Artist Spotlight: THE MAYAN FACTOR

mayan factor collage names

As I’ve mentioned numerous times on this blog, one of the redeeming qualities of Twitter is the astounding number of musicians and bands I continue to discover, a great deal of whom are really talented. One such band I recently had the good fortune of learning about is The Mayan Factor, a five-piece alternative rock outfit based in Baltimore, Maryland. They’ve been around since 2002, and after listening to their music I was perplexed as to why I’d not previously heard of them, because they’re phenomenal.

Their first release, the 2003 EP In Lake’ Ch, is a veritable masterpiece, featuring the powerful and stunning tracks “Warflower” and “Beauty and the Beast”. They followed up two years later with an equally stellar album 44. Then tragedy struck a hammer blow in 2011 when the band’s lead singer Ray Schuler died suddenly, leaving a void that sent the band and their fans reeling. They’d been recording songs for a third album Yesterday’s Son, which they went ahead and released in 2012. I strongly urge my readers to check them all out, because they’re fucking fantastic, and you’ll literally be the poorer if you don’t!

Not quite sure what to do after Ray’s death, the band considered going their separate ways, but the love and dedication of their fans persuaded them to soldier on. They eventually found another musician to be the band’s lead vocalist in Lenny Cerzosie Jr. Besides Lenny, who also plays rhythm guitar, the band lineup consists of Brian Scott (guitar), Kevin Baker (bass), Dan Angermaier (drums), and Jason Sage (percussion, backing vocals). Dan told me that Lenny has worked out very well as the band’s lead singer, bringing his own style to the mix. “Ray was unique. Lenny doesn’t try to be him. I think that’s why he works so well. He makes Ray’s words work for him.

the mayan factor stage shot (2)

With their re-invigorated lineup, the band began writing new songs and in 2016, they released an epic single “Ascension“. Wow, this 7:13 minute-long song is a religious experience! Layer upon layer of gorgeous intricate guitars are combined with a strong bassline, exotic percussive synths and pounding drums to form an intense and lush soundscape, evoking the drama and color of an ancient Mayan ritual. Then there’s Lenny’s raw, passionate vocals, soaring to the heavens and adding to the chills already covering my body.

In January 2018, they released “Whispers“, a deeply moving song that was inspired by Lenny’s mother’s struggles of living with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or “Lou Gehrig’s disease”, which my mother-in-law also died from). Once again, the guitar work is stunning, and the bass, drums and synths are perfection, making for a formidable powerhouse track. Lenny’s fervent vocals at first remind me of Michael Stipe’s, but as the track progresses they grow more impassioned as he wails of the pain of watching a loved one gradually slip away: “I thought we had another day. Another day just passed away. Azaleas grow along the way. I thought we’d have another day. I’ll meet you in the other place. Heaven couldn’t stay away, Angels wouldn’t sing that day.”

Their most recent single “hOpe” was also inspired by Lenny’s mother’s battle with ALS. About the song’s title, the band explains “The definition of the word HOPE is ‘to cherish a desire with anticipation’, but the word truly takes on different meanings to each of us as individuals. However different the meaning of the word is to us, it all connects us together with the promise of change and the promise of light after darkness. Even though friends and family may not be with us, they remain as long as they are in our hearts. They speak to us but without words. We created this song as an anthem to those traveling through darkness of illness, grief and any type of difficult time.”

It’s a lovely, bittersweet song with beautiful jangly guitars, anchored by a sturdy humming bassline and pounding drums. Lenny’s passionate vocals have a raw vulnerability as he sings the poignant lyrics:

I remember the sound. 
Not the words but the sound of her voice 
trembling, trembling 
I remember the things she said to me 
All this life is lost into the night, too soon 

Tonight… 
I remember her eyes, so sweet so sweet 
Lovingly, so lovely 
Don’t let me fall, don’t let her fade

The beautiful animated video shows scenes of a young boy moving through a colorful dream-like landscape with what appears to be his grandmother and, in one scene, his grandfather.

They released a beautifully moving alternative video for “hOpe” that was shot in Mexico as a symbolic tribute to Lenny’s mother. It shows us the faces of #hOpe, of survivors who didn’t give up hope to keep living.

