DENSE – EP Review: “Abjection”

DENSE is a remarkably talented young psychedelic garage rock band from Leeds, England I’ve been following pretty much since their beginnings nearly four years ago. As their name suggests, they combine thick, fuzz-coated grooves with intricate, often explosive riffs and complex melodies to create music that’s exhilarating and intense. To best describe their distinctive sound, I’ve come up with the phrase ‘industrial surf-metal psychedelic garage rock’.  Making this incredible and innovative music are Charlie Fossick (Guitar/Vocals), Dylan Metcalf (Bass) and Sam Heffer (Drums), three intelligent guys who take their music seriously, yet are still fully in touch with their playful side.

A favorite of this blog, I’ve featured DENSE numerous times over the past three and a half years, most recently last December when I reviewed their dark and gritty single “Fever Dream” (you can read some of my previous reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post). Now the guys return with their debut EP Abjection, featuring four combustible little sticks of dynamite packed into 14 explosive minutes. The guys have gained a reputation for their electrifying live performances, and in the creation of the EP, they wanted to capture that energy and translate it into their songs. Abjection was written and recorded by DENSE, produced and mixed by Adam Bairstow, and mastered by James Grover.

It’s been gratifying to follow these guys on their musical journey, and as they’ve matured, so too has their sound, songwriting and performance, with each release sounding better and better. Abjection is their best work yet, with the band further experimenting with progressive rock elements. In a recent interview with British webzine DRAB, the band explained “The instrumentals are incidentally written to sort of be ‘progressive’ with changing moods and vibes through each song to almost tell their own story. To pair with this, Charlie usually writes taking influence from writers such as H.P. Lovecraft (i.e. cramming a horror story into a single song), and this led to us landing on the main theme of the EP being a small collection of songs that are all essentially short stories about different forms of suffering, hence the title of the EP. Looking back on that, it makes us come across a lot more bleak and depressing than we like to think we are as people!

Opening track “Calcium” really showcases how well the three guys play as a tight unit, their respective instruments in perfect sync as they deliver a thunderous wall of psychedelic sound. Starting with Dylan’s deep, pulse-pounding bass line that serves as the song’s rapidly beating heart, Charlie layers scorching reverb-soaked riffs that rip through the airwaves while Sam aggressively smashes his drum kit. I can’t make out all the lyrics Charlie’s singing, but he screams with a ferocity that’s downright chilling. A little more than halfway through the song, we hear what sounds like jets flying as Sam starts shattering his drums with crushing beats that echo off the walls. At 2:45, Charlie lets loose with a savage volley of raging distortion, while Dylan’s relentless throbbing bass can be both heard and felt. It’s an exhilarating ride from start to finish.

As it’s title suggests, “Dread” is a dark and ominous track, with a heavy start-stop beat driven by a menacing bass line. Two thirds into the song, Charlie blows us away with an explosion of screaming distortion while Sam smashes his drums to bits. Charlie wails the lyrics that speak of depression and hopelessness: “Dark shadows surround me. So patient. So worthless. So nothing.” In that DRAB interview, he commented on his vocals: “I think as far as my vocal tone on the EP goes, I was trying to be more confident in my voice and not hide too much behind walls of reverb and delay which is a lot more comfortable for me. I never think of myself as a ‘singer’ or anyone of any significant talent vocal/lyric-wise so I wasn’t very comfortable in having my words sound clear and at the forefront. This time around I’ve decided to be a bit more vulnerable with what I wrote and how I’m performing it.”

Electric Chair” has a rousing punk rock vibe, with gnarly reverb-soaked guitars that border on surf at times. As always, Dylan and Sam blast out a hard-driving rhythm with their intricate heavy bass line and pummeling drum beats.

