DRAFT EVADER – Single Review: “The Devil’s Disguise”

One of my objectives in writing this blog is giving exposure to indie artists and bands, many of whom are struggling to get their music heard by a wider audience. Today I feature the young singer/songwriter Ryan Loree, who goes by the artistic name Draft Evader. Following up on his debut single “Blue Lies,” which he released in June 2017, he dropped a new single “The Devil’s Disguise” in October.

Draft Evader

Based in Chicago, Draft Evader plays straight-up rock’n’roll with a hint of punk. When I asked him about his moniker, he explained the he was not happy about our current President (neither am I) and “the name ‘Draft Evader’ was kind of like a middle finger to the whole system, kind of like ‘you can’t tell me what to do.’ So in a sense it means freedom. Freedom to be who you are and do what you love, no matter what anyone says.

He writes his songs and records them with his good friend Joe Scaletta. He explained their process in developing songs: “I write all the songs by myself at home, so I’ll come into the studio with lyrics and rhythm guitars done and from that we’ll lay down the base of the song. Then we start working on the drums together (there’s a shortage of drummers around here so unfortunately we write them together using the computer). Next we’ll take care of the bass, and Joe happens to be a bassist so I let him take the reigns on that unless I know exactly what I want the bass to do. After that we’ll add some guitar leads or maybe I’ll improvise a solo in the bridge of the song. Then I’ll jump in the vocal booth and try to sing/scream to the best of my ability. Very simple stuff until I get a full band going.

“The Devil’s Disguise” is a hard-hitting rock song with biting lyrics about suffering from personal turmoil and demons that have caused him to commit violence, and wanting an escape from the environment he inhabits, hoping it might help him change:

I’m turning my back on sweet home Chicago
Packed up too fast and blew out my ankle
I’m letting go of all the get to know
I’m stuck in place staring out the window
There’s blood on the streets of downtown Chicago
There’s death in the air and holes in the windows
There’s ghosts in my head digging a deep hole
There’s demons inside slowing my blood blow

The devil’s disguise hiding in plain site
Seein’ through evil eyes
Live my life in disguise
Pushin’ through trying times
Shedding my disguise

Musically, the track is well-crafted, with some excellent riffs of shredded guitars, anchored by a solid buzzing bass line and crisp percussion. Draft Evader’s vocals are earnest, with a hint of melancholia that befits the dark lyrics. All in all, a fine effort from a young artist who I believe has a lot of promise. He writes thoughtful and compelling lyrics, has a good grasp on song structure and production, and plays a mean guitar.

Connect with Draft Evader:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

His songs may be streamed on Spotify and purchased on Bandcamp or itunes

KNIFEY – Album Review: “beached”

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I love musicians with a sense of humor, especially when they also make terrific music. Toronto, Canada-based foursome KNIFEY fills the bill quite nicely. Describing themselves on their Twitter page as ‘drinking and drunk at all the wrong places,’ they play high energy lo-fi surf rock with a healthy dose of punk. Bringing all this joyful noise to our eardrums are Max Trinz (vocals, guitar), Ammar Karam (drums), Kyle Marcovecchio (bass) and Phil Linton (guitar).

KNIFEY
Photos by Mike Mangov

At the end of September, the guys dropped their debut album beached, a collection of eight exuberant tracks that will have you leaping about with abandon while wistfully remembering that summer romance and days spent on the beach. In their press info, KNIFEY explains that beachedis a window into the seemingly endless juggling of relationships and responsibility that is big city living. The songs were meant to be straightforward and honest, and the work’s essence is fun and upbeat. Lyrically, the songs cope with the trials of growing up, the coming and going of relationships, and express a weariness with the city’s hedonistic bar culture. Pervading both the sound and lyrics is a nostalgia for summertime and for the beach, and a reckless optimism that that simpler life might be just around the corner.”

