were many hands involved in its production, including Nuno Oliveira and Pedro Isaac Ribeiro on bass, Ribeiro again on electric guitars, and João Tiago Fernandes on drums. The track was produced, mixed and mastered by Moreira and Duarte.

The lyrics, written by Duarte, speak to the protagonist’s inability to love anyone but himself, and his desire to remain free, enjoying only the physical pleasures from a sexual encounter. But they also reveal in inner turmoil, and the self-realization that he’s not necessarily a good person.

Don’t you understand?
Love means nothing to me
So, take it easy
Your love means nothing for me

My Freedom
Runs threatened by your love
My Freedom
Loves to walk alone

So please take a step back
I hate being followed

Can’t you see?
There’s nobody else than me
Nobody else
Nobody else than me

I’m not sweet
I’m not gentle and kind
I’m hungry
I’ve a battle inside

I need passion
I just wanna be surprised
I need passion
I just wanna take you higher 

Here are all three singles for those so inclined to take a closer listen to Inwater:

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A MILLION RICH DAUGHTERS – Album Review: “Hidden Parents”

A Million Rich Daughters

Today I’m happy to introduce my readers to a terrific band with an equally terrific name: a million rich daughters. Hailing from Chicago, they play an interesting and totally unique style of, in their own words – “garage/industrial/horror inspired alternative post-punk – music that transcends the typical boundaries of the observable universe.” That sounds about right. The band was founded by brothers Brett and Jake Grant, with Brett on vocals, guitars and synths, and Jake on drums. They were later joined by Matt Clepper, Rene Gutierrez and Taylor Ford, and just released their new EP Hidden Parents, which dropped November 15. After recording the album, Gutierrez and Ford left the band, and were replaced by bassist Josh Victor. Brett also has a solo project under the moniker brett.grant.5, and released his own EP disqui.etude this past June (which I reviewed).

The first track “Hitting Backspace” is a reworking of a song that was originally featured on disqui.etude. This time the mesmerizing track has been expanded by more than a minute, and gets a heavier full-band treatment. Starting off with moody, throbbing synths and shadowy bass chords, the music gradually builds into a spine-tingling crescendo of swirling jangly and psychedelic guitars, accompanied by harsh industrial synths and a deep, thumping percussive beat. Brett has a quirky, distinctive singing voice, and here he sings in a kind of plaintive monotone that grows more dramatic as the music intensifies. His vocals perfectly express the desperate feelings of being buried alive by the staggering weight of one’s problems:  “It wasn’t like I anticipated facing all this in the time since yesterday. Sands keep falling. Feels like I’m slipping away, and trapped hitting backspace./ It wasn’t like I could keep up pacing, keep up pacing through the sands of yesterday.”

The next track “Love Me After” is a feast for the ears, and possibly my favorite on the album. It begins with an enticing mix of plucked guitar strings, delicate snare and a delicious little bass riff that really does it for me. Then a thumping drumbeat ensues, punctuated by jarring jolts of what sound to me like intensely amplified guitar chords. As Brett’s vocals enter the proceedings, the music explodes with equal measures of heavier guitars, synths and percussion. Brett passionately laments of a relationship heavily damaged by a long history of hurt and verbal abuse, yet still holding out hope that perhaps it can be salvaged: “Just like you said, I’m as good as dead, yet you call my words slander. One day we’ll break these goddamn mistakes. Maybe you’ll love me after?” The wailing guitar solo after the final chorus is wonderful.

Melancholia” is a bit of a musical tour-de-force, as it takes us on a delightful four minute long sonic journey. The first part of the song features a frantic punk rock tempo, with rapid-fire riffs and pummeling drumbeats, all anchored by a killer bass line. At around 2:30, the song transitions to a languid, synth-driven melody, with crisp percussion and that lovely bass taking center stage. Eventually, the frantic punk vibe returns in the final chorus for a great, head-banging finish. The lyrics seem to be about not allowing yourself to be defeated by depression or the oppressive forces imposed upon us by others, and to instead speak up and fight for one’s rights: “If you feel like you’re captive in a boat with no captain, speak up! Well I can’t just forget it, and I’ll always regret it, come on. Melancholia’s passion is a pit of distraction, come on. Now we’ve lost all our assets and we can’t pay for access, speak up!

Truth Be Told” is another track from disqui.etude that’s given a fuller instrumental treatment here, with spooky synths, muscular thumping drumbeats and intricate layered guitars. The stabbing guitar chords add a dramatic touch to the mix to great effect. I think this remake nicely enhances the impact of the haunting lyrics that speak to feelings of misery and guilt over the death of a loved one. Brett’s heartfelt vocals are really moving as he sings “Truth be told, I never thought that you’d be dead. Truth be told, I just can’t get you out my head. Truth be told, I’ve been obsessing for so long, I’d give anything to write a different song. Truth be told, I should’ve been the one to go. Truth be told, this burden’s getting hard to hold.

A million rich daughters dial the energy back up with “Possibly a Problem“, delivering furious riffs of jangly guitars and hard-driving rhythms. My take on the song’s meaning is that it’s about how as more aspects of ourselves and our past are revealed in the early stages of a new relationship, we fear the other may lose interest in us, given our shortcomings. In this case, alcoholism appears to be the possible problem: “Lost so many to elixir, don’t you disappear. I just want to make sure, if I’m sick again, be my cure. Possibly a small problem, but I just want to be your man.

