Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Oliver

November 15, 2003

The most-used instrument of this day and age is not the electric guitar. Ok, I know what you’re thinking. You’re about to call me nuts. But no! The acoustic guitar is far more popular than the electric. It seems that everyone is integrating at least a little acoustic into their sound. It just sounds pretty. Oliver is a guy who uses the acoustic for acoustic rock. Like Dashboard Confessional minus the emo.

This CD is 9 straight tracks of acoustic rock. This is it’s best feature and it’s downfall. As all of the tracks are in mostly the same vein, they show a maturity and finesse in his songwriting, and clearly show what he’s best at. Unfortunately, they do get a bit repetitive towards the end. What makes this CD interesting is the supplementary instruments used. There’s an electric organ, violin, tenor sax, piano, and other assorted keyboard noises to compliment the sound, and it works wonderfully. The best use of auxiliary instruments is definitely on “Chapter Five”, where a piano and a violin fill out the song in a very dramatic way. Speaking of dramatic, the vocals here could be described with that adjective. They are of a tenor range, not too high, but not too low either. They flow well on the ears, and since they are the main focus of the cd, they’d better. He also likes harmony, which he does ok. It’s not the most mind-blowing harmonizing I’ve ever heard, but it’s definitely not the worst. Another focus of the cd, the lyrics, aren’t as palatable as the vocals. For one, only part of the lyrics for each song are printed, usually the first verse and chorus or just the chorus. Secondly, they tackle ordinary things in an ordinary way. And since that’s the title, that’s the way it was supposed to be. The best song here is “Subway Stranger”, which has great lyrics, great music, and a great vocal line. If they were all like this,  it would be an amazing album.

This cd is a good acoustic rock cd. It has some flaws in it, but overall it’s a good starting point for a career. The well-done auxiliary instruments give this an extra punch, and make this worth the cash for fans of acoustic music. Not everyone will enjoy this yet, but with a little more refining, this will be as big as Dashboard or Dave Matthews Band.

Read: www.olivereng.com
Listen: www.olivereng.com
Buy: www.cdbaby.com/olivereng

Drag King

November 9, 2003

The world has not been nice to Drag King. They set out to be a conventional rock band, but after going through singers like Spinal Tap through drummers (sans death), they decided to set off as an instrumental group. Then they recorded this cd, as a guitar, bass, drums trio. Then, of course, the bass player gets antsy and runs off. What does Drag King do? Continues on, minus the bassist. That makes them a heavy math rock/metal duo. How much more uncommon can you get? Not very.

Immediately, a fierce, metallic wall of sound greets us. “Smile Like a Bunch of Cheerleaders” has very mathy, complex riffs, but the sound is so dense and powerful that to call it anything but metal would be an understatement. Since there are no vocals, all three instruments are essential to this sound. The guitars lead it, the bass relieves it, and the drums push everything along nicely. As we move on to the rest of the album, we find one term that defines this best: Chaotic. The guitar jumps around, playing erratic bursts of alternately note-intensive and chord intensive, slamming and a little less than slam. The trio hangs together by the seat of their pants. It doesn’t seem like it should make sense, but it does. Stellar tracks are the melodious and partially subdued “Shit to Eat”, cause the drums go veritably nuts during it, and the dark and ominous “Casual Male”.

The guitar fan will love this. No vocals to distract from this music. Just jagged, piercing guitars, frenzied drumming, and jaunty bass. The amazing thing is that although this is 10 tracks long, there’s enough variation of the guitar lines to keep it interesting. In a nutshell, if you like the first two tracks, you’ll love the rest of the album. If you’re just ok with them, then this will get tedious. But for some people, this album will float in the air, shine with an unearthly splendor, and be followed by an angelic hum.

Read: www.dragkingmusic.com
Listen: www.mp3.com/drag_king
Buy: www.dragkingmusic.com

Clearmotive

Any reviewer is going to say ‘melodic’ a lot in this day and age. It’s just a sad fact that the newest trend is to juxtapose soft and harsh in one song. If you can do that, you can slap an emo label on yourself and gain instant credibility, right? Wrong. Now the trend just seems abused. It seems there are three types of bands: the punk band, the melodic emo band, and the metal band. But you can mix and match those if you want.

