DISCIPLES OF BABYLON release new album “The Rise and Fall of Babylon” with a concert at the Viper Room

The long-awaited and highly anticipated release of the new Disciples of Babylon (DOB) album The Rise and Fall of Babylon is finally here, and it’s a revelation. I’ve been following the Los Angeles-based rock band since 2015, and it’s been a pleasure watching them grow both musically and professionally. They’ve been gathering national and worldwide acclaim and a rapidly growing base of loyal fans, not only because of their exceptional, dynamic sound and thought-provoking lyrics, but also their appreciation and undying support for their fans. I know I’m in good company when I say that I love this band!

DOB

All accomplished musicians in their own right, DOB are Eric Knight on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Ramón Blanco on lead guitar, Gui Bodi on bass and backing vocals, and Chris Toeller on drums. The guys have had quite a year. In June, they performed at the extreme sports event Dew Tour 2017, and on July 8, they kicked off the 2017 Gladiator MMA Championship Series with a performance at the iconic Los Angeles Memorial Sports Coliseum. Also in June, Ramón and Gui had the thrill of playing in the backup band of Luis Fonsi when he performed his monster hit “Despacito” on Conan, and then in September, Chris joined Ramón and Gui to once again play backup for Luis Fonsi’s appearance on Ellen. Doesn’t get much better than that, except for DOB themselves to one day perform on Ellen!

DOB premiered The Rise and Fall of Babylon in front of a capacity crowd on Thursday, October 5 at the legendary Viper Room on the world-famous Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, California, and they all but blew the roof off the place. The crowd reception to the new tracks was ecstatic – no surprise given the band’s exciting and charismatic stage presence. Along with all seven tracks off the new album, they also played songs from their terrific debut EP Welcome to Babylon, plus an awesome cover of Led Zeppelin’s classic “Immigrant Song.”

DOB Viper Room

Here’s a video I shot of them singing their hit song “KARMA.”

The Rise and Fall of Babylon features seven powerhouse tracks, some of which speak to issues facing America today. Eric feels passionately about social justice, and has strong opinions about the current state of affairs in our country, which he took time to express Thursday night. In a previous interview, Eric explained the impetus behind the new album: “These are precarious times we live in. The Rise and Fall of Babylon signifies something that I feel has been a long time coming. Babylon, meaning the USA, is slowly spinning out of control and entering into vast turmoil. I feel we are at the beginnings of a revolution. one of which the likes we’ve never seen before. As a nation, we are no longer viewed in the regard we once were. The title reflects this shift and quite possibly a prelude of what’s to come.”

The album was produced by GRAMMY award winner and longtime DOB producer Andres Torres, one of the producers behind the Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee smash hit “Despacito.” The album was mixed by GRAMMY award winner Curt Schneider  (Augustana, Richie Sambora, Joe Bonamassa), and mastered by Dave Kutch (Bruno Mars, The Strokes, Outkast, Joe Perry).

The guys get right down to business with “Freedom,” a thunderous full-frontal assault on tyranny as powerful as anything I’ve heard in a long while. Ramon lays down blistering jaw-dropping riffs as Chris hammers out a galloping beat on the drums, anchored by Gui’s pummeling bass. With a passion that borders on fury, Eric brings goosebumps as he screams the searing lyrics:

Oppress us no more
We’ve waited for this day
Our rights have been taken
Your rule is coming to an end
The faster that we rise above
And we scream from our lungs
Freedom! Give us freedom back!
We crave freedom
Yes, we stand strong

Next up is “Without You,” the album’s lead single that I reviewed upon it’s release in late July. The hard-hitting track is a defiant rebuke to someone who’s betrayed you, killing the love you once felt toward them. Brimming with awesome instrumentals, the track is an exhilarating rock song. Ramón’s guitar work is a thing of wonder, and Gui nearly blows the speakers with his crushing bass line, aided and abetted by Chris’s pounding drums.

DOB slows things down a bit on the beautiful anthem “We Are the Ones,” a hopeful clarion call for us to all come together and unite in our fight against those who try to divide us. An especially notable aspect on this track for me are the gorgeous soaring backing vocals. And speaking of vocals, Eric has a phenomenal singing voice. As I’ve already noted, he can elicit chills with power and fury, or bring us to tears with heartfelt tenderness. He does both on the fantastic, emotion-packed “Lift.” And, needless to say, the guys unleash their sonic weaponry once again with mind-blowing instrumentals.

