Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

The Suicide Pact

August 26, 2003

The Suicide Pact, Hailing from Philadelphia, PA, is an emo band. They have a three song demo. Sounds cliché? Trust me. .it’s nothing like what you think it is.

“The Edge of Forever” immediately throws down everything they are, which is quick punk beats, hard sound, and slow, emo-esque interludes. The ‘lead riff’ is a bit used, but the rest of the song is very cool. The singer has a high tone, ala Saves The Day. He also has a big range, and he fits in the songs very well. “That’s What You Get For Caring” tosses out a harder angle, leaning towards dark rock, but still maintaining a punkish sound. The vocal line is even better than the first song. The breakdown is phenomenal, featuring a powerful, thrashing drumbeat which I didn’t expect at all. It’s an extremely well done song, and one that will leave your jaw on the floor. “There’s Blood on My Wing” starts off with a more melodical approach. The harmonies here are tight and focused, and the vocal performance is the best out of the three. By showing off other parts of their sound, they distinguish themselves from being a good punk band to a really good emo/rock band. It rocks out at the end, and it is truly cool, using some screams contrasted against nice melodies.

Overall, this is a great three song demo, one of the best I’ve ever reviewed. Fans of Vendetta Red mixed with a punk band would like these guys. Watch them, they will be big soon. 8 out of 10.

Read: www.thesuicidepact.com

Listen: www.mp3.com/suicidepact
Buy: N/A (whole album available at above address)

Blue Tom

Blue Tom is not your normal punk band. This, their fourth cd, is a great collection of not just punk, but also true rock music.

Since they are a punk band, they have the mandatory pop-punk song here and there. In between them are the real gems…the songs that have punk influences, but aren’t actually falling into that genre. Not that the poppy stuff is bad, but their other songs are so much better. This is especially true of their dark stuff (i.e. the ender track “Traitors”, which has a huge solo outro which rocks like nothing else on the CD). They also are a very technical band, using upbeats and other syncopations to turn the cliché into the fresh. Another hallmark of this band is their idea of starting out with a relatively small sound and adding layers upon layers of music. It effectively creates a climatic feel in their choruses, which makes me both shiver and want to sing along. The vocals which help create this feel are both smooth and fierce, powerful and tender. They shine often, and are very well done. Their backup vocals consist of another excellent singer, and at one point a whole bunch of guys yelling “Hey! Ho!” (which is truly cool). Their bassist is highly inventive, creating swift walk lines and even driving some songs with his intensity and melody. They don’t feature a breakdown or solo very often, which shows a great confidence in themselves, and a maturity that comes with age. Highlights here include the opener, and the amazing back to back combo of “Sneak Attack on the Devil” and “Pushing And Fighting”. On the latter, their religious beliefs shine through heavily in the lyrics, but not in a preachy way. They get some definite kudos for that.

This is the future of punk. Blue Tom is blazing a trail, and it’s up to the rest of the punk world to see if it has enough talent to follow in its huge footsteps. If they do, we will usher in a new era of music. If not, well, we still have Blue Tom. 8.5 out of 10.

Read: www.bluetom.com
Listen: www.mp3.com/bluetom
Buy: www.bluetom.com

Bleeding Heart’s Melody

Tim Bouchard (aka Bleeding Heart’s Melody) is an acoustic emo songwriter and former member of the emo band “Curbside All-Stars”. He cites his influences as Dashboard Confessional, and Chris Carrabba’s influence is present everywhere on this CD, from lyric type to style of playing to vocal style.

This, his second EP, has both lyrical hallmarks of an emo cd: songs about girls, and more songs about girls. His lyrics are deeper than that though. They show a deep sense of discontent with what is, and the pain of waiting for something else to come. This is best shown on “Epilogue 54”, the culminating track in order, but not in mood. This cd is built very well mood-wise…It starts off slow and builds to a climax in “December Lies”, then slows down in “Epilogue 54”.

The style of playing is reminiscent of Dashboard Confessional, but then, what white guy with an acoustic guitar isn’t compared to Dashboard. It’s pretty good, and he does one thing DC has never done: use two guitars. He uses one as a ditty player, and the other as a chord player, and it sounds good.