The final track “Cleanse/Repair” is a reworking of their song “Irreversible Knot” that they’d previously recorded a few years ago. After changing a few lyrics and elements that make it a sharper and more polished-sounding track, they felt it needed a new name. The song begins with Dylan’s deeply-strummed bass, then we’re hit by a thunderous barrage of fuzzy distorted guitars and wildly crashing cymbals. Charlie’s echoed vocals go from sultry drones to savage wails, while he shreds his guitar nearly to bits. Halfway through the track, things calm down so that we hear only Dylan’s bass, then with a scream from Charlie, a cacophony of reverb-soaked distortion comes crashing back like a rogue wave. A second lull occurs three quarters of the way through, with a final return of tumultuous discordant musical mayhem closing out this monumental track.

All three members of DENSE are supremely talented guys who continue to blow me away with their incredible musicianship. Charlie’s guitar work is exceptional, and I think Dylan is one of the finest bassists around today. And Sam’s a literal beast on the drums. Abjection is a fantastic little EP that makes quite an impact in its 14 minute run time, and if you like music that’s complex, thrilling and dark, you will enjoy it as much as I do.

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

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

RUSTY SHIPP – Album Review: “Liquid Exorcist”

Rusty Ship Liquid Exorcist

One of my favorites of the many artists and bands I’ve featured on this blog is Nashville four-piece Rusty Shipp. (You can read my reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the bottom of this page.) The brain child of front man Russ T. Shipp (his honest to God real birth name), Rusty Shipp is a self-described “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, immersive sound, high-octane riffs and haunting vocals. Like many bands, they’ve experienced changes in lineup since forming in 2014, and now consist of the aforementioned Russ T. Shipp on guitar and vocals, Elijah Apperson on lead guitar, AJ Newton on drums and Andrew “Speedy” Speed on bass. Together, they’re an immensely talented group of musicians who truly know how to deliver the hard rock goods.

Rusty Shipp

Following up on their phenomenal and highly-acclaimed 2017 album Mortal Ghost, Rusty Shipp has put out a new album Liquid Exorcist, which dropped on November 7th. In keeping with their nautical theme, it’s a concept work built around the subject of sea mine terrorism. It also plays somewhat like a rock opera, with one song seamlessly transitioning into the next without skipping a beat. Liquid Exorcist has a relatively short run time of only 26 minutes, exactly half that of Mortal Ghost, as several of the tracks are transitional or connectors between longer tracks. Nevertheless, it still makes an incredibly powerful statement and packs quite a wallop in it’s relatively short run time. Also, whereas Mortal Ghost has a heavier grunge feel, Liquid Exorcist sounds more melodic, sweeping and epic. The first time I listened to it all the way through, I was blown away.

It opens with the 42-second-long “Mine Factory“, an ominous-sounding instrumental intro that builds into a frantic barrage of gnarly riffs and smashing drumbeats as it immediately segues into “Liquid Pendulum“, a fantastic song with blistering guitars and intense, hard-driving rhythms that ebb and flow like waves on a stormy sea. Apperson and Shipp’s intricate guitar work is terrific, and Newton’s power drums provide just the right amount of propulsive thrust. Shipp has a beautiful singing voice that registers in the mid-range, occasionally rising to a just shy of a falsetto. The biting lyrics are a denunciation of the terrible legacy of countries filling the oceans with explosive mines: “Aren’t your wars waged on land enough? Why don’t you just keep your mankind to yourself? Leave behind your mess for someone else. Sharks will gladly come to your help.”

The track transitions into “Mindsweeper” a dark instrumental with chugging, distorted riffs, throbbing bass and harsh industrial synths. Then, watery plucked guitar strings and Speedy’s pulsating bass riff announce the arrival of “Detonator“. Suddenly, the music explodes into an electrifying maelstrom of swirling, fuzzy and wailing guitars, driving bass and thunderous percussion. It’s a spectacular song.

Rusty Shipp is not a Christian band per se, though Shipp is up-front about his Christian faith, as is evident in lyrics like “Raptured from the shrapnel in the twinkling of an eye. Jesus wasn’t kidding when he said the end was near.” Overall, the lyrics address the dangerous work of those attempting to dismantle sea mines: “Disconnect the wires, before we all expire, but the water is turning into fire now. Everybody down, the bombs have stopped their ticking sound, five seconds till Heaven’s all around.