By this point in the album, I’m practically speechless at how incredibly good it is, wondering if DOB can sustain the high quality of the songs. I’m quickly reassured within seconds of hearing “Idiosyncracies,” a pile-driver of a track about struggling to keep a failing relationship from breaking apart: “I’ll fight to keep my sanity. I really want to believe in us, in you and me. There’s harmony, yeah! But I’ll fight to keep my spirit free.” And they keep on delivering the goods with the uplifting anthem “Simple Life.” This is one gorgeous rock song. Everything about it is perfection – lyrics, instrumentals, Eric’s vocals, and the superb production and arrangement.

The guys close the album with “Civilized,” a real head-banger of a tune. Gui sets the rhythm with a pulse-pounding bass line, then Ramon dives in with scorching riffs while Chris commences to attack his drum kit with all the strength he can muster. Eric snarls the lyrics that speak to someone he’s obsessed with who’s hurting him: “I’m out of my head, every time I realize all those things you said to me. So cruel, unkind. From the moment I wake, with every step that I take, draws me closer into you.”

The Rise and Fall of Babylon is a meticulously crafted album on every level, and a testament to the exceptional songwriting and musicianship of these four supremely talented gentlemen. It’s an effort they should be extremely proud of, and I’m so proud of them! I’ve gotten to know them all personally, and they’re as humble and kind as they are skilled at making music. I’m honored to be their friend.

Follow Disciples of Babylon: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / YouTube

Purchase: iTunes / Amazon

FOLLOW NO ONE – EP Review: “5”

5 album

The rock band Follow No One is the brainchild of two highly accomplished musicians – singer/songwriter and pianist Rich Hall from Nashville, Tennessee & guitar virtuoso Pedro Murino Almeida, originally from Lisbon, Portugal but with roots in Brazil. Rich began performing at a young age in theater, but found his true calling performing and writing music. Pedro was classically trained in music composition, with a successful career involving his own musical acts, and his work has been featured in film and video. Together their music is influenced by such rock giants as Dream Theater, Alter Bridge, Foo Fighters, Avenged Sevenfold, Imagine Dragons and Three Days Grace.

The duo released their debut EP – simply titled 5 – on September 1, delivering five hard-hitting tracks about relationships and the joy, pain and regret they bring. Each song is meticulously crafted, with passionate lyrics, intricate melodies and stellar guitar work – immediately evident in the opening track “Reflection.” Our ears are blessed with four minutes of blazing guitar riffs and thunderous drums galloping across a heavy bass-driven beat. It’s the perfect hard rock song.

Hall’s knack for writing catchy, yet compelling melodies shines on “Guardian Angel.” The track starts off with a jazzy little riff, then layers of heavier guitars are added as the song builds to a crescendo of shredded, wailing and distorted riffs so good they bring goose bumps.

The Greatest Sin” is probably my favorite track, with a gorgeous haunting melody and powerful lyrics about trying to salvage a relationship that’s crumbling due to neglect, and regain the love and passion that existed in the beginning:

Not so very long ago, I was caught up in the web
When lust and love draw the line
Pictures of the days gone by keep running through my head
But babe I guess that I was blind, so blind
It starts out so easy, your will is so strong
Then one day you wake up and your dream is gone
The greatest sin is when we’re not together
The greatest sin is when we’re apart

Musically, the song features jaw-dropping guitar work that runs the gamut from gentle chiming riffs to bombastic wails, and everything in between. And, as with all their songs, the supporting bass, percussion and synths are all in fine form. Hall made a video that does a terrific job of bringing the song’s lyrics to life. Take a look:

Follow No One tugs at the heartstrings on “No Regrets,” a lovely but sorrowful track about being filled with remorse for past mistakes, and wondering if you even have the strength or will to keep on living. Hall’s tender, heartfelt vocals rise with emotion as the song progresses from a gentle ballad to stirring rock anthem. Almeida makes his guitar practically weep in the bridge.