The big problem with this CD is the vocals. They are high and a bit whiny, but that’s fine. The problem lies in the ambition of some of these lines. Some of them are too high, too long, or in a bad range for him, and they just sound off. It detracts from the overall experience. I think that it was just that one performance though….he most likely fell victim of the low-budget means, high budget ideas problem that all indies fight. On a last note, he has a penchant for long songs, turning just 4 songs into 23 minutes worth of music. To his credit, only one track gets repetitive: The 7 minute long epic “The Hidden Truth”.

Fans of Acoustic Emo will like this cd. It’s a good effort, and worth the money. To people who aren’t fans of it, it’d be a mixed bag….I’d try it out first. One leg in before the other…. 6.5 out of 10.

Truly Sunday

August 23, 2003

Truly Sunday is a punk band. The name means nothing, just like all good punk bands. They have a 3-song demo….just like everyone else starts out on. Are they like everyone else?

A bright but subdued guitar line and a nice melody draw you in on “Perfect Night”. The chorus has a great hook, the lyrics are pretty good, but after the intro, it’s musically nothing new. “Open Letter” starts off with an acoustic guitar playing an ultra catchy riff, which is quite cool. Unfortunately, the goodness ends after the intro. The vocals are extremely high, and don’t sound good at all. In addition, a harmony line appears that doesn’t work at all. This song is almost redeemed by the fantastic bridge, but the bridge is so short that it can’t be. “Flattery Lies” shows some definite promise, with a very well thought out two-singer line, some interesting verse instrumentation, and some above average lyrics. It’s a bit repetitive by the end though. This song is a darker song, so to fall in with the current way things are, it has to have some screams at the end. They’re placed well and don’t detract, though. This is definitely the best moment in this short EP.

Truly Sunday is your normal punk/alternative band. If you like pop-punk, this will float your boat nicely. If not, well…it’s just like everyone else. 5 out of 10.

Vote Toby

August 21, 2003

Vote Toby is a band straight out of St Louis, Missouri area. Literally out. They live in Chicago now, hoping to make a name for themselves in a bigger ‘scene’. They’ve been around a couple of years, long enough to generate their first EP, which is immediately tagged as of unnatural proportions (4 songs is an unusual number…it’s usually 3, 5, or 6). How does it sound, you ask? Well, I was getting there….

The “Reply” EP states that the first track is “..And Fall Down”. It opens up with a lengthy, melodic, yet dissonant intro. This sets the stage for the rest of the album, which is rock with a definite emo bent, along the lines of Brand New, but with less edge. The intro dims, and the vocals step into the spotlight. They’re versatile, high and low at different places. They aren’t the most fitting, but they aren’t bad. The breakdown here is the best on the album. “Burn Bright” throws some harder riffs at us before returning to melodic rock for the verses. A second vocalist takes the reins for the chorus, infusing some nice variation into this. Some vocal effects mix it up as well, and this is the best song they offer us. A more straight-forward rock approach opens up “Discarded”. Some parts of this song are cool, like the bass line in one section, but mostly this doesn’t stick out as spectacular. The most problematic part is the vocals, which border on bland. “Today” shows a softer, slower side, but they still keep up the rock. The vocals feel like they are covering the song in some places, but they are impressive in other parts. The bridge was especially nice here.

Overall, this is good. They like to sing and mess with harmonies, effects, and volumes, but they never lose sight of the fact that instruments are just as important. Many bands do, and create lopsided albums that come off as repetitive. There’s nothing all that bad about this album, but there’s nothing that sticks in your mind as well. A valid first effort, Vote Toby has something going here that just needs more developing. Definitely put Vote Toby on your to-watch list. 6.5 out of 10.

Faraway

August 16, 2003

Any straightline emo band at one time another must sound like The Juliana Theory. TJT has done volumes of different styles, and are constantly changing. But this review is not about them. It is about Far-away. Faraway sounds like early TJT, when they were just starting out and were a punk band with less punk and more band. Far-away isn’t breaking any ground, but they sure aren’t losing any….

This demo starts off with a great intro to “Juliet, Remind Me to Thank You”. Very hooky, very sellable. The vocals are high, but not too high…they feel like they fit. That’s how this band is…the songs just fit together. The bass line in this song is very good. “Our Best Kept Secret” starts off on a seriously punk solo/riff before tossing some tight two singer chords and some teasing, I-can-be-punk-but-I’m-not songwriting. The sound just feels so at home….this band works together perfectly. This all too-short demo ends on ‘Split Decision’, which has a decidedly darker feel to it. The vocals and lyrics drive this track. The guitar part is nothing new, but it doesn’t have to be here, because the whole thing works together.