SS Naronic (Reprise)” is a ghostly revisit of the original track featured on Mortal Ghost, chronicling the White Star Line ship lost at sea in the north Atlantic in February 11, 1893, along with all its 74 passengers on board. To echoed, underwater sounds, Shipp’s electronically altered vocals lament “O God, please tell me there is more than this. That this cold abyss is not the end. Tell me it’s more than an accident, a warning to teach a lesson. Show me how it’s all part of the plan.”

Rusty Shipp then pays homage to Audioslave with a well-executed cover of “Show Me How to Live“, doing great justice to the powerful classic.  Once again, there’s a religious reference with the lyric “Nail in my hand from my Creator. You gave me life now show me how to live.”  Though different from Chris Cornell’s, Shipp’s vocals are just as effective in conveying the raw passion expressed in the lyrics. That segues into the face-melting and aptly-titled instrumental interlude “Blow Your Mine“. This intense, minute-long track perfectly showcases the band’s impressive skills.

Hundred Crosses” is, I think, the most beautiful song on the album, with a dramatic, sweeping melody that switches from calm to exuberant and back again, making for a very exciting listen. The multi-textured guitars are sublime, accompanied by Newton’s snappy drums and wildly crashing cymbals, all working in tandem to create a glorious soundscape for Shipp’s soaring vocals. Next up is “Breaking Waves“, the first single released in advance of the album last July, which I featured on this blog. It has a dark but catchy melody, with layered riffs of gnarly and distorted guitars, throbbing bass and pounding drums. Shipp explained that the song “describes the battle between technology and nature in a tortoise-and-the-hare-like metaphor, where mankind’s mightiest technology won’t stand a chance in the long run against the simple, steady erosion of the ocean’s immortal waves (i.e, nature) breaking it down.” 

Liquid Exorcist closes with another religious nod on the nautical poem “Navy Hymn“.  “Eternal Father, strong to save. Whose arm doth bind the restless wave. Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep. Its own appointed limits keep. O, hear us when we cry to Thee. For those in peril on the sea.” The brief track features stirring a capella choir vocals, accompanied only by sounds of the sea, and it’s a fitting end to the album.

Folks, this is a stunning and masterfully-crafted record on every level. Given it’s relatively brief run time and riveting listening experience, it seems to end far too quickly. That’s a good thing, and certainly preferable to some albums that overstay their welcome with too many filler tracks. Rusty Shipp continue to impress me with their incredible songwriting and musicianship, and deserve to be huge.

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

MELISANDRE’S BEAVER – Double-Single Review: “Brother/Never Be That Cool 2019”

Melisandre's Beaver

Just from their name alone, it’s clear that any music coming from a band who call themselves Melisandre’s Beaver is guaranteed to take listeners on a wild ride. Influenced by some of their favorite bands like Green Day, Blink-182, AC/DC, Weezer, Reel Big Fish and Tenacious D, they play a rowdy style of music they refer to as ‘spicy punk’, which pretty much nails their frenetic, head-banging sound. Formed in 2016, the Dover, England-based band now consists of Daniel Drew (guitar, lead vocals), Sam ‘Mac’ MacNamara (bass, backing vocals) and James ‘Nesbo’ Nesbitt (drums, backing vocals). As for their provocative name, they explain it was chosen “after a lengthy ‘you had to be there at the time’ joke from our mate Tom.  Melisandre’s Beaver are three mates who decided that our friendships were so good, we needed to start a band to calm things down.”

Melisandre's Beaver single art

They released a terrific debut EP No Offence Meant, Plenty Taken in 2017, and followed a year later with their fireball of an album If Only We Were Serious, featuring 13 mind-blowing bundles of sonic dynamite. In late September, they returned with an outrageous new single “Brother” and its B-side “Never Be That Cool 2019”. “Brother” is a hilarious ode to Hulk Hogan, the retired pro wrestler and TV personality.