Every night I pray for the same thing
That tomorrow never comes unless there’s changes
I been holding on to a dream that I don’t want to
And I pray to god I don’t have that much time left
Hands won’t stop trembling, cause my eyes can’t see the ending
But it seems so far away, so for now I’ll stay

Last but certainly not least is the title track “5,” a hard-driving beast with more incredible guitar work. I love the opening riff and – oh hell, I love all their riffs! Hall and Almeida are phenomenal musicians, and their debut EP is a work they should both be proud of. I expect – and hope – we’ll be hearing more great music from them.

Connect with Follow No One:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  SoundcloudSpotify / Tidal / Google Play /YouTube

Purchase:  iTunesAmazon

LE POISSON – Single Review: “Crush/You”

Le Poisson

Today I have the pleasure of featuring my first ever band from Germany, a three-piece from Erlangen, Bavaria called Le Poisson.  They formed in 2012 and, like many bands, underwent some personnel changes over the years, but now have a solid lineup consisting of Louisa Stegmeyer on Vocals, Michael Le Noir on Guitar & Bass, and Antonis Kop on Drums. They play an eclectic style of progressive rock, with elements of hard rock, metal, and what they refer to as ‘vampire’ rock. Following up on their 2016 EP One in a Million, they just released a mesmerizing new single “Crush/You.”

The song opens with a beautiful guitar riff, immediately hooking us in with a captivating and rather haunting melody before Louisa’s lovely vocals enter the proceedings. With an earnest longing in her voice, she sings of the fervent passion we feel when falling for someone, but insecure and uncertain of their feelings for us. We search for a light that will reveal the truth:

There’s a light that shines on, shines on everyone
We hold on
We can reach an understanding
Dreams are ascending
Life is so demanding

Michael’s layered guitar work is really quite exquisite, going from a gentle riff to a more intense hard rock sound at the halfway point that conveys feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. Louisa’s vocals become more impassioned along with the music, as does the intensity of the percussion. The instrumentals and vocals calm back down in the outro, leaving us with a sense of resolution. It’s a wonderful song.

Connect with Le Poisson: WebsiteFacebook / TwitterInstagram

Stream or purchase their music on Soundcloud / Bandcamp

Top 20 Songs for September 24-30, 2017

1. THE MAN – The Killers (1) 5th week at #1
2. HOLDING ON – The War on Drugs (2)
3. UNFORGETTABLE – French Montana, Swae Lee (5)
4. EVERYTHING NOW – Arcade Fire (3)
5. THE WAY YOU USED TO DO – Queens of the Stone Age (4)
6. THE NIGHT WE MET – Lord Huron (7)
7. SO TIED UP – Cold War Kids, Bishop Briggs (8)
8. LITTLE ONE – Highly Suspect (9)
9. SUIT AND JACKET – Judah & the Lion (12)
10. LOVING YOU IS SO EASY – Wide Eyed Boy (13)
11. HIGHWAY TUNE – Greta Van Fleet (20)
12. FEELS LIKE SUMMER – Weezer (6)
13, CAN I SIT NEXT TO YOU – Spoon (11)
14. FEEL IT STILL – Portugal. The Man (16) 21st week on list
15. RUN – Foo Fighters (10)
16. IT’S A TRIP! – Joywave (17)
17. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (18)
18. WALK ON WATER – 30 Seconds to Mars (19)
19. THE SYSTEM ONLY DREAMS IN TOTAL DARKNESS – The National (14)
20. HIGH – Sir Sly (15) 20th week on list

GUY PAUL THIBAULT – Album Review: “It’s About Time”

It's About Time Album

Listening to the music of Guy Paul Thibault, it would be easy to assume he’s from somewhere like Nashville, Tennessee. In reality the singer/songwriter/guitarist – who plays tremendously satisfying folk music with strong country and rock influences – hails from beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada. An accomplished musician, Guy Paul has written, recorded and produced six albums on his own. He’s also played acoustic, electric, bass and slide guitar, and sang vocals for original acts and cover bands. In June he released a new album It’s About Time, an appropriate title given the span of 17 years since his last solo album.

I’ve always loved songs that tell a story, and It’s About Time is loaded with them. Let me state right here that Guy Paul is an incredible wordsmith. Through poetic, heartfelt, and sometimes humorous lyrics, his songs address the oft-covered subjects of life, love and heartbreak, but in ways that reveal the contradictory facets of good and evil inherent in each of us. Furthermore, these colorful stories are delivered with his sublime vocals and accompanied by some pretty nifty acoustic and electric guitar. I usually like to highlight a few song lyrics in my reviews, but in this case I’ll be featuring quite a lot of them.