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It’s a short album, clocking in at a mere 21 minutes, but it packs a hell of a punch. Opening track “Beached Lightning” arrives with a burst of explosive percussion and a frenzy of gritty guitars. It’s a rousing head banger tailor made for a psycho beach party, and I loved it at first listen. The high energy level is sustained throughout the entire album, with no let up in the frantic riffs and galloping percussion. “Rio” serves up jangly surf guitars hovering over a bouncy bass line.

Next up is the hard-driving punk gem “Sophie,” the first single released in advance of the album. Max fervently sings to the imaginary Sophie, telling her he misses her and pleading for her to get back together with him:

I want to run to California, I need some energy in my life
I want to feel the beach beat, hear the drums pounding in the night
I’m never gonna make it there when you’re screaming in my ear
I’m falling to pieces baby, help me out here

The delightful video produced for the song features lots of pet reptiles at play, including lizards, iguanas, geckos, snakes and turtles, along with a few bewildered cats, dogs and burros.

Serf” is a play on words, describing both the roiling surf guitar riffs and the singer’s desire to serve his girl. Punk rock grooves are abundant on “Weekend” and “Tanlines,” both of which feature some amazing rapid-fire riffage. “Summer Girl” is a great track about a summer love affair. The song starts off boisterous, but ends at a languid pace as Max sings about how good he feels when he’s with his girl.

Long Lost Dreams” is the most poignant track on the album, with more of a rock vibe, thanks to an abundance of shredded and plucky guitars and heavier bass. The bittersweet lyrics speak to the sad realization that your dream relationship has ended:

You were fuckin’ living, I was out with the boys
Now I’m stumbling home to you with glazed-over eyes
Call me young and stupid, we all know it’s a lie
Are you done with your toy, are you done with your toy?
These are long lost dreams on a Saturday night
They’re all gone, they’re all gone…

The song symbolizes a return to the cold realities of life, and is a fitting close to the album’s theme.

Connect with KNIFEY:  Facebook / Twitter/ Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud
KNIFEY are offering beached as a free download on Bandcamp

RUSTY SHIPP release new video for their single “Treading Water”

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One of the great things about being a music blogger is getting to know other music bloggers, who frequently turn you on to new artists and bands that they write about. So, it was my lucky day this past June when I happened to read a post on my friend Zezrie’s blog Jealous Sounds about a Nashville rock band called Rusty Shipp and their monumental tour de force of an album Mortal Ghost. I was so impressed with them I became an instant fan and reblogged her review.  The band has just released a new single “Treading Water” from Mortal Ghost, along with a brilliant animated video.

Rusty Shipp calls itself a “Nautical Rock’n’Roll” band, with a sound influenced by the melodic chord progressions of The Beatles, the surf guitar of Dick Dale, the grunge rock of Nirvana, and the heavy metal of Led Zeppelin, among others. Their music is characterized by a dark, underwater sound, haunting vocals, and unconventional heavy riffs. The band has undergone several personnel changes since forming in 2014, and now consists of singer/songwriter and front man Russ T. Shipp (literally his birth name) on guitar and vocals, Elijah Apperson on lead guitar, Michael Craft on bass, and AJ Newton on drums. (Jake Adams was bassist on the recording of Mortal Ghost.)

Like many of the songs on Mortal Ghost, “Treading Water” is an exhilarating and powerful hard rock track. Rusty Shipp employs frantic riffs of gritty shredded guitars, fortified with heavy buzzing bass and hammering drums, to create a song that’s hard-hitting yet beautiful. The wonderful guitar change-ups that occur throughout the track demand, and hold, our attention, making for an impressive, melodically complex song. Shipp’s impassioned vocals are enthralling as he sings the nautically-themed lyrics that address feelings of hopelessness about life and one’s place in this world:

I’m alone in this world, drifting like a lost ship at sea
The more I live the less I feel at home
Treading water just to keep from drowning
All creation ’round me groans, till the sea and all that’s in it is undone
Something’s nipping at my toes. Treading water till the angels come
Give me that ancient feeling, the kind of love that David felt, shining through the jaws of holy war
I want to go behind the curtain, to where the golden cherubs dwell, find something worth us fighting for
Something in these endless waves feels dead, cold and lonely as the stars
It’s sad that some believe this liquid pendulum could put together someone’s heart
If I find in myself a desire nothing in this world can fill,
The only explanation left is I was made for another world

The imagery depicted in the fascinating and visually captivating video symbolizes the feelings of alienation and hopelessness caused by a cold and increasingly technological world.

Connect with Rusty Shipp: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / YouTube
Purchase: iTunes / cdbaby / Bandcamp

DRUIDS – EP Review: “Pink Aliens”

Pink Aliens

Druids are an indie psychedelic punk rock band from New Orleans, and I’m completely smitten with their music! I can’t remember the last time I’ve had as much fun listening to a band as I do with their terrific debut EP Pink Aliens. Released back in February, it’s an adrenaline rush from start to finish, and I was hooked the moment I heard it.

All longtime friends with roots in the Crescent City, Druids consists of Brandon on guitar and lead vocals, Eric on bass, and Jeff on drums. Their hyper-kinetic lo-fi sound is built on elements of punk, psychedelic, surf, garage and doom rock, and influenced by some of their favorite bands like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Thee Oh Sees, Wand, Black Sabbath, Ty Segall, The Doors and Black Flag. These guys are beyond high-energy, and with their charisma and sense of humor – just look at those silver pants! – I’m sure they’re a blast on stage.

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Cult of the Pink Aliens” kicks things off with buzzing guitars, crashing cymbals and hazy echoed vocals. At the two-minute mark it abruptly erupts into a driving punk beat with surf-rock guitar riffs that occasionally venture into distortion, aided and abetted by pounding drums and an onslaught of crashing cymbals. But hold on ’cause things really ramp up a notch on “Black Magic,” a frantic head-bopping punk-soaked romp that’ll have you thrashing about the room with abandon. Brandon’s skillful guitar and Jeff’s pulse-pounding drums keep the energy flowing at full throttle, making this my favorite track on the EP.

Not skipping a beat, “Endless Maze” offers up over five minutes of punk rock goodness, with an infectious stop-start beat and killer guitar work. Brandon’s extended guitar riff will leave you breathless. A throwback to late 60’s psychedelia, but with a late 70’s punk vibe, “Lightning Bolt” will have you yearning for pink sunglasses and striped bell bottoms. Once again, the guys amaze with their awesome guitar work.

Ty Dye Rain” is a psychedelic beach party on steroids, with exhilarating stop-start guitar riffs and lively percussion. Two-thirds of the way through, the tempo slows a bit and we’re treated to more extended riffs of shredded and distorted guitars. Opening with a cacophony of distorted guitars and sharp cymbals, “The Hex” continues the slower bass-heavy tempo, but the guys seem to like surprising their listeners by changing things up to a frenetic punk beat halfway through, and it sure makes for an exciting listen.

The song’s about an evil temptress who casts her evil spell on men:

So I see you’ve learned some tricks
Dabbled dark arts, became the witch
I can see you’re planning something causing trouble whats comes next
I can see you contemplating planning evil, pass the hex

There are numerous bands out there playing psychedelic and retro punk rock, but Druids take it to another level, and deserve greater recognition. I hope they’ll keep making more music, because I can’t wait to hear it. Those in the Kansas City, Missouri area can catch them in concert on October 13 at the Riot Room, where they’ll be performing with The Crystal Method and other bands.

Connect with the Druids on Facebook and stream or purchase Pink Aliens on Bandcamp

Rusty Shipp “Mortal Ghost”

I discovered the band Rusty Shipp through fellow blogger Zezrie of Jealous Sounds and I love their music! Check out her review and Rusty Shipp’s awesome, hard-driving music.

