Second Player Score is one of those rock bands whose music gets better with each listen. When I first played their album Nobody’s Hero I thought “This is pretty good, with some terrific riffs and bass lines.” But as I listened for a second, third and fourth time, I discovered more surprises like nuanced chord change-ups, riffs that aren’t just terrific, but freaking amazing, and percussion that’s perfectly in sync with the melodies, bass and guitars. Throw in the compelling lyrics and you get an idea of how good Second Player Score’s music is.
Based in Vancouver, Washington, a medium-sized city across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon, Second Player Score consists of Brian Tashima (guitar, lead vocals), Daniel Downs (bass, backing vocals) and Kyle Gilbert (drums/backing vocals). They play hard-driving, melodic rock/pop/punk influenced by 90s Green Day and Bad Religion, two of their favorite bands. They released a fine debut album Fortress Storm Attack in late 2014, and followed up with a sophomore effort Nobody’s Hero late last year.
Nobody’s Hero, as described on the band’s website, “is a quasi-concept album in the spirit of Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son or Green Day’s American Idiot.” The album is quite an ambitious effort, and plays out like a rock opera. Specifically, Nobody’s Hero tells the Dungeons & Dragons-esque story of a man who’s granted magical powers by an evil spirit, and ends up abusing those powers until he realizes the error of his ways.
Tashima explains “Basically, this guy gets seduced by a female demon who gives him these special abilities, and initially, he tries to help people with them, but then he eventually succumbs to the temptation of using them for selfish and corrupt purposes. Having done that, he becomes worthy of being her consort and siring her child – a daughter who will grow up to continue the cycle. The demon then betrays and abandons him, leaving him for dead. He survives, though, and uses what’s left of his powers to stop her in the only way possible, which is to cause an apocalypse that wipes everyone out, including them. It’s like a Greek tragedy.”
“Bonestorm“kicks the album off to a rousing start with Tashima’s scorching, rapid-fire riffs, as he emphatically sings: “I know you dream about me. Can’t stop, you never doubt me. Your heart the price of freedom. Your soul will keep on breathing. / I’m nobody’s hero, some day you will see.” Gilbert pounds his drums with abandon, and the screaming distorted guitars at end are awesome.
Shredded guitars and Downs’ thumping bass usher in the hard-driving “Deep.” Though hesitant to connect with the woman to avoid being hurt again, the man’s willpower is beginning to weaken: “I’m still afraid to get deep into someone. I can’t take the pain so I make myself numb.” In “Circles” he sings: “Running circles round my mind. It’s like I’m dreaming all the time. Nothing ever feels the same. And I know that you’re to blame.” The bass-heavy melody abruptly changes to a rapid flourish at song’s end, furious riffs and pummeling drums signaling a dramatic shift in the story.
By “Demon’s Kiss,” he’s fallen under her spell, believing she’s his salvation: “I’ve always hoped I would know the glory of your warm embrace. I couldn’t cope til you came to me and saved me from the chase. And now I’m sure that I’ll worship you until my dying day.” Cause you’re the cure for the ills that led me far astray.” The band’s signature riffs, hard-driving bass and hammering percussion are on full display here.
One of my favorite tracks from a musical standpoint is “Hooked,” a high-energy rock-n-roll gem from start to finish, and the title’s self-evident. Tashima coaxes blistering riffs from his guitar and you can literally feel the buzz of Downs’ bass in your core. Next up is “Interlude Fall From Grace,” a three-and-a-half minute long instrumental that provides a dramatic bridge from the man’s seduction to his turn toward the dark side.
The man realizes the full extent of his capabilities in “Origin Story.” He’s now invincible to threats from outside forces, but also drunk with power. Tashima wails “No one can hurt me now, as long as I have you inside my mind. It’s like I’ve died and been reborn. This permanent intoxication gives me the courage now to look for something more.”
On “Head of Sin” he confesses that he’s used his powers for evil and now deserves to be cursed to hell: “It’s all a mess, I’ve crossed the line. I only want what’s rightly mine. And I don’t care much anymore. So shut up now, don’t say a word. Before your cries become absurd. You know I’ve heard it all before. Cause now the only way to go is down. To hell that’s where I will be found.” The instrumentals on this track are as intense as the lyrics, and the guitars and bass in the outro are killer, perfectly conveying the chaos his life has now become.
Another standout track is the tumultuous “Drink the Poison,” which has a definite Green Day vibe. The man realizes the woman is not what he thought she was, that she’s duplicitous: “So cry your phony tears, you’re so insincere that I forgive you. I’ll die before I let you make more regrets.” I love the frenetic hammering drums that accompany the line ‘Your lies go on and on and on and on and on.” On “Never Let Me Down” he confronts the demon that he knows she’s betrayed him and now she will pay. Tashima snarls “You broke all your promises, left me to drown like this.”
The album closes with “Comets,” an epic seven-and-a-half minute tour-de-force that proves without a doubt that these guys are masters of their respective instruments. Tashima’s guitar skills are positively mind-blowing, offering up a dizzying array of layered riffs and extended solos. One minute he’s ripping his guitar to shreds, the next he’s playing a jangly melodic solo, and everything in between. Downs lays down bass lines so heavy they threaten to blow out the speakers, and Gilbert pounds his drum kit with all he’s got. It’s my absolute favorite track on the album. They once again channel Green Day; at various times within the track I hear the influence of songs like “Basket Case” and “Novocaine,” which is fine by me as I love Green Day. The song lyrics describe a variety of apocalyptic disasters the man is capable of unleashing on the world, including comets, earthquakes, hurricanes and nuclear war. It’s a dramatic end to a superb, monumental album.