Guy Paul Thibault

Here She Comes” kicks off the album with a pleasing country-rock rhythm. Guy Paul instantly hooks us in with his laid back vocal delivery and nimble acoustic guitar. Gentle percussion sets the beat and the sweet violin in the bridge is a nice touch.

One of the best ‘story’ tracks is “Misdemeanor,” a catchy, guitar-driven and wry tune about an older woman who’s still got it, and always out looking for a good time:

Takes the complications with a delicate smile
Avoids one night affairs, well she has for a while
That’s what she says
Well, hello boys is her natural style
Moves on her prey like a cat in the wild

With a closer look, well she’s showing her age
But she’s still got her wit and she’s still got those legs
Ahh those legs

Guy Paul turns serious with “Hills,” a compelling song about people living a hardscrabble existence in rural America who’ve endured more than their fair share of military service and the consequential casualties, PTSD and societal breakdown:

You can hide a body forever in these hills
A thousand square miles and a hundred little stills
They took us from our homes and taught us how to fight
Now justice comes in the middle of the night
Now terror comes in the middle of the night

He strums his guitar with a forcefulness to match the searing lyrics, backed by an assertive military drumbeat and mournful harmonica. The generous use of electric guitar and bass also lend greater impact to the track.

The poignant “Tallest Man on Earth” addresses the realization that the father you once idolized, thinking you wanted to be like him, wasn’t so high in stature after all:

When I was just a young man, trying not to fall
The only thing that seemed to matter was growing up and being tall
Growing tall brings great things, like seeing past the trees
You can’t hear the whispers, your head up in the breeze
He seemed the tallest man on earth

His heart died alone they say, running against the wall
He never could comprehend life wasn’t about being tall
He seemed the tallest man on earth
The smallest man on earth

Another powerful and standout track is “We Just Don’t Care,” a hard-hitting country-rock anthem that speaks to the apathy and sense of futility caused by feelings of betrayal by society and our government. Those sentiments are expressed by an attitude of entitlement – ‘I want what’s owed to me, and to hell with everyone else’:

Sacrifice is such a lonely word
There’s not much left in this world
We’re all trying the best we can
Can’t see the beach for the grains of sand
Belief is just a long-lost dream
Slowly fades from what I’ve seen
Lack faith in our fellow man
Lost in time a simple slight of hand
This is how we are now
And we just don’t care

Guy Paul shows us his rocker side on “Saving Grace,” a rousing song with a driving beat and lots of terrific electric and rhythm guitar riffs. One of my favorite tracks is “Saturday Night,” a catchy and breezy country song about hooking up with strangers to avoid being lonely. The lyrics are rather bittersweet until he lightens things up at the end:

It’s alright, I still got my friends
That’s what I’m talkin’ about
Hey wait a minute, is that another bottle over there?
Same time next week?

Stay (For Riley)” is a lovely but wistful ballad about saying goodbye to a loved one – or a pet perhaps? “You were my best friend, chased all of my fears. Now you live in every tear. Stay.”  Guy Paul serves up jangly guitar riffs on “If I Had,” a really nice folk tune about dreaming of enjoying life by hitting the road in his car with a girl and guitar. Wrapping up the album is the sorrowful “How Far Could I Fall.” The country song speaks of hitting bottom after his girl left him and he sought comfort with booze and drugs.

It’s About Time is well worth the wait of 17 years, as it’s superb on every level. In addition to Guy Paul’s impressive songwriting and musicianship, he was assisted on the album by the musical talents of David Bradshaw and Shawn Cherry.

Connect with Guy:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream his music:  Spotify / Google Play

Purchase:  iTunes / Bandcamp / cdbaby

MANIPULANT – Album Review: “Eclectro”

Electro

As someone who cannot sing, play an instrument of any kind, nor read or compose music, I never fail to be impressed by people who can do those things, especially when they do them well. Even more impressive is when people create music that’s completely original and innovative, leaving me wondering how their minds ever came up with those sounds and melodies in the first place.