Jealous Sounds

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On Oct. 24, I wrote up a piece about them crowd funding their latest album “Mortal Ghost”. Rusty Shipp did it! They succeeded, and now, “Mortal Ghost” is here for us to enjoy. It was worth the wait.

The first time Rusty Shipp graced Jealous Sounds was July of last year, when I reviewed their last EP “Hold Fast To Hope” . For the sake of brevity, I’m quoting myself here:
“First the facts: The guys came from all parts of the country to Nashville, found each other (Russ found Andrew on Craig’s list), and formed Rusty Shipp in 2014. The band consists of Russ T. Shipp (honestly his real name!) on lead guitar/ vocals, Andrew Royer on drums, and Dustin Herres on bass. The band has an eclectic range of influences, from 60’s-90’s rock, Hardcore Metal to surf rock. Their first EP, Hold Fast To Hope, was released in 2014…

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Single Review: LITTLE TRIGGERS – “Silly Cigarettes”

Liverpool-based indie rock band Little Triggers is on an upward trajectory of late. Following up on their exuberant punk romp “When the Lights Are Going Out,” they’ve recently dropped a terrific new single “Silly Cigarettes.”  The delightful but emotionally wrenching song further cements the quartet’s status as one of Liverpool’s most exciting bands.

Little Triggers is Thomas Hamilton-Hughes (lead guitar & vocals), Chris Carragher (bass), Sam Gallacher (drums) and James Crawford (keyboards, backing vocals).  Their music is a happy mix of garage rock, punk and new wave influences, giving it a retro, yet freshly current sound that’s candy for the eardrums.

Little Triggers

Photo by John Latham Photography

Silly Cigarettes” opens with a strummed guitar solo and Hamilton-Hughes’ melancholy vocals expressing the heartache of knowing his girlfriend is cheating on him: “Everybody knows, you’re wearing last night’s clothes, and that you’re probably acting up again. And I know where you’ve been, no you thought I hadn’t seen you’d been ’round again.” The intensity of the music rises as the song progresses, with lots of cymbal-heavy percussion, thumping keyboards and jangly guitars. Hamilton-Hughes’ vocals become more emotionally wrought as he sings the chorus: “Cause I’ve heard everyone is taking off your party dress, while I’m sad on the outside smoking silly cigarettes. Oh don’t you know?”   The guitar solo in the bridge is wonderful, and the powerful backing vocals in the chorus call to mind those of a classic ELO song.

Have a listen to this great tune:

Here’s a video of a great acoustic version of the song that’s less intense, but still emotionally poignant.

Connect with Little Triggers: Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  YouTube
Purchase:  iTunes

Artist Spotlight – COLD REVIVE

Cold Revive is on a roll. Over the past few months, the Fresno, California-based rock band released two songs and have been interviewed on two radio programs (one local and another in Chicago) to promote their music. Now they’re back in the studio working on new songs, which they’ll be releasing soon. I had the good fortune of discovering them when they followed me on Twitter, and quickly became a big fan – not only because of their great music, but also because I was impressed by the band members themselves. Despite their badass rocker image, they’re actually genuine, down-to-earth guys. If the kindness they’ve shown me is any indication, it’s clear they appreciate and support their fans, which is a significant part of being a successful band at the end of the day. One of their main goals is to connect even more with their fans – to touch their lives in a positive way with their music.

Cold Revive

Cold Revive consists of Brent Stevens (vocals), Jason Fischer (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Gentky Vang (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Chase Hagerman (drums, keyboards, backing vocals).  All are seasoned musicians who’ve been previously involved with other bands and music projects. Jason and Brent actually met on Craigslist when each was interested in connecting with other musicians who might be interested in forming a band. Inspired by bands they both loved such as Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Hinder, Three Days Grace, Buckcherry and Korn, they joined forces in early 2016 and formed Cold Revive. Subsequently, Gentky and Chase came on board to complete the band lineup.