And so, dear readers, my hope is that you’ll give these songs a listen, and end up loving The Mayan Factor as much as I do. Not only do they make incredible music, but their resiliency and strong sense of humanity are admirable. They’re true survivors, and I hope they’ll continue making more great music for years to come.

Connect with The Mayan Factor on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / cdbaby

FRED HILLS – Single Review: “Ketu”

Fred Hills is a creative and talented freelance drummer and composer from Brighton, UK, and he’s just released a captivating new instrumental single “Ketu.” A graduate of the British Institute of Modern Music in Brighton, Fred combines his love of jazz, rock, prog, electronica, folk and world music with inspiration from his favorite artists, as well as his travels, to create compositions filled with colorful rhythms and melodic ‘open-handed’ beats. Fred has collaborated and performed in the UK and Europe with a number of musicians and groups, including The Slytones, Hot Moth, Time for T, Ellie Ford, Michael Baker and Mara Simpson.

Fred told me that “Ketu” was inspired by his travels around India in late 2017. In their premier of the song’s video, the online music webzine Arctic Drones notes that the song was also inspired by “his experience with Hindu astrology, which sparked an interest in how lunar and solar energy systems may affect someone both mentally and physically. Fred stated that “Ketu” represents karmic collections – both good and bad – tangible and supernatural influences.” He adds that “Ketu” is an instrumental song built on an expansive emotional spectrum, mixing ambivalence and enchantment, hope and discovery.” The track was co-produced by Fred and Alex Barron, who also played bass and did the mixing and mastering.

The song opens with mysterious synths and a delicate guitar riff, then Fred’s intricate drums enter as the synths and guitar expand with the introduction of Alex’s bluesy bass notes. Fred’s arresting drum work, which the track is built around, has a quiet intensity that’s incredibly dynamic, yet never overpowering. The sparkling synths are gorgeous, and his jazzy guitar riffs are fantastic. In the video, Fred appears to be almost in a trance-like state as he plays the drums, which is the same feeling I get while listening to this gorgeous and mesmerizing song. Watch, listen, and see for yourself:

To learn more about Fred, check out his Website

Connect with him on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Check out more of his music on Soundcloud
Purchase “Ketu” on Bandcamp

FUTURE THEORY – Single Review: “Peace of Mind”

Piece of Mind

I’ve featured quite a few artists and bands from the UK on this blog, and one of my favorites is the astonishingly talented Future Theory. The Lincolnshire-based foursome consists of Max Sander on rhythm guitar and vocals, Chris Moore on lead guitar, Rex Helley on bass, and Rohan Parrett on drums. Drawing inspiration from Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Soundgarden, Audioslave, Queens of the Stone Age, Coldplay and The Verve – and how can you possibly go wrong with inspiration from those legendary bands? – they’ve developed a lavish sound built on elements of alternative and progressive rock, shoegaze, psychedelia and funk. I’m not exaggerating when I use the word ‘astonishing’ to describe them, as their outstanding songwriting and musicianship has a complexity and depth that’s impressive for such a young band. And Max’s amazing vocal style possesses a nuanced emotional intensity that seems mature beyond his years.

Future Theory4

Future Theory released their spectacular debut EP Fool’s Dream in 2016 (which I reviewed), then followed in April of this year with a brilliant single “Fractured Nation,” which I also reviewed. Today they return with a new single “Peace of Mind,” and it’s another stellar track with complex melodies, intelligent lyrics and dazzling instrumentation.

The song kicks off with exuberant jangly guitars, crystalline synths and sharp percussion, all melding together to paint a rich tapestry of sound. Max’s sultry vocals have a raw, vulnerable quality that’s quite pleasing to my ears, though it’s sometimes difficult to understand some of the lyrics he’s singing. The instrumentals build to a turbulent mix of heavy bass, piercing guitars and crashing cymbals in the bridge, then break down to clear jangly riffs that seem to sparkle like glitter on the airwaves through to the end of the track. It’s a dark and beautiful song.

The lyrics speak to the struggle of maintaining a loving relationship by reassuring your significant other of your love and devotion in the face of her alcohol addiction: “Forget about your day and your worries now. Go back into the warmth and find your wants in supply. Cause I adore you and all the things you do for me.” But then he’s trying to hold on to his peace of mind while applying some tough love to convince her to quit drinking: “I gotta stay here. Piece of warmth. Peace of mind. Be so warm, be so quiet. Love factor aside, you need a kick in your behind. You try to make her realize the alcohol don’t fix inside.