Such is the music of Manipulant, an imaginative and, dare I say brilliant, multi-instrumentalist/composer based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Born David Speakman, Manipulant creates “scientific sound spaces” – as so perfectly described on a few of the tracks on his superb second album Eclectro, which dropped in June. Following up on his 2016 debut album Méthode de Narration,  Manipulant once again utilizes hypnotic rhythms, dark synths and unconventional instrumentation on Eclectro to tell his stories. And this time around, he’s joined by British chilled trip-hop artist Stoneygate and Italian Astrophysicist Dr. Fiorella Terenzi, who provide unusual and mesmerizing backing vocals for some of the songs.

Manipulant

The mysterious-sounding “Run” kicks things off with strummed electric guitar and spacey synths, then a powerful throbbing bass line and strong drum beat take over,   accompanied by bursts of crashing cymbals and a retro 60’s surf guitar riff – the kind Dick Dale or The Ventures played back in the day.  In her sultry, almost whispry vocals, Stoneygate sings the bleak lyrics: “World is changing. Ominous sky. The rats are hiding. The birds are silent. Seems we’ve lost our way. Sides are bickering. / Jump back, turnaround, run.”

As Manipulant explained in an excellent interview with the blog Keepsmealive, he wanted the song to be “Something dark and driving. It needed to try to capture the mood I was seeing around me in the aftermath of the U.S. elections and some of the chaos that was happening elsewhere in the world.” I think he succeeded quite well; take a listen:

Methodical” has the kind of thumping dance beat that immediately goes for the hips, and I love it! The far-off echoed vocals, many of which are not understandable, lend an otherworldly vibe to this infectious track. Things turn ominous again with “Doctor, I Need Your Expertise,” in which the beautiful Dr. Terenzi – ‘Goddess of Acoustic Astronomy’ – speaks in her own tribute song. Opening with a menacing buzzsaw sound, Manipulant asks “Dr. Terenzi, where are you?” Her echoed, sci-fi sounding vocals add to the track’s eerie vibe as she says “You are listening to real sounds, scientific sound spaces,” while a pounding beat continues throughout the track.

Regarding the Kraftwerk-inspired EDM track “Marshmallow Fabrik,” Manipulant explained to Keepsmealive “I think many of us carry on as if we are living in a marshmallow factory. Everything is in order and it’s all fluffy and delicious. We don’t focus on things outside of our own space. We continue on with blinders as long as our personal factories keep producing things that make us happy.” Here, echoed voices spoken in German are accompanied by unusual synths that almost sound like a huge snorting alien animal.

Faulty Tap” is a 30-second instrumental interlude that begins with a loud drip, followed by pounding industrial-sounding synths to create a mood that Manipulant explained  “was an extension of the frustration of “Run” put into something as simple and maddening as a leaky faucet.” The organ takes a starring role on “jusq’à la mort nous sépare (The Organist).” It’s a reworking of “The Organist” from his first album, and the French title translated is “until death separates us.” The track is uptempo, with playful synths and a rapid but delicate drum beat that belies the rather somber lyrics, spoken in his echoed vocals: “Oh I’m worried, I have a bad feeling about this. You must understand, as a fellow organist, when I’m thwarted I become agitated. You’re not in control here. I’m in control here.

Next up is the one-minute long dirge-like interlude “Requiem for the 11th Earl of Sandwich,” which Manipulant explained represents the death of civility – Earl being ‘nobility’ which symbolized ‘civility.’ The mood abruptly shifts on the hauntingly beautiful instrumental “N / A / B / C / F“, which is a reworking of another track “Not All Birds Can Fly,” from his first album. (By now it’s clear that he loves strange and unusual song titles, but I digress…) The key instrument on this track is the sublime piano, accentuated by soaring synths.

Powerful throbbing bass and modulated buzzing synths make a return appearance on “The Doctor Meets 808.” And once again, Dr. Terenzi’s echoed vocals add to the eerie vibe, as she repeats the line “So you are listening to real sounds, scientific sound spaces,” as well as other lyrics. The track is essentially a reworking of “Doctor, I Need Your Expertise,” only with much heavier extended bass, as suggested by the ‘808’ in the song title.