Faraway is, in one word, solid. They have a great chemistry, and their two singers are awesome. This album is for anyone who likes rock. You won’t be disappointed…cause there’s nothing to dislike. 7 out of 10, and I can’t wait for new material from them.

Read: www.faraway-band.com
Listen: www.mp3.com/farawayband
Buy: N/A (whole album available at above address)

The Walk Home

The Walk Home is actually one man, Adam Pepitone. He plays an acoustic guitar and has named himself, but that’s where the comparisons to Chris Carrabba (aka Dashboard Confessional) end. TWH is a living testament that you can play an acoustic guitar and not sound like DC…and that you can do it well!

After a simple count-off, “Every Step to Evade” opens up as a mid-tempo rocker. The vocals here are very smooth and listenable. The background vocals are good, and the chorus is veritably anthemic. Also incorporated are a bass solo and a synthesizer. Despite being a five minute song, it never gets boring. A short ballad named “Making Sure You’re Fine” comes next. The vocal arrangement is delicate, but still conveys a sense of sadness and loss. An upbeat acoustic rocker (Stronger than Stars) comes next. It’s one of the few moments on this CD that he sounds reminescent of Dashboard Confessional, until he breaks away by using an extra electric guitar sporadically throughout the song.  It’s highly enjoyable. Some deft fingerpicking sets up “Best of Friends”. The vocals here are a bit more raw, and they feel differently than the rest. It’s an ok song, but it feels a bit out of place until the bridge and last chorus. The longest song on the album (Take In Every Detail) starts off with some slower playing and an epic feel in the vocals. A piano is introduced on this track, accentuating the mood. The only bad part about this is the outro vocals, which feels simplistic and unfitting to the rest of the song. The lyrics here are fantastic, especially on “Best of Friends” and “Every Step to Evade”.

This is a great acoustic emo/rock cd. It has it’s low points, but they are outweighed by the numerous high points. There’s not much to say about this….cause it’s self explanatory or I’ve already said it. You’ll like this if you like Dashboard Confessional, but also if you like mellow rock.  7 out of 10.

Glori-H – S/t

Read: www.mp3.com/glorih
Listen: www.mp3.com/glorih
Buy: www.cdbaby.com/glorih

I have the worst luck with bands….I always find the best ones after they break up. Glori-H is gone, but the music is not, thankfully…

“September Waltz” slams out of the starting gate with fuzzy, distorted riffs and dark rock slam. It never falls into any other genre, it’s just dark rock.  The vocals are rough, low, and powerful. They drive with a passion and emotion unmatched by any independent band I’ve heard. “Dissatisfied” sounds like the Counting Crows with dark rock flair inserted. It’s an extremely interesting track, as the vocals switch to a much more melodic, soft, and moving tone. Dark but clean strumming opens “Still Shaken”. Another darker piece, it churns with emotion. The lyrics here are amazing.  A return to dark rock and the graveling, reverbed, inviting vocals shows up in “Turn it On”. The chorus is amazing, with a great progression, nearly screamed vocals, and haunting words: “Soon….she’s all I have….when she turns it on again….you’re going to sacrifice.”

“Rhythm and Friction” is the best of both worlds, smacking of acoustic melodic creativity and the dark rock power that they possess. A pointed use of silence occurs for the second time on this album. “Goldenone” has an upbeat, Lifehouse feel to it, but overall dark feel of the album is maintained. A return to the style of “Dissatisfied” greets us on “Wire Frame”. It has a hollow feel that can be felt by the listener….not to be listened to by happy people.

“Refrain” is the best song on the album. It  starts out with only acoustic guitar and a nearly silent vocal line, then blasts you in the face with the closest to a scream as he gets and wild guitar in the style of “September Waltz”. It’s shocking, amazing, and genius. The awesome solo sounds like a cross between an Audioslave solo and a normal solo.

“Chair”, a true acoustic song, feels overshadowed, and doesn’t continue the feel of the album at all. It’s a good song in itself, but it doesn’t fit too well in the overall theme.