The title track “Hidden Parents” has a wonderful electro-psych rock groove, and I love the haunting lead melody. Once again, there’s a lot going on here musically speaking, with numerous tempo and melodic change-ups. At times the song has an 80s new wave vibe, only to later veer headlong into frenetic punk rock beats. Backed by dark, sweeping synths and aggressive rhythms, the intricate, multi-textured guitar work is fantastic. Brett’s distant, echoed vocals convey a vulnerable sense of desperation as he seems to be asking for forgiveness for the wrongs he’s done: “Oh things, have changed, the damage done. Oh look, at what, I have, become. Now I, am lame and most probably not sane. There is, no me, no in-between. There’s still, one thing, I want, to do. And what, I want is to get a little closer to you. Oh it’s always for you.”

I must admit that this was one of the most challenging reviews for me to write in my four years of doing this. Despite having only six tracks, there’s a whole lot to unpack in each song. Not being a musician, and having no music ability nor training of any kind, I sometimes have a difficult time articulating what I’m hearing. Hidden Parents is an experimental work, teeming with unconventional, ever-changing melodies, deep, often abstract lyrics, and loads of innovative, complex instrumentation that give it a compelling and fascinating sound. Indeed, Brett himself told me the album “is fucking weird; there’s a lot going on technique-wise in the music theory, as well as a lot of layers.” That’s for sure, and while it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I think it’s brilliant.

Connect with AMRD:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

DYING HABIT – Single Review: “Into Colour”

Dying Habit is an alternative rock band from northern Wales, whose electrifying, dynamic sound is influenced by such bands as Dead Letter Circus, Katatonia, Biffy Clyro, Therapy?, The Wildhearts and Karnivool. Hailing from Anglesey Island, they started off as a group of friends who bonded over a shared love of music and began jamming together around 2011. They finally became an official band in 2016 when they realized they had a special musical chemistry between them. Previously a four-piece, Dying Habit now consists of Nathan Jones (vocals), Alan Hart (guitar) and Mark Jones (drums).

In August 2018, they released their first official single “Unrealities”, a magnificent and powerful song that I featured on this blog, which you can read here. I liked it so much that it ended up on my Top 100 Songs of 2018. They followed up with a second single “Into Colour” this past July, which I’m now getting around to reviewing. It’s another hard-hitting banger, with a heavier, more modern rock vibe than “Unrealities”. It’s not quite as melodic, but still an impressive track, with a thunderous barrage of blistering riffs, pummeling bass and smashing drums. The guys play as a tight unit, their layered gnarly and distorted guitars nicely enhanced by powerful driving rhythms. Nathan isn’t the strongest vocalist, but he handles the more dramatic parts of the song quite well, and his wails at the end are spine-tingling.

About the song, the band states “It is when we are at our lowest point that we find an inner strength we never knew was possible.” The hopeful, poetic lyrics urge us to turn toward the light – ‘into colour’ – to find a reason and the strength to continue and fight for our survival in this difficult and challenging thing called life:

Float above the surface
Think about tomorrow
Digging up the past it’s becoming real
We are getting somewhere
No more living in shadows
You got to show your face just get it done
On the edge of a dotted line, about to end it all
Wandering why I’d leave it all behind

Sink below the bottom
There’s not much to uncover
Behind the walls we’re finding all the clues
I’m on the edge for a second time, about to end it all
Wandering why should I turn away
But I’m melting into you
Into colour we flow, Into colour we flow
Screaming the words at you, all because of you
Gripping onto the edge, about to end it all
Wandering why should I turn away

Connect with Dying Habit:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase on Bandcamp

ALL TAKEN – Single Review: “Monsters Anonymous”

All Taken is an alternative hard rock band based in Los Angeles. Formed in 2015 as a duo by long-time friends Daniel Daghlarian (guitar, lead vocals) and Avo Karapetyan (drums, backing vocals), they released their debut single “Burning Red” a year later. In March 2017 they followed up with their EP Accept This, which I reviewed, then later that year, David Eye joined the band as bassist. They released a fantastic head-banging single “Smells Like Mistakes,” in summer 2018, which I also reviewed, and on October 25th, just in time for Halloween, they dropped their latest single “Monsters Anoynymous“.

The hard-hitting song opens with fuzz-coated gnarly guitars, then explodes into a frantic barrage of hard-driving rhythms, anchored by a David’s deep, humming bass line and Avo’s muscular pounding drumbeats. Daniel lays down kickass scorching riffs that cover me with goosebumps while he fervently sings the colorful, horror-themed lyrics that speak to a loss of identity and self-worth – of feeling anonymous and invisible. It’s a great song, and I think All Taken continues to get better and better with each release.

Hey guys, I’m a zombie, been undead for weeks
My flesh is rotted and green
I crave brains and spleen
Just check out what happened last week

In the dark of the night , tryin to grab a bite
spot a meat bag looking so fine
I lunge at her and she screams
Oh my gawd are you from that zombie show?

I’m a spirit bound to this earth
Been struggling with my self worth
I used to love the scaring work
Now boos don’t get a second look

I’m not the monster I used to be
All these things tearing at me
What scares me is I don’t scare you now
What scares me is I don’t scare you anymore

Connect with All Taken:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes / Google Play