Connect with Future Theory:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  Google Play /  YouTube
Purchase on:  iTunes /  Bandcamp

AGENCY PANIC – Single Review: “Panic”

Agency Panic 2

Agency Panic is an alternative/progressive metal rock band based in Wexford, Ireland, and in July they made an auspicious debut with the release of their powerful new single “Panic.” It’s the first song off what they are calling their ‘drip feed’ EP, which is being released one song at a time. Making the hard-hitting noise are J.D.K. on vocals, Tubs on guitars, Lee on bass, and Revsy on drums.

“Panic” is four minutes and 49 seconds of hard rock perfection. The track opens with a blast of crashing drums and fierce guitar, and never lets up. The guitar work is phenomenal – Tubs sets the airwaves afire with scorching riffs of shredded and wailing guitars that are pure bliss for those of us who love intense, guitar-driven melodic rock. Lee lays down a solid bedrock of heavy bass, while Revsy pounds his drum kit like a man possessed. J.D.K.’s strong, passionate vocals are chilling as he snarls the dark lyrics, becoming downright feral in the song’s finale when he screams the words alongside the raging guitars, sending shivers up and down my spine.

It’s an incredible song that leaves me wanting to hear more from this amazing group of musicians, and I cannot wait for their next single! The intense black and white video shows the band performing the song in a darkened room with ominous-looking shadows, alternating with scenes of a man stealing, then destroying, medical records and cutting off his fingerprints in what appears to be an attempt to hide his very existence. Later in the video are scenes of civil unrest and other disturbing images, juxtaposed with the band’s performance of the now almost violent music and vocals. Have a look and prepare to be blown away:

Connect with Agency Panic:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Panic” on  Spotify /  Apple Music
Purchase on  Bandcamp /  iTunes

CENTURY THIEF – EP Review: “Deaf Beneath the Waves”

Century Thief is a six-piece indie folk/rock band based in Toronto, Canada.  Drawing from influences like Broken Social Scene, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, Wilco, and Elliott Smith, they’ve developed a melodic, unconventional and captivating sound. Thanks to an impressive array of instrumentation, including brass, woodwinds, keys, guitars, bass and drums, as well as lush vocal harmonies, their music has a rich orchestral quality, yet is very accessible and down to earth. A sound engineer in Montreal once described their sound as “trash lounge folk prog rock” – a fitting description they liked so much they use it in their bio.

Century Thief

Century Thief is comprised of Michael Legere (guitar and vocals), Kathryn Kearns (keys, woodwinds and vocals), Omar Shabbar (guitar and vocals), Dante Matas (bass), Adam Reid (brass) and Colin McNally (drums). They released their debut EP Reverie in 2015, and this May dropped their stunning new EP Deaf Beneath the Waves. The band provided a bit of background about the EP to webzine Live in Limbo: “Deaf Beneath the Waves is about coming to terms with your place in the world. The songs interrogate past patterns of behavior, and struggle to light a path forward. The EP is a nostalgic inquiry into mortality, futility and the desire to find meaning and purpose in life and love. It was recorded at a farmhouse in Madoc, Ontario.”

The first track “406” is a hauntingly beautiful but melancholy song about acknowledging the hurt one has caused another in a relationship, and wanting forgiveness and a second chance: “How could I mess up this bad? Please forget these mistakes I have. And I can’t stop thinking about you.” The track starts off with an enchanting, almost magical intro, with delicate xylophone and strings, then acoustic guitar and keyboards are gradually added along with lovely harmonizing vocals. The instrumentals expand to include moody trumpet, fluttering flute and smooth percussion as the track builds to a climax. It’s a gorgeous song whose melody stayed with me long afterwards.

You Are Here” is a beautifully moving track with a bit of a jazzy vibe. Lovely keyboards and trumpets take a starring role, and Legere’s vocals are really wonderful as he sings about feeling unsure of how to continue in the relationship: “I’ve been pacing around the same ideas. Haven’t worked before, this time I’m not sure.” The backing vocal harmonies are sublime.

The band states that the third track “Science of Solace” is “about waking up submerged in a lake and deciding whether to return to the surface, to grow some gills and start a new life, or just sink into the next world.” It has more of a pop song feel, with Kathryn’s charming vocals dominating, backed with an extended horn riff, pleasing tempo and some discordant synth sounds.