According to a great write-up about the band on The Sweet Distortion Blog, the idea of writing a song about Hogan was born from a trip to Oxford that Drew and MacNamara took with a few friends. They spent five days on a small boat, dressed as pro wrestlers who “beat the shit out of each other. Drew was dressed up as Mankind/Cactus Jack and MacNamara was dressed up as Hulk Hogan.” When they got home, they began watching Hulk Hogan videos online and laughing at how ridiculous his act was. “A massive orange leathery balding beefcake. He’s like a cartoon character. All show, Doesn’t give a fuck, he’s all about the people and the showmanshipThe song explores his nature of being a badass, unstoppable, torrent of showmanship along with some of his ridiculous well-known phrases thrown in.”

The track opens with a voiceover snippet from one of Hogan’s shows, then explodes with a bombastic onslaught of raging guitars, driving bass and smashing drums that never lets up for a second. Drew’s fiery riffs slice through the airwaves like a machete-wielding banshee, and Mac’s intricate bass line is a thing of wonder. The interplay between them is fucking incredible, and combined with Nesbo’s relentless, pummeling drumbeats, “Brother” delivers all the heavy punk rock goodness one could possibly hope for. Drew’s powerful vocals are aggressive and raw as he all but screams the lyrics, matching the music’s intensity note for note.

The bold, in-your-face lyrics, written by Mac, perfectly capture Hogan’s wildly exaggerated bravado and bluster:

Well let me tell you something
Brother I built myself from nothing
With the meanest as my witness
Its time we got right down to business

I fought with giants and the warriors in the glory days
Ill wipe that smile off your face
With a thirst for violence and a hunger for the winning ways
I’ll put you right back in your place

What ya gonna do?
What ya gonna do when I’m running wild, all over you?
What are you going to do?

Well let me tell you something
I straight up started out with nothing
Natural bravado
Force feed you if it’s tough to swallow

I stripped the flesh right off the dirtiest player in the game
Fought wars with savages and braves
I’ve broken hearts and smashed through boulders that were in my way
I’m an all you can eat showmanship buffet 

The zany video for “Brother” was shot by Mac’s sister Emily and edited by him, and showcases the band’s playful, high-energy live performances. Filmed in a car paint spray booth owned by Mac’s dad, which the guys filled with soft play equipment to create the feel of a wrestling ring, they dressed up in tight spandex, wigs, sunglasses and walrus mustaches to parody Hulk Hogan. The Sweet Distortion Blog article stated that after filming the video, the band “experienced what those in the removals business call ‘The Gray Lung’. The car spraying booth being covered in dust left the band hacking up their lungs afterwards.” Didn’t someone once write about suffering for the sake of one’s art, or something to that effect?

Never Be That Cool 2019” is a remake of a track that first appeared on their EP No Offence Meant, Plenty Taken. This version is 37 seconds shorter, which is achieved by a much faster tempo than the original, which to my ears had a Weezer/Blink-182 vibe. Thanks to the sped-up tempo and harder-driving music, the new version has a more of a punk rock feel, sounding like a song Green Day could have recorded. Also, Drew’s gruff vocals remind me a bit of Mick Jagger, giving the track an edgier feel. I like the original, but I like this remake even more.

The lyrics speak to feeling like a bit of a boring loser, who will never be cool enough:

Watchin MTV2 when I get home from school
Darling I’m obsessed with my cesspool
I’m probably not the greatest , I’m sure I’ll never make it
and I’ll definitely never be that cool

Connect with Melisandre’s Beaver: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase: Bandcamp / Google Play

New Song of the Week: A VOID – “No Rest”

It may be 2019, but the enduring legacies of grunge – especially that of Nirvana – and punk continue to have a significant influence on music. I’ve reviewed a lot of artists and bands who’ve drawn their influences from those two groundbreaking genres, and am pleased to feature another today – a young band called A VOID. With members from both France and the UK, and currently based in London, the attractive female-fronted trio refer to their wild, unorthodox sound as “sonic grunge.”

They claim as their inspiration a decidedly eclectic mix of artists and bands, including the aforementioned Nirvana, as well as Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins, Hole, Kaaris, Babes In Toyland, Patrick Sébastien, Deftones, Silverchair, Björk, Tokio Hotel, Lady Gaga, Céline Dion and even Charles Aznavour! Making the music are Camille Alexander (guitar, lead vocals), Aaron Hartmann (bass) and Marie Niemec (drums, backing vocals).