Fiorella Terenzi
Dr. Fiorella Terenzi

Eclectro is one of the most unusual and sonically amazing albums I’ve heard in a long while. At times disturbing, and other times gorgeous, it’s a brilliant, meticulously crafted album that Manipulant should be proud of. Another thing he – and we fans – are proud of is his winning a third place WIGWAM Online Radio Award for Best Indie/Alternative Act of 2017.

To learn more about Manipulant, check out his Website

Connect on: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream:  Spotify / Soundcloud

Purchase Eclectro on: iTunes / Bandcamp

DEAD ON ARRIVAL – EP Review: “Chasing Tides”

It’s back to the UK to shine my spotlight on metal rock band Dead On Arrival. The Derbyshire four-piece was formed in 2011, and consists of Jack Dughan (Lead Vocals & Rhythm Guitar), Ben Calver (Lead Guitar & Backing Vocals), Connor Woodward (Bass) and George Lathbury (Drums). Drawing on influences from some of their favorite bands such as Metallica, Machine Head, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Asking Alexandria and Bring Me The Horizon, the guys make aggressive rock that’s melodic, raw and in-your-face. As they state on their Facebook bio, “Our passion is to write, produce and release our own music and then play it live and LOUD.

Dead on Arrival
Photo by Pete Key

Dead On Arrival released a full length debut album From the Ashes in 2016, and now return with a terrific EP Chasing Tides, which dropped on August 18. The EP delivers four scorching tracks that clearly demonstrate the band’s growth, both in songwriting and musicianship. Their song lyrics address themes of dysfunction and betrayal within ourselves, our relationships and our government leaders, and their ferocious instrumentals perfectly convey the strong feelings expressed in the lyrics.

Chasing Tides

Vulture in the Waves,” released as a single in late 2016, kicks things off with an onslaught of shredded guitars, powerful throbbing bass and pounding drums – all hallmarks of the band’s hard-hitting sound. Dughan wails the lyrics that speak of someone wracked with guilt and tormented by his actions:

Oh I’m the vulture in the waves
Chasing tides to escape my mistakes
Because I couldn’t live on
Knowing what I’ve done
And I hide in the shadows
It’s the only way to survive

Hammering drums and blazing riffs continue unabated on the hard-driving “Inside” and “Corrupted World.” Calver’s shredded and distorted guitars are mind-blowing, and the bass so heavy I felt it in my core. On the latter track, Dughan implores, “This is a final call. We will stand tall and fight against this corruption.”

As if the first three tracks aren’t aggressive enough, the guys unleash their full sonic arsenal on the bombastic “Sickening Thing.” The frantic guitar riffs rain down like thunderbolts, and Lathbury attacks his drums like a wild beast, nearly blowing out the speakers – and my ear drums! Woodward lays down a face-melting bass line, and Dughans’ fiery vocals match the brutal music note for note. It’s my favorite of the four tracks, and really shows what these guys are capable of.

Connect with Dead on Arrival:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music on  Spotify and purchase on iTunes

UPRIGHT MAN – Album Review: “Upright Man”

Upright Man Cover blue

Upright Man is a New York City-based rock band who released their debut self-titled album yesterday August 18, 2017. And after just one listen through of Upright Man, I must unequivocally state that it’s magnificent. Poetic lyrics are paired with bold instrumentals and soaring harmonic vocals to create ten stellar tracks that elicit strong feelings for the listener (they certainly did for me). The album was flawlessly produced by Marc Copely (Roseanne Cash, B.B. King, Billy Squire) and Zev Katz (Jeff Beck, Hall & Oates, Aretha Franklin), and engineered by Bruce Sugar (Ringo Starr, Joe Walsh) at Avatar Studios and Sear Sound in NYC, and at Blackbird Studios in Nashville.

But the creative minds and musical talent behind all this fantastic music are Aidan Dolan (guitar/vocals), Nick Katz (bass/vocals), and Max Yassky (drums/percussion/backing vocals). The guys met while studying classical music composition at New York University, where they played together on various projects ranging from classical ensembles to rock bands. Their strong chemistry ultimately led them to form Upright Man. Influenced by some of their favorite bands like Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Crowded House, Little Feat, Led Zeppelin and XTC, they combine elements of alternative, psychedelic, roots rock and classic rock with complex harmonies and melodies to create their own unique sound.