Amazing. I could not find a single problem with this album. I even looked for them. Passion, fury, emotion, creativity…if only the acoustic song were a bit better, it would’ve been a perfect album. Amazing. Get a copy. Now. 9.5 out of 10

Star Sutra

August 10, 2003

Read: www.mp3.com/starsutra
Listen: www.mp3.com/starsutra
Buy: http://www.soundclick.com/store/ShoppingCartInfo.cfm?ID=4844

At first look, Star Sutra might seem like a heavy band (they have a nuclear explosion as cover art), but they really have a brooding, mellowesque rock style vaguely comparable to Coldplay on an electric trip with bits of jazz tossed in. It’s very unique.

‘Archaeopteryx’ opens us up with a smooth riff and a high, breathy vocal style. It makes the song feel very different. The drummer is very apparent in this song, which is good. A highly jazz influenced riff sets up “Morning Prayer”. The lead riff is good, but it is meant to be a vocals-driven song, and the vocal line isn’t good enough to completely carry it. When the band fills out completely, a faster, moodier feel comes to this, and it is much better.

A great two-guitar intro starts off the relatively basic ‘Skipping Records’, which features the best vocal line so far: haunting, enticing, and singable. This is a highlight.  “Honeymoon in Samsara” features a cool percussion effect and a happier (emphasis on -er) sound. The instruments are more straightforward than on the weaving, intersected “Morning Prayer”, but less than on “Skipping Records”, and it is in compromise that things work best.  ‘Dearest Pandora’ fingerpicks its way through most of the song and introduces the concept of slide guitar, producing a very empty, introspective feel. The vocals are some of the best on the album, continuing the mood perfectly, being uncharacteristically low. A wild breakdown is featured towards the end, before returning to the fingerpicking. It’s the best song on here.

An upbeat, catchy riff is accentuated by a counter riff to start off ‘Good Morning Afterglow’. It catches your ear like no other. A feel-good song with a twinge of sadness, this song could be on radio anywhere. This finale is undoubtedly the catchiest, and you will be repeating this one.

This whole CD feels like a story, with each song flowing into the next. In fact, if you repeat the CD, the last song feels like it flows into the first. It’s an amazing piece of art. It’s complex, it’s simple, it’s haunting, it’s beautiful, it’s sad, it’s happy, it’s downright moving. My only qualms are that the vocals on the first few tracks are raw and take away from the rest of the song. Solid 8 out of 10, and I’m sorry this band broke up.

Motion the Massacre — The Enigma of Human Suffering

Read: http://www.geocities.com/motionthemassacre/
Listen: www.mp3.com/motionthemassacre
Buy:  www.mp3.com/motionthemassacre

Motion the Massacre is (by their own accounts) an industrial act with world influences. It’s pretty much that, but one important note is the absence of vocals. They depend on instruments to say whatever they’re trying to say.

Motion the Massacre starts off “The Enigma of Human Suffering” with a piano/strings duet that’s pretty good. Not the most complicated or long thing ever, it’s a good opener.  A breakbeat and some odd droning instruments start “Feeding the Fear”. A heavily distorted guitar drives this slowly grinding track. With the same structure and instruments, this is boring by a minute and a half. “Shrine” features the same penchant for repetitiveness, which turns into monotony quickly. A good intro starts off “Ancestry”, a song that actually shows some interesting turns, but again, falls due to its own repetitiveness.

“From Within” finally features a thumping guitar like you know you wanted. It features some great breakbeats. A cymbal heavy, weighted piece called “Defacement” is also repetitive, but doesn’t get old as fast, making it the first enjoyable song.  “Silence” THANKFULLY reintroduces the piano/strings idea….finally. An empty sounding, would-be ballad (if there were vocals), it’s a definite high point.

“Art of the Masochist” has a definite melody, and it’s pretty good.  A seemingly machine gun sound pulls you into “Fetisha”, a better song than anything else so far, combining the strings and piano idea with the breakbeat/ethereal noise combo to make a much better song.  The title track, a beautiful piano/strings line, is last. When a keyboard pulses out a bassline, it’s even better, and when the two are placed together, it is best. The longest track, it deserves to be, because it’s the best one.

It feels like two bands here….a piano/strings band and an industrial, noisy band. The first would get a 6, the second a 2, because it’s just so repetitive. Together, they balance out a bit. Vocals would’ve helped the monotony a bit, because many repetitive bands have been saved by vocals. This just feels like combing a desert for jewels. 4.5 out of 10.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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