A VOID2

A VOID released their debut EP Roses As Insides in 2016, when they consisted of Camille and two previous band members. The current lineup released an excellent full-length album Awkward And Devastated in 2018. One of the tracks on that album is “No Rest“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week, as the band just dropped a hilarious and wildly entertaining new video for the song.

Camille’s a terrific guitarist, dazzling us with intricate, melodic riffs of jangly and grimy guitars. Early in the track, her riff calls to mind Nirvana’s “All Apologies” as well as Silversun Pickups’ “Lazy Eye”, but picks up the pace later on when her playing turns more aggressive. Aaron and Marie keep a tight rhythm with their resonant bassline and snappy drumbeats, respectively. Camille’s vocals are really wonderful, with a deep vibrancy that’s youthful, yet worldly, and I love how her French accent shines through. She shrieks “No rest” quite nicely in the frantic punk rock-like final chorus, matching the wailing guitars note for note.

The lyrics speak to the stress and anxieties that stem from relationships, being in a band, and the myriad responsibilities of young adulthood:

Bullshit over bullshit
I’ve lost my drive again
I’m all over the place… ace
Addicted to your sweet words and your belonging
I can’t replace

No Rest
No Rest
No Rest for me x2

Utterly broken
Keeping fading away
Completely wasted
I can’t believe myself

Unstable and insecure I try
Creating like the only way to survive
Holding on to everything as if you died today
All these lines I didn’t write
Now they come chasing me

No Rest
No Rest
No Rest for me x2

The music was so loud
So loud that I can’t hear the thoughts inside my head
The whispering voices
Silence violated

Can’t risk to deny
Responsibilities lie for you to take
Caught up into choices
It’s not my place to make

I wish I was more like you
Disregard and pass on through
I wish I had a clue
Of what I’d get myself into

No Rest
No Rest
No Rest for me

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

New Song of the Week: RUSTY SHIPP – Breaking Waves”

Rusty Shipp BW Single

I’ve been following Nashville rock band Rusty Shipp for two years, since the release of their highly-acclaimed monumental album Mortal Ghost in June 2017. Over the year following the album’s debut, the band produced a series of superb and fascinating videos for several tracks off the album, two of which (“Treading Water” and “SS Naronic”) I featured on this blog. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the bottom of this page.) They now return with a fantastic new single “Breaking Waves“, the first release from their forthcoming album Liquid Exorcist, a concept work about sea mine terrorism due out later this year.

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 highlighted by a dark, immersive sound, heavy riffs and haunting vocals. Like many bands, they’ve undergone some changes in lineup since forming in 2014, and now consist of singer/songwriter and front man Russ T. Shipp (literally his birth name) on guitar and vocals, Elijah Apperson on lead guitar, AJ Newton on drums and Andrew “Speedy” Speed on bass.

Rusty Shipp2

“Breaking Waves” is a grunge-surf-rock song in keeping with the band’s nautical theme and, as explained by front man Russ T. Shipp, “was meticulously crafted to get stuck in a human being’s brain. The song sounds like Nirvana trying to play a Beach Boys song right after hearing ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’. Shipp adds “‘Breaking Waves’ is the catchiest song we’ve ever made. Lyrically, it’s more philosophical and describes the battle between technology and nature in a tortoise-and-the-hare-like metaphor where mankind’s mightiest technology won’t stand a chance in the long run against the simple, steady erosion of the ocean’s immortal waves (i.e, nature) breaking it down. I think that’s for the best, and humanity is better off not waiting for centuries of erosion before it’s returned to what’s immaterial and most important – its soul.