Aidan explains, “Our different musical backgrounds make for an explosive chemical reaction that creates something none of us would have alone.” Nick adds, “We have an intense compulsion to write songs together, and do so constantly.” “Our goal is to write great songs, play genuine music and share it with the world,” says Max.

Upright Man

We’re introduced to Upright Man with the sweeping opening track “Elysia.” The song is melodic rock candy, with layered jangly guitars, sharp percussion, brilliant keyboards and captivating vocals. In fact, their colorful instrumentation and harmonic vocals are a defining element of the band’s wonderful sound, also beautifully demonstrated on the next track “Agorognostic.”

Say What You Mean” really shows what these guys can do, with complex rhythmic change-ups that go from calm, strummed guitar one minute to fierce guitar riffs accompanied by a cascade of crashing cymbals the next. Aidan snarls: “Is it what you really want? Was it what you really want? Is it everything you want?/ Everybody cares what you think. But nobody cares what you think.”

The title track “Upright Man” is a terrific post-grunge rock song with a hypnotic beat, fantastic gritty riffs and Nick’s assertive buzzing bass. The guys’ vocals are in perfect harmony as they sing: “Cities built on soot and ash. Follow the fate of those who’ve past. It was the dream of an upright man to be loved. I fell down from the sky to become up on high.  Then Aidan wails: “So tell me why won’t you stand with me. Baby tell me you love me. I don’t need the truth. I just need you.” The down-tempo “Ecstasy” offers up moody synths and mellow vocals, punctuated by flourishes of electric guitar and crashing cymbals that reach a crescendo before ending in a reverb-heavy haze.

Keyboards take center stage on the stunning “Three Easy Pieces,” a standout track and my favorite on the album. The combination of lush piano, delicate synths, electric guitar, gentle percussion and the guys’ lovely harmonizing vocals are positively gorgeous, creating a dreamy soundscape. Aidan’s vocals are sublime as he sings: “The TV said I need a life. Ain’t I livin’ life? You can’t live on porcelain and wine. When you’re hungry you’ll find what you need.”

Another favorite is “Alaska,” a languid, rather melancholy song about searching for one’s place in the world, but not quite getting there: “Got a tattoo says ‘Alaska’ but I’ve never been. 20 questions I could ask you but I’ll never win. Oh I just get so cold. Hold me darling, deliver me from shivering.” As to now be an accepted fact, the instrumentals and vocals are mesmerizing.

The guys dial up the energy on “Designer Mind” and “Animals.” Both are great rock tracks with assertive percussion, strong, gravelly bass and dynamic, multi-textured guitar work. Album closer “Checked Out” delivers a captivating melody and incredible layered instrumentals, including keys, intricate guitars, crisp percussion, sweeping synths and Aidan’s smooth vocals. This is another standout track that proves without doubt that Upright Man is an exceptionally talented collective. They’ve got a brilliant debut album on their hands, and it should be in yours.

To learn more about Upright Man, check out their Website and social media: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud

Purchase: iTunes / Amazon

CANDID – Single Review: “Lay Me Down”

UK rock band Candid is quickly establishing themselves as one of the most exciting bands on the indie music scene. The Coventry, England foursome released their debut single “Moving On” in the fall of 2016, then followed up with the fantastic single “Rumours” in May, which I reviewed. They’re now back with a new single “Lay Me Down,” which dropped on 6 August, and it’s superb.

Candid is comprised of brothers Rob (rhythm guitar and vocals) and Dan Latimer (lead guitar), Sam Baines (bass) and Ben Williams (drums). Their dynamic sound delivers catchy melodies, outstanding guitars, wicked percussion and Rob Latimer’s commanding vocals. As I noted in my previous review, Candid’s sound has been compared to Catfish and the Bottlemen. That’s fine by me, as I love Catfish and the Bottlemen and now love Candid as well.

Candid

“Lay Me Down” is an exhilarating track with scorching riffs and thunderous percussion.  The instrumentals build to a crescendo at the bridge, and continue through to the end – guitars wailing, cymbals crashing and Rob’s soaring chorus raising the hair on the back of my neck.