All three tracks are marvelous, and over far too quickly. Century Thief is an amazingly talented group of musicians, and we need to hear more of their innovative music, hopefully soon!

Connect with Century Thief:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes

MOROSITY – Single Review: “Defend”

Morosity is an unusual band with a unique sound like no other I’m aware of. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Morosity is comprised of front man Jesse Albrecht (Lead Vocals/Guitar), Sean Bachinski (Bass), Jason Wolfe (Violin, Guitar, Mandolin), and Nick Johnson (Drums). They meld progressive rock with folk, psychedelia, Middle Eastern and tribal influences to create their exotic sound that’s captivating, haunting and stunning.

Morosity released their ambitious debut album Misanthrope in 2011 to wide acclaim, and followed in 2017 with the magnificent Low Tide, which I reviewed. They now return with a darkly beautiful new single “Defend,” which dropped on May 11. The track was recorded and mixed by Albrecht in his home studio Evensong Studios, and mastered by Jeremy Ramasir at Intangible Sound. It opens with a rather ominous-sounding guitar riff, then gentle percussion enters, accompanied by Albrecht’s deep, smoldering vocals that exude a sense of bitterness as he calls out someone’s duplicity and lies:

Invading on my faith again
Believe in nothing it’s a sin…a sin
Some things just aren’t meant to bend
The truth is yours not mine amen. Defend

The guitars intensify as hand claps, keyboards, crashing cymbals and heavier drums are added. Albrecht’s vocals become more animated as he decries their unwillingness to change their evil ways:

Offered up in a righteous plan
Extend a loving hand to mend…my friend
But if you can not understand
Leave me no choice but to stand and defend

I tried to be a matador
I can’t believe, you can’t ignore
This is war

All the instruments slow to a disquieting calm in the bridge, giving a sense that, despite the tranquility, all is not well. Albrecht’s gentle vocals are icy as he delivers his final words of condemnation:

Stabbing a snake tongue into your eyes
You’ll never see again, gone blind
Riding a pale horse into the night
You’ll never wake again, no more light

Put your sword back in its place
For all who shake must surely taste
The blood you drink it will be yours
The offered flesh will please the forest
Grow. Grow. Grow.

Connect with Morosity:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase:  BandcampMorosity Store / iTunes

FUTURE THEORY – Single Review: “Fractured Nation”

Fractured Nation

I seem to be revisiting a lot of artists and bands lately that I’ve previously featured on this blog, as many of them are releasing new music. One of them is the astonishingly talented UK band Future Theory.  The Lincolnshire-based foursome consists of Max Sander on rhythm guitar and vocals, Chris Moore on lead guitar, Rex Helley on bass, and Rohan Parrett on drums. Drawing inspiration from bands such as Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Audioslave, Queens of the Stone Age and The Verve, they’ve developed a lavish sound built on elements of alternative and progressive rock, shoegaze, psychedelia and funk. I’m not exaggerating when I use the word ‘astonishing’ to describe them, as their outstanding music has a complexity and depth that’s impressive for such a young band. And if that weren’t enough, Max’s amazing vocal style exhibits a nuanced emotional intensity that seems mature beyond his years.

future theory

Future Theory released their magnificent debut EP Fool’s Dream in 2016 (which I reviewed), and now follow up with a brilliant new single “Fractured Nation,” which dropped today, the 27th of April. The songs on the EP were all spectacular, setting a very high bar for the band, and “Fractured Nation” not only reaches but leaps over that bar.

The track is fantastic, with exuberant layers of chiming and distorted guitars, sparkling synths and Rohan’s wildly crashing cymbals. Max’s sultry impassioned vocals are captivating as he croons “There’s no syncopation in this fractured nation. It’s like druids spinning around. Zone in zone out. I feel the whole world slipping inside out. Is that what people dream about?” At about the halfway point, our eardrums are greeted by riffs of chiming guitars so stunning they bring chills. The music continues to build to a crescendo, before ultimately dissipating into an extended distorted guitar note lasting fifteen seconds to close out the track. It’s perfection from start to finish, and I’m elated that Future Theory has delivered such a marvelous song for our listening enjoyment. I’m excited to hear what musical delights they come up with next.