Like many hard rock bands these days, Cold Revive’s hard rock sound draws from alt-rock, punk, metal and grunge influences. Brent is especially fond of Halloween, horror films and such, so his dark lyrics reflect that.

The band’s first single “Sik’ Hellish Us,” is a dark and brooding hard rock song about being trapped in a toxic relationship you’re unable to break free of. Sinister guitars and heavy bass set an ominous tone, then a slow, thunderous drumbeat adds tremendous power to the track, which rises in intensity as the song progresses. Brent’s gritty vocals are delivered with a menacing vulnerability as he snarls “I’ve made my bed in hell, now I need to lie in it, ’cause it serves me well. As you held me there, my heart’s not escaping.

Diary” is an even darker song about finding a significant other’s diary after their suicide, and discovering how much your actions hurt them. The lyrics are gut-wrenching: “What I read on that page, tore me down I saw my own mistakes. All the pain I caused you is insane…   Suicide drove our love to an end. Those words killed us, was I always to blame? I’m so sorry!” The song has a Buckcherry vibe in both music and tone. Brent’s raw, heartfelt vocals match the emotional intensity of the gnashing guitars and aggressive percussion, making for an emotionally-charged song.

Here’s a live acoustic performance of “Diary” that isn’t quite as intense or sorrowful.

Cold Revive will be releasing their two new singles “Twisted Fright” and “Cold Dark Coma” in the next month or so. In the meantime, connect with them on Facebook and  Twitter, and stream their music on Reverbnation.  Subscribe to their YouTube channel for their videos and band updates.

Their music is not yet available for purchase, but I will update this post when it is.

Album Review: TRAVERSE THE ABYSS – “The Gamble of Life”

If you like music that melts your face off, then Traverse the Abyss is the band for you! These guys from Scranton, Pennsylvania play metal so heavy, it’ll knock you on your ass. The first time I listened to their debut album The Gamble of Life I was blown away by the sustained, unrelenting fury of their instrumentals and vocals from beginning to end. The thing is, despite the crushing intensity of their music, it’s still accessible and highly melodic. As an added bonus, their lyrics are heavily peppered with “fuck” – my favorite word in the English language.

The band formed only a year ago, in early 2016, and spent much of the year writing and recording songs for their debut album, which was released in November. For the recording of the album, the band line-up included Eric Ross on lead vocals, “Iron” Mike White on lead guitar, Mike “Bnoc” Bieniecki on bass/backing vocals, and Phil Luongo on drums. Luongo left the band in January 2017 and they welcomed new drummer Nelson Negron and second guitarist Seth Cardona.

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The music style of Traverse the Abyss draws from classic heavy metal, thrash metal, death metal, groove metal, metalcore, hard rock, rock’n’roll and punk. In a conversation with band front man Eric via Twitter messaging, he stated “we are all fans of metal and all the different sub genres within it. We like to blend all our influences together to get a more unique sound compared to the monotony of most modern music. Instead of going towards an album with intentions of writing to appeal to only one crowd like some deathcore & death metal bands do, we write more based on the vibe presented.

Regarding the gambling/card theme of the album and song titles, Eric explained “The gambling theme came into play when we first started writing songs. The first two songs we wrote were ‘Royal Flush’ and ‘One of a Kind,’ and our guitarist said ‘what are we going with, a gambling theme?’ Gambling themed titles with a life reference in the song: ‘One of a Kind’ – be yourself; ‘Snake Eyes’ – death/bullets/hatred;  ‘Joker’ – being used/revenge.

The album storms out of the gate with the first track “One of a Kind.” No song lead-in here, but rather an instantaneous onslaught of pummeling bass, machine-gun riffs, hammering drums and Eric’s furious vocals. He screams “Am I the only one who follows his own path? Am I the only one that doesn’t live by a fad?” Halfway through, the song tempo changes a bit, guitars and heavy bass ablaze as Eric shrieks  “I would like to know, who the fuck you think you are? You act like you’re some sort of god.