Clearmotive is a melodic emo band. But before you write them off, there is something a bit different about them. They do have a screamer and a singer, but how they use them changes often. They fuse hard rock, dark rock, hardcore punk, hardcore, and even a little pop into their melodic emo base. Their attempts at hardcore punk and dark rock come off best, as they combine those two in the best track: “The Extent of Our Naivete”. This track has a medium tempo melodic intro with harmonious vocals over it, which segues into a horrific scream of “Fire Away!”. The guitars pick up in a punkish way, and the rest of the song is a mix of screaming, spoken word, frantic singing, and other extemporaneous madness. It’s awesome.

Ok, I know what you’re thinking. You’re scratching your head and saying, “Well…He’s said a lot of junk but I still don’t know what it sounds like.” Have no fear, just lend an ear. Clearmotive draws heavy comparisons to Mewithoutyou, Thursday, and Brand New. The harsh, gritty vocal style of Mewithoutyou is used often, the ornate melodies of Thursday are capitalized upon, and the affection for extreme soft and hard contrast is borrowed liberally from Brand New. Their soft/hard setting comes due to their use of the split-guitar method, which has one guitarist dropping the heavy, burdened riffs while the other plays single note structures on top of it. Another thing stolen from Brand New is their weird titles. They label songs with titles that have nothing to do with the actual lyrics, such as “Boy Meets Girl. Hilarity Ensues.” and “Huzzah! The Ship Is Ours!” It’s funny, yet odd.

Clearmotive is doing a good job. They are asserting their own little niche in a world of nondescript emo wannabes. They have done this by taking the best of what has been already done and infusing life into it. This is a stand-out disc that will make them go places. It’s not the newest thing on the block, but it will make your adrenaline pump.

Read: www.clearmotive.net
Listen: www.mp3.com/_clearmotive_
Buy: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/clearmotive2

Kervin/I think I see Evil

kervinKervin/I think I see Evil

Best Element: Blistering vocals over vitriolic guitars.

Genre: Rock.

Website: www.whoiskervin.com

Label: n/a

Politics and music have crossed many a time. In the sixties, it was folk protesters; in the seventies, everybody was anti-war, in the eighties, we had Farm Aid and Band Aid and Kool-Aid (just kidding); In the Nineties we had the manic funk of Rage Against The Machine; and today we have those hyperactive metalheads System of a Down. You can add to that list Kervin, who takes the best ideas of both Rage Against the Machine and System of a Down, combines them, and just blows everyone else out of the water.

Yes, Kervin just might be the best political band ever. By taking the lyrical rage of SOAD and pairing it with the machine-gun vocals of Anupum Mehrota (think Zak de la Rocha, only more bitter, less tonal, and way faster), Kervin has created a frontman who is virtually invincible- every single line here is memorable, screamable, quotable, and amazing. Try scratching these phrases in a bathroom stall somewhere: “Hey! Gallant rogues and dopes! You’ve all been appointed the citizens of the month!”, “”Gain wealth, forgetting all but self- hail patriots and twenty-four karats!”, or “Convenient conclusions stifle revolutions!”

If not already obvious by those quotes, here’s the facts: The guys in Kervin have put some blistering social commentary in this album. But don’t worry, this isn’t partisan angst; Instead of tackling ‘issues’, Kervin tackles issues, like uncaring citizenry (“Citizen of the Month”), war (“The Surgeon”), selfish rich people (“Mimic the Accident”), governmental diversion tactics on people (the ironic screaming of “Go, Yao Ming, Go!” during “Weird in the Public”), and governmental corruption (Every track on this album). They lay it all out in an essay as well- and even though this is 10 tracks of blistering rant and diatribe, the message never gets old. Maybe it’s because nobody is saying this stuff…perhaps more people should.