The powerful track features the band’s signature heavily-textured guitar work, with layered riffs of gnarly and distorted guitars, all combining to produce an intense, dynamic soundscape for Shipp’s resonant vocals. Newton and Speedy keep a solid rhythm with pounding drumbeats and a humming bassline, while Apperson and Shipp deliver scorching-hot riffage. He was right about crafting a catchy melody, as this one remained stuck in my head long after hearing the song. It’s a great song, and is accompanied by a wonderful music video shot on an actual submarine. The video was produced by Ashley Henry, directed by Aaron Scott, filmed by Jason Hassell, and edited by Jonathan Terry. It features scenes of the band performing the song, interspersed with scenes of them trying to stem water leaks that imperil their safety.

Breakers on the sea, advancing steadily
Little by little taking territory
The armies will erode till Pangaea’s covered over
And the Earth is once again formless and void

Breaking waves crashing on your accolades
Break you down, water torture down the drain
One by one till your soul is what remains
Break you out, breaking from the breaking waves
Break it down and wash it away
Breaking from the breaking waves

Simple H2O crushing your machines
Ships and submarines breaking down to smithereens
The breakers won’t desist clinging to your wrist like exorcists
Feeling for the pulse of a human being

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

DOCTOR GONZO – EP Review: “PhD”

Doctor Gonzo Phd

Doctor Gonzo is a four-piece punk ska band from the Brighton area of Sussex, UK. They’re all about having fun and not taking themselves too seriously, but are very serious when it comes to making straight-up badass rock! Formed only a year ago, Doctor Gonzo consists of Ash Miles on vocals, Andy “Gibbo” Gibson on guitars and backing vocals, Tony “Tig” Tugnutt on bass and Louis Maxwell on drums. In late April, they dropped their debut EP PhD, featuring four boisterous bangers guaranteed to kick your ass!

The EP blasts open with “Poisonous”, a blistering-hot tune with heavy, chugging riffs of gnarly guitar, crushing bass and hammering drums. Ash’s urgent vocals ooze bitterness as he snarls the lyrics addressing someone who’s toxic to his existence: “In my veins, sucking the life out of me. Filled with pain until there’s nothing left. Pulsing through me with your liquid venom. You won’t stop ’til I take my last breath! Oh!

Before we can even come up for air, the guys are back pummelling our eardrums with “Something’s Gotta Give”. Man, can these guys rock, once again delivering frantic riffs of fuzzy guitars and throbbing bass, while Louis beats the living fuck out of his drum kit! Next up is the rousing “Mary Jane”, the fantastic lead single from the EP.  It’s a delightful love song to a woman named Mary Jane, set to a hard-driving beat and the band’s signature barrage of thunderous instrumental mayhem. The lyrics are fairly simple but charming: “Mary Jane I let you take my breath away. Remember that time I took you on an aeroplane? Oh Mary Jane, I think you’re driving me insane. But when shit hits the fan I know you’ll make me feel better.” The whimsical and fun video for the song was written, directed and edited by Nick Burdett.

The final track “Royalty” serves up more hard-hitting post-punk goodness. Gibbo does some fine shredding on his six-string while Tig lays down a deep, strutting bass line and Louis pounds out the driving beat. The lyrics speak to feeling like a loser in a rut, going nowhere: “I tell myself to stop complaining. Learn to read between the lines. I wanna be somebody, instead of just a casualty. I’ll go against the grain. You’ll probably know my name. I wanna live like royalty.”

Despite it’s short run time of only 12 1/2 minutes, PhD packs a mighty punch. These guys know how to rock and set the airwaves afire with their respective instruments. I found myself loving these songs more with each listen, and am now a huge fan of Doctor Gonzo. I also love their playful sense of humor, which is strongly evident in this hilarious video of outtake bloopers from the making of the “Mary Jane” video:

Connect with Doctor Gonzo:  Facebook / Instagram
Purchase on iTunes / Google Play

THIRD TIME LUCKIE – EP Review: “Face the Beast”

Third Time Luckie EP art

A month ago I featured British alternative pop/punk band Third Time Luckie on this blog when I reviewed their beautiful single “Love and Violence”. They’ve now dropped a new EP Face the Beast, which I have the pleasure of reviewing today. Originally formed in 2006, the band had early success, releasing two EPs and an album, but eventually disbanded in 2014. Fortunately for us, founding members Chris Horner (guitar & vocals) and Carl Swietlik (drums) decided to give it another go, and Third Time Luckie was reborn an older and wiser trio in late 2016 with a new bassist Andy Clare. Based in the southern England resort town of Bognor Regis, Sussex, the band’s high-energy style of melodic pop/punk rock is strongly influenced by some of their favorite bands like Blink-182, Green Day, Alkaline Trio and Sum 41.