Not skipping a beat, the second track “All In” explodes with a full-on assault of blistering guitars, powerful bass and fierce vocals. The song is a thrash metal/rock’n’roll gem, even containing a ‘sex, drugs, rock’n’roll‘ lyric. There’s no let up as the album segues to the brutally hard-hitting “Royal Flush.” Unbelievably, the ferocity of Eric’s hardcore, growling vocals reach new heights, and remain there in the intensely dark “21 or Bust.” He screams “Who do I ask these questions? Who’s got a fucking answer? I just want to know what’s the meaning of life.” Shredded guitars and more savage vocals are the highlights of the menacing “Snake Eyes.” By this point, I’m wondering if Eric has any vocal cords left!

I like every song on the album, but a favorite is the frenetic, punk-infused “Aces High.” Awesome, rapid-fire guitar riffs, buzzing bass and staccato drums keep the energy at full speed. Eric’s vocals alternate between clear and hardcore, and I love when he sings “woo” at 2:44, providing a bit of levity in an otherwise intense song. Speaking of which, the intensity dial is turned all the way to ‘High’ on “Diamonds.” The machine-gun-fire bass and hardcore vocals are positively brutal, yet we’re treated to some melodic guitar solos too. Eric growls “Fuck your Disrespect. Its funny now I see the people who support me. Just look over my shoulder and you’ll see the people who matter to me.”

Joker” is the perfect kiss-off – or should I say ‘fuck-off’ song – with furious instrumentals and vocals to match the searing lyrics: “Reap what you sow, don’t go crying to me./ To be honest, I think you should go fuck yourself!” The fury continues unabated in “Bullets“, with staccato riffs and hammering drums that literally sound like machine gun fire. The album closes with the superb title track “Gamble of Life.” The nearly six and a half minute song begins with a haunting distorted guitar solo accompanied by mysterious vocals, then abruptly changes to a rapid heavy metal beat. Bnoc’s staccato bass is at full throttle, with pummeling drums and shredded guitars keeping pace. Eric’s screaming hardcore vocals intensify in the last two minutes, and by song’s end I’m completely spent.

The Gamble of Life is an impressive debut album from this highly talented group of musicians. I’m confident we’ll be hearing more great music from them in the future. Support Traverse the Abyss by following them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Subscribe to their YouTube channel and stream their music on Spotify. Gamble of Life may be purchased on iTunes and other music sites offering music for download.

Featured Song and Video: CALLING ALL ASTRONAUTS – “Life As We Know It”

UK band Calling All Astronauts are a London-based three-piece who play complex and dark politically-charged Electronic Goth Post-Punk music.  They’ve established a reputation in the alternative underground not only because of their often provocative lyrics, but also their ability to mix electro, rock, goth, post-punk and dubstep into their amazing music style. Band members include vocalist/songwriter/programmer and producer David B, guitarist JJ Browning, and bassist Paul “Buzz Saw” McCrudden

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In a divergence from their usual darker sound comes their latest single “Life As We Know It.” Taken from their superb highly topical album Anti-Social Network, it’s a really outstanding EDM track featuring gorgeous synths and chiming guitars set to an addictive driving beat. David’s rough monotone vocals contrast with the smooth clear instrumentals, creating a bit of tension that adds to the overall quality of the track. I liked it so much upon my first listen that I had to feature it on this blog.

The terrific video produced for the track features a beautiful young woman dancing to the song in various indoor and outdoor settings, as well as a few other women shown dancing in brief scenes. I promise you’ll end up hitting replay.

To learn more about Calling All Astronauts, check out their website, follow them on  Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to their YouTube channel. Stream their music on Spotify and purchase on iTunesAmazon, Bandcamp or EBay.