Catch Future Theory at one of these upcoming shows:

APR28
Sat 8:30 PM UTC+01 · 392 guests
Grantham, United Kingdom
MAY18
Fri 10:30 PM UTC+01 · by Future Theory
Lincoln, United Kingdom

Connect with Future Theory:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  Google Play /  YouTube
Purchase on:  iTunes /  Bandcamp

BUNDY – Album Review: “Bastard Performer”

Bundy Album

Imagine if you will that Talking Heads, U2, The Cure and Radiohead all came together to collaborate on an album (after setting aside any and all creative differences). That would be one incredible dream album, right? Well, there is one that sounds like it could have come from such a supergroup: Bastard Performer, by a creative and outrageously talented alternative rock band called Bundy. The album is magnificent – a kaleidoscopic soundscape of breathtaking melodies, complex musical structures and deeply meaningful lyrics that elicit strong emotional responses for the listener. It certainly does for me; each of the tracks are so compelling and beautifully executed they bring tears to my eyes and chills to my spine.

Based in Long Beach, California, Bundy consists of front man Nani Serna (Lead Vocals, Guitar), Johnny Lim (Guitar, Keys), Mike Meza (Drums) and JB Vasquez (Bass).  Serna and Lim had years of experience playing locally and abroad before they came together to form Bundy in 2016. “I like to say Johnny is the Greenwood to my Yorke” says Serna, in reference to Radiohead, one of the bands biggest influences. “I’m very much into the reverb drenched, dripping down the walls sound that The Walkman have – but I like to pair it with a Talking Heads feel.” Orange County publication OC WEEKLY named Bundy the Best New Band of 2017, saying: “Bundy temper their dark lyrical content with melodic breaks and pop-forward arrangements, letting audiences come up for air once in a while as they bob their heads to a dancy four-on-the-floor beat.”

The band released three EPs in quick succession during 2016 and 2017, and in late January dropped Bastard Performer, their first full-length album. Serna states the album “is an ode to the sinister feeling of expectations. Of feeling inadequate, unsatisfied, and alone. A lot of this album is about growing up in a broken home. Some of it is political. I thought a lot about my own struggles in life, writing these songs.”

Our first introduction to the album are sounds of sparkling synths, gentle guitar and fluttering horns, announcing the arrival of “Cold Dead Place.” As the instruments build, Serna begins to passionately sing about the pain from the loss of a loved one – “This is a cold dead place. Here lie the memories.” The track shifts to a balled-like tempo, and organ and percussion are added, along with a gorgeous little guitar riff that seems to convey the pain and sadness expressed in the lyrics. The song is mournful yet achingly beautiful.

The poignant second track “Holy Vultures” starts off calmly, but gradually-building riffs of jangly guitars and violently crashing cymbals create a fitting backdrop to Serna’s emotionally-wrought vocals. He wails about the agony of the personal hell he’s going through, causing thoughts of suicide but vowing not to let them overtake him: “I’m being ripped apart by these Holy Vultures. They’re circling the sky. Lighting my head on fire. I’m out of direction I swear. But I won’t let them take me.” The animated video is fantastic.

Bundy really channels Talking Heads on “Lavender and Chamomile,” and by now I’m completely smitten with this brilliant album. The guitar work is so fucking good, with intricate change-ups and melodic shifts that grab hold and shake you out of whatever complacency you may still be harboring. I love the powerful little flourishes of frantic jangly guitar and Meza’s hammering drums which seem to be a hallmark of their signature sound. I also love Serna’s vocals and his craziness that shines through in the endearing, off-the-wall video.

The mesmerizing title track “Bastard Performer” is a deeply personal one for Serna. Addressing his insecurities and self-doubt about his music career, he questions: “What is the point of this? Am I playing to a room full of people who don’t care at all? Does anyone care about me, or am I just stuck in this anxiety?” The poignant lyrics speak to the internal struggle of wanting success and acclaim so badly, but fearing your hopes and dreams are unrealistic and will lead to nothing: “Maybe there’s nothing better than to be in lights. It’s probably too much though, to have hopes so high. Bastard. Performer bastard.” The back and forth wavering of the music and tempo from gentle to intense creates a sense of anxiety that, combined with Serna’s impassioned vocals, makes for a song with great emotional impact. The brilliant and touching video shows an aspiring ballerina as a young girl and a teenager, struggling with her insecurities.