Face the Beast features five stellar tracks, including “Love and Violence” and some other previously released songs. Green Day’s influence can clearly be heard on the first cut “The Grind“, with a frantic riff that’s strikingly similar to the main riff in “American Idiot”. The guys follow through with more electrifying guitar solos of their own, along with a driving bass line and thunderous drums that make for an exhilarating song. The lyrics speak to escaping a soul-crushing rut in a boring town, and making a change for the better: “And so, we all stick to the grind. And so, something gets left behind. Go do what you like, cause my mind’s made up now. And so, fuck you, I’m leaving this town.”

That Day” is a reworking of a song the band originally recorded back in 2008. The upbeat song is a rousing pop/punk ode to a woman he loves, recalling the day he met her: “I remember that day so clearly. It’s stuck down in my head. I get the warmest feeling lying next to you in bed. The grass is always greener when you are around.” The anthemic “Never Alone” is a song of encouragement to someone suffering from depression. Chris does some fine shredding on his six-string as he fervently sings: “You found your way, your way back to our lives. You found your way, your way back to our hearts. All the while you were lost in the smoke. We were there too, and you were never alone. / You can push back and fight it. Or face the beast and ignite it.” Andy and Carl keep the rhythm with a solid bass line and a cascade of tumultuous percussion.

The poignant “Love and Violence” is a plea from one partner in a fraying relationship to another, urging her to stay with him and try to work out their problems. The words “love and violence” represent the highs and lows – the good times and bad – of a relationship. “Stay with me now cause I know we’re forever. And evermore it’s you and I in love and violence.” The guitar work is fantastic, and Chris’s pleasing vocals sound great whether he’s earnestly crooning the calmer verses or passionately wailing the dramatic choruses. The guys’ backing vocal harmonies are wonderful too.

The final track “Wide Eyed Thinking” was the first single the reconstituted band released in 2017, and it’s a real banger. The guys let loose here, unleashing a furious barrage of gnarly riffs, wildly crashing cymbals, and chugging bass. The song’s only two and a half minutes long, but it’s a beast. The lyrics speak to finally coming to terms with the reality of a toxic relationship that’s beyond repair: “Nothing I did was ever good enough for her. Wide eyed thinking, how can I get away? This ship is sinking, and I’ve been led astray from you. Now I sing a different tune.”

Face the Beast is a terrific little EP that showcases the strong songwriting and musicianship of Third Time Luckie. I’m impressed by these guys’ resilience, as well as their dedication to excellence, and I hope they continue making more great music for our listening enjoyment.

Connect with Third Time Luckie:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation
Purchase on iTunes

SPIRAL ROCKS – Single Review: “Know Your Weapon”

Spiral Rocks Know Your Weapon

Spiral Rocks is a terrific rock band based in Widnes, England, situated on the River Mersey between the vibrant music cities of Liverpool and Manchester. Their fun, high-energy music is retro, yet fresh, drawing from classic rock, punk, rock’n’roll, blues and even folk influences. Formed in 2000, the band consists of Antony Shone (vocals/guitar), Dave Baker (guitar), Stephen “Rowy” Rowe (bass) & Danny Hall (drums). They’ve known each other for years and even played together for a while as teenagers, but took a hiatus for several years to tend to the demands of life (jobs, marriages and children).

Wanting to get back to doing what they love, they resurrected Spiral Rocks in summer 2018 and have been recording and releasing lots of new songs like madmen, as if trying to make up for lost time. Many of these tunes are certified bangers, and I strongly urge my readers to check them out on Spotify or YouTube. One of the best of the bunch is “Know Your Weapon“, which the band requested that I review.