The lyrics speak to someone who’s let him down one too many times, causing him to finally quit a relationship that’s beyond repair:  “I won’t believe it, until I know its true, cause I can’t get to you, no matter how hard I tried to oversee it. It’s always someone who tries to get to you, put the thought in your mind. /And no matter how hard I tried to turn the other cheek. No matter how hard I’ve tried to look the other way. So lay me down. Cause nothing can stop me now.

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NELSON REZEK – EP Review: “Nelson Rezek”

Nelson Rezek is a 24 year old singer, songwriter, guitarist, and multi-instrumentalist based in Birmingham, Alabama. I’ve followed him since he was a member of the heavy metal band Broken Rail, which he left about a year ago to pursue his own career as a solo artist, and it’s been gratifying to watch him come into his own and grow artistically. Nelson began his musical journey at the age of 13, when he discovered his passion for playing the electric guitar. While still with Broken Rail, he started writing his own songs, the first of which was “Too Far Broken,” which he released as a single in March 2016. He’s now released his debut self-titled EP, and I’m pleased to review it.

Nelson Rezek

For inspiration in creating his music, Nelson draws on influences from some of his favorite bands like Korn, Three Days Grace, Breaking Benjamin, Slipknot and Stone Sour. He explains: “Writing music is like therapy for me. Great music tells a story, and the beauty of it is it speaks to each person in a unique and personal way. I want to let people know through my music that they are not alone.” His songs address relationships and the myriad emotions they entail, such as lust, betrayal and regret.

Nelson Rezek2

Let me state upfront that Nelson is a phenomenal guitarist, and his complex, hard-driving guitar work is a dominant feature of his powerful sound. The first track “Part of Me” kicks things off with aggressive shredded guitars and hammering percussion. Nelson coaxes some fiery riffs from his six string while he snarls the biting lyrics that speak to someone who’s sucked the life out of the relationship, but he’ll never surrender his soul: “Go ahead and take this lie I own, I don’t fear you anymore. Go ahead and take all that I’ve known, but you’ll never take this part of me.”

Nelson delivers intricate, layered riffs, anchored by crushing bass and pounding drums that threaten to blow the speakers, on the mesmerizing “The Enemy.” With his smoldering vocals, he sings of letting everyone down, including himself:  “I am the enemy. I will let you down. Something inside of me, will always let me down.” He calms things down in the bridge, with a quiet voice over accompanied by a gentle guitar solo, before the music ramps back up to a crescendo in the outro.

He shows his softer side with the gorgeous ballad “Too Far Broken.” The song opens with a gentle riff, then layers of guitar, bass and percussion are added, creating an emotionally powerful track. Nelson fervently sings of his pain from a relationship that’s failed beyond repair: “Where’d you go? Why’d you have to leave it all behind? Too far broken. Can’t you see all this pain you’ve bottled inside of me.” The little guitar riff that’s introduced in the bridge is beautiful.

Prayers of the Guilty” is a high-energy, hard-rocking standout track (though, quite frankly, all are standouts as far as I’m concerned). Fast-paced jangly guitars erupt right from the start, with no let up as Nelson emotionally sings of the guilt he feels over his having let a loved one down. “If I could start a new beginning, would I even get to change the ending. Maybe I wouldn’t feel so empty, but all we got now is prayers of the guilty.”

The excellent video starts off with a woman in emotional distress who releases a letter into a lake. Then Nelson and his back-up musicians are shown performing the song in a natural setting, interspersed with with flashbacks of the woman ignoring her father’s calls because she was busy with her band, and scenes of her regretfully recalling happier times spent with him as a child. The video was directed by Kevin Wayne.

The hard-hitting “Drive Me Crazy” lives up to its title, as Nelson drives us crazy with an infectious melody and scorching hot riffs. Songs like this with a hard-driving beat and killer guitar work always get me going, and this is one of the best I’ve heard in a while. It’s a real head-banger that’s best enjoyed played full-blast!

Every time I listen to Nelson’s songs, I’m blown away by his strong musicianship and amazing guitar playing. Nelson Rezek is a strong, expertly-crafted debut effort that he should be proud of. I’m impressed by his hard work and determination to make the best music possible, and will continue following him on his musical journey. I encourage my readers to do the same by connecting with him on  Facebook /  Twitter /  YouTube

Stream his music: Spotify / ReverbnationSoundcloud

Purchase it:  BandcampiTunes