As the album progresses, I continue to be blown away by the band’s incredible musicianship. Remember when I mentioned getting teary-eyed and spine-tingled? Well, “Manic” summons both in spades. God, this song is stunning, with some of the most amazing guitar work I’ve heard in a long while. Like many of their songs, it starts off slowly, with beautiful chiming guitars, horns and a gently tapping drumbeat. A little more than halfway through it explodes into a torrent of shredded & jangly guitars, exuberant horns, buzzing bass and thunderous drums. The tempo shift seems to symbolize the pensive low and manic high of bipolar disorder. Serna wails “I’m up and down, ’cause I’m manic.”

The hard-hitting “Who Let Me In” and “Fill the Well” both have ominous vibes, thanks to a barrage of gritty, distorted guitars, massive bass and lots of crashing cymbals. On the first track, Serna desperately wails: “There’s a monster in a wedding dress. Asking me what am I doing here. And I can’t hear a single thing you’ve said. / I may have made a mistake coming here. But you’re the one who let me in.” “Fill the Well” is an attack on capitalism, and how it feeds our never-ending hunger for material things. “Consume it repeat it. Fill the Well. Wouldn’t you like to try to feel a little better?

One of my favorite tracks is “Kerosene,” a beautiful track with melodic jangly guitar work that reminds me of The Cure. I could listen to this gem all day! Radiohead’s influence really shows on the funereal beauty “What Blood.” Oh man, here come those chills again! Serna’s heartrending vocals express utter despair as he laments: “Will I feel pain like this when I lay dying? The blood on my hands is mine to keep.”

The album closes with the powerful anthemic “They’ve Left Us,” a scathing attack on the wreckage perpetrated against society by our cruel, greedy and soulless leaders, especially in these tumultuous times.

Well the masters pretended there were lions in the den
Rounded up all innocents into a grateful pen
Set fires to cities filled with children
Told us the answers all laid with them
This is how we lost our faith

The changes came quickly and not without a word
A nation ignorant left so many unheard
But soon came the violence the sullen and the poor
Led by the riches delusions of grandeur
This is how we lost our faith
They left us to face our fates

The music suddenly stops, then resumes with gentle guitars as Serna sings with sadness of people’s acceptance of this poor leadership and their worship of capitalism, believing that having more and more stuff will make their lives better, yet blind to the simple things that are really meaningful:

Some people clock in and clock out, wondering what comes next
They spend all their money on meaningless objects
They go to church crying that there left with nothing
If they open their eyes they’d see the world is stunning

And so is this song, with exuberant horns that seem to soar to the heavens, jangly guitars, glittering synths and thunderous percussion. It’s a fitting conclusion to an album that is quite simply a masterpiece. Everything about Bastard Performer is perfect, and I can’t imagine what Bundy could have done differently on this flawlessly executed work.

You can see Bundy at one of these upcoming shows in their home town of Long Beach:

Bundy upcoming shows

Connect with Bundy:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase: BandcampiTunes

POCKET HEALER – Single Review: “Storm Weaver”

Pocket Healer

Pocket Healer is a progressive rock duo from Long Island, New York, featuring Ryan Patterson on bass and James Ferrara on drums. Both are also members of Long Island-based bands Ü Blue and Staleworth (who I reviewed on this blog in November 2016), and they decided to join forces to create music that’s a bit more technical and chaotic under the name Pocket Healer. They cite as influences such bands as Animals As Leaders, Royal Blood, Death From Above 1979, The Dillinger Escape Plan and Evan Brewer, among others. The guys have just released their debut single “Storm Weaver.”

The instrumental track is brief, but there’s a lot of powerful energy packed into those two and a half minutes. It begins with sounds of mysterious distant synths and Patterson’s plucky bass notes that sound like guitar. Suddenly, his bass explodes into furious riffs, backed by an onslaught of Ferrara’s pounding drums and wildly crashing cymbals. Halfway through, the music calms down to an almost jazzy vibe, with a return of those mysterious spacey synths, and Patterson’s intricate bass work is captivating. Then it all ramps back up with a cacophony of aggressive bass and drums that make for an exhilarating climactic finish. It’s fantastic, and an auspicious debut for these two talented musicians.