It’s a great, hard-driving track, with a barrage of fuzzy reverb-soaked guitars, deep, throbbing bass and pummeling drumbeats, augmented by an abundance of crashing cymbals. Antony and Dave are skilled guitarists, delivering some really sensational blistering riffs in the choruses that give the track a gnarly psychedelic vibe. Antony has an intense and spirited vocal style that reminds me at times of Mick Jagger’s, though I can’t quite make out very many of the lyrics that he practically shouts on this song. But who cares, really, when the music sounds this good.

Connect with Spiral Rocks:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase their music on iTunes / Amazon

DRAFT EVADER – EP Review: “Cashed”

Draft Evader Cashed

Draft Evader is an earnest and talented young musician from Chicago who I’ve been following for a while, and it’s been gratifying to watch him grow and mature as an artist. An interesting name for the music project of singer/songwriter and guitarist Ryan Loree, Draft Evader aptly describes his independent and rebellious nature. I first featured him on this blog in December 2017 when I reviewed his single “The Devil’s Disguise”, and at the time he explained “the name ‘Draft Evader’ is kind of a middle finger to the whole system, 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.

Draft Evader plays a dynamic and accessible style of what he calls “pessimistic punk rock”, with rock’n’roll and grunge overtones. He writes all his songs, plays guitar and sings all vocals, and his good friend Joe Scaletta plays bass and drums, as well as mixes and masters the tracks. His deeply personal lyrics are brutally honest and always relatable; he openly addresses his struggles with depression and self-doubt, something a fair number of musicians and others involved in the arts also experience (as does yours truly).

He released a great little EP Hound Dog in the fall of 2018, featuring four stellar tracks – one of which, “In My Mind” was particularly outstanding. I loved the song so much it went all the way to #1 on my Weekly Top 30 last December. On February 12, he dropped a new two-song EP Cashed – a double-sided single of sorts. Interestingly, both tracks are 2:36 minutes long. Cashed was inspired by Ryan’s involvement in a car accident: “Ever get into a car accident during an existential crisis only to lose your job right after? Me too, and I wrote a couple songs about it.”

On the hard-rocking title track “Cashed“, he candidly speaks of depression and self-destructive behavior that often leads to additional problems, contributing to a cycle of ever deeper depression. Yet he also yearns for comfort and reassurance from a older and wiser voice. Ryan’s an impressive guitarist, and he delivers an onslaught of gnarly riffs from the get-go, driving home the seriousness of the subject matter. His scorching little guitar solo in the bridge was written by fellow musician Martijn Frazer, and I love his soaring vocals in the chorus. In fact, Ryan’s vocals have really improved with time and experience, and here he beautifully conveys the frustration and anger expressed in the biting lyrics:

Cashed my check to fill my tank up
Slow down over one more speed bump
Blowing stop signs with no license
Crash my car then stepped in dog shit
Covered in shitty ink
What would my grandma think
Kill for an old-school opinion
Pickin’ up missing teeth until my knuckles bleed
Falling deeper into a depression

On “Sunnyside“, he addresses the self-doubt about his music that sometimes plagues him. He released an EP Heel Turn in April 2018 (a very respectable effort that I also reviewed) but being a perfectionist, Ryan wasn’t satisfied with the songs or EP artwork. He incorporates the EP and song titles in the opening verse of “Sunnyside”, describing his struggle with self-confidence and feelings of not belonging:

Heel turn, I’m on a warpath
If I stutter more, I’ll complain less
All I have are some petty songs
Trying to write out all my wrongs

And I think I died in the old world
Because here I just don’t belong
And I left my soul in the old world
Behind yellow bars and heineken

Once again, he lays down chugging riffs of gritty guitar, while Joe handles the rhythm section with skilled precision. Both tracks are excellent, with catchy melodies that immediately hook us in, and driving riffs to keep us in thrall while we enjoy the ride. It’s a testament to Draft Evader’s continuing growth and ability to put out terrific rock music. I admire this young man and am happy to help promote him and his music however I can.