Connect with Pocket Healer:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Storm Weaver” on Spotify and purchase on Bandcamp

BRAD SCHECTER – Album Review: “Live Your Dreams”

Brad Schecter is a creative and talented singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in Los Angeles. With a life-long passion for music and performance, he began studying classical piano at age 6, started writing songs at 15, and went on to earn a B.A. in Theatre.  In addition to being a rock tenor, he’s played piano and drums for over 25 years, both as a solo artist and with a number of bands, including Scarred and Blue Embrace, and more recently, a new project Face of Stone with guitarist Marc Palmer.

Brad Schecter

In October 2015, Brad released his debut album Live Your Dreams, a collection of songs that chronicle his life beginning with the death of his father when he was 16, his ongoing struggle with anxiety and depression and, most of all, never giving up. Drawing inspiration from some of his favorite artists and bands like Sixx:A.M., Pink Floyd, Muse, Iron Maiden and RUSH, he fuses powerful, heartfelt lyrics with hard rock and metal to create a sound that can best be described as progressive hard rock with a significant piano presence. Based on influences from those legendary bands known for their magnificent musical output, Brad’s music is as impressive and compelling as I’d imagined it would be.

For the album, Brad wrote all the music and lyrics, including the guitar solos, and played piano, drums, keyboards/synths, and auxiliary percussion, and sang all vocals. Other musicians providing backup instrumentals included Greg Karas on guitars, Drew Allsbrook on bass, and Daniel Balistocky on additional rhythm guitar and bass.

The album opens with the hauntingly beautiful piano instrumental “Bbc,” which really showcases Brad’s skills as a pianist. The track abruptly segues into the high-energy rocker “Blind Eye,” a powerful song about refusing to let someone continue to hurt you. Rapid-fire riffs and hammering drums propel the song forward, while Brad emotionally sings “Why can’t you see what you’ve done to me? I don’t want to live this way again.” An assertive piano later enters the scene as Brad defiantly sings “No more blind eye. I can see now.

A standout track is “Another Day,” a hard rock anthem with terrific instrumentals, including some stellar guitar work and piano. The hopeful lyrics speak to not letting life’s problems defeat you:

Maybe it’s not too late, in my hands is my own fate
So much left to do, not too late to start anew
I know I still have time, but it could never be enough
Explain to me the reason why, explain to me the reason why
The moon still rises, the sun still sets
Will my spirit carry on yet?
What if time stood still so we could live on
And I would not have to wait
So please let me see another day

Spring” opens with sounds of children playing outdoors, then suddenly interrupted by a thundershower. A lovely piano movement takes over, and Brad sings bittersweet lyrics that hearken back to his childhood and his father’s death. The music ramps up with added electric guitars, heavier bass and more aggressive piano as he fervently pleads “Father don’t speak, this is easier. Father don’t cry, I will be fine.” The music slows back down, only to ramp back up at the outro. It’s an epic song.

Brad delivers another amazing track with “So Long Sonata,” an emotion-charged song about telling someone that your relationship is irreparably broken. The track features beautiful, dramatic piano, great guitars and percussion. The sublime piano instrumental composition “Reminiscence” follows, providing a nice interlude and transition to the monumental track “Just in Case.” The grandiose orchestration, featuring an arresting interplay between piano and guitar, result in a gorgeous rock song of immense power, befitting of the subject of mental illness.

Next up is “True Selfie” an exuberant rock anthem about staying true to yourself, not being who you think you should be. Closing out the album is the title track “Live Your Dreams.” As always, the song is chock-full of Brad’s beautiful piano playing, accompanied by awesome guitar work and commanding percussion. The inspiring lyrics speak for themselves:

I know it’s easier to fantasize than to really do the task
Spend too much time pondering what if
Not enough time seeing what could be
No point in trying to relive the past
You must move forward never back
Now there’s an obstacle before you
Only one who stands in your way is you

Live Your Dreams is a solid testament to Brad’s expansive songwriting and musicianship, and I’m glad he reached out to me with his wonderful album. I realize the music industry is a tough, highly-competitive business, and that success can seem elusive for many musicians. I sincerely hope he continues writing and recording music, whether it be as a solo artist or in collaboration with other artists as he is now doing with Marc Palmer.

Connect with Brad:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Reverbnation / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes/Apple Music / Amazon