In creating a guitarist, they used this equation: [(Tom Morello – crazy pedal effects) + (SOAD Guitarist – metalhead tendencies + tougher rhythms)] = guitarist. That end result turned out to be Apurva Mehrota, a guitarist of the most unique quality. The riffs are all brilliant, with the exception of one instrumental track that was really just pointless. Each guitar line fits the ravings of Anupum perfectly, whether chugging away mercilessly (“Weird in the Public”), or jangling along harmlessly (“The Surgeon”), or rocking out in a very unique way (“Silent Alarm”, “Mimic the Accident”). The best instance of guitars is “Mimic the Accident”, which features a great single-note riff accented by pulsing bass, until a palm-muted riff takes over, which leads into a punishing chorus riff. The chorus here is the best on the album- you can just feel the seething anger held by the band here. This leads into a solo section that’s beyond words- it’s just stunning in its technique, tone, and note structure. I’ve heard it multiple, multiple times and I still can’t predict where it’s going next when I hear it. It’s that good.

So now that you know the amazing parts, I can tell you this: the whole is better than the parts. I haven’t even talked about the hyperactive bass lines or the perfectly punctual drumming. The best example of everything working together is “Citizen of the Month”. It starts out with guitar noise for a couple of seconds, before letting loose a vocal line that sounds like it’s trying to break free from the constraints of tempo, so rapid-fire is the delivery. The drums compliment this, as the guitars fall around it in a cascading manner until the chorus kicks the song into overdrive, forcing you to raise your fist and scream “HEY!” with them. The solo section is next, as the guitars go nuts and the bass does the same. It’s brilliance- pure and simple.

I Think I See Evil is the best rock album I have heard all year. If you liked Rage Against The Machine, you will praise the ground Kervin walks on, because this is even stronger rock than RATM put out. If you like System of a Down, you’ll love this too- because the guitars are as crazy as SOAD’s- just in a different way. These ten* shots of vitriol are simply stunning in their scope and performance- there’s just no way that you can avoid Kervin. Scream with them, or scream at them, but you’ll be screaming soon.

-Stephen Carradini

*the instrumental track sucks.

Full Surrender is an acoustic screamo band

Full Surrender is an acoustic screamo band. They are probably the only acoustic screamo band on the planet. This does not mean they do not rock. This three-song demo has much rock on it. It will shock and awe you (yes, I totally used a dead cliché right there).

“The Long Goodbye” starts off in a dramatic, sweeping way, comparable to the opening melody of a movie. It’s the perfect opening. FS features two acoustic guitars, but at first glance it is hard to tell if the melody is one extremely complex guitar part or two guitars. That’s how tight they are instrumentally. Since these are acoustic guitars, there are some strikingly beautiful moments, such as the majority of “Monochrome”. But pretty is not all they are. They can bang out some pretty ominous and hectic rhythms on their guitars too, as in the furious, all-out ending of “The Long Goodbye”. The percussion is nothing to sniffle at either. Percussion assists in a way not often seen in bands, taking a front seat in some places (especially the chorus of “On Soldiers and Enemies”). The eclectic collection of percussion instruments (hand drums, hand snare, and cymbals) is fresh, and takes this band to a whole new level of musicality. The three singers who compliment the instruments hit some great harmonies occasionally, but usually they stick to one or two people singing at once. Their screamer is used in moderation, enough that their genre can clearly be labeled screamo and but not often enough to turn off people who just like acoustic music.

Their methods, instruments, and music are unconventional, but that’s what makes this so amazing. They mix many odd and seemingly impossible elements together cohesively. It is elegant and sweeping where it should be, and fierce and intense in others. And all crammed into just three songs. No one’s ever done this before, to my knowledge. That means they’re pioneers of a genre. And how often can you say that in the overpopulated scene of today?

Read: www.fullsurrender.com
Listen: www.mp3.com/fullsurrender

Buy: N/a

One Step Behind

November 1, 2003

Some bands just don’t have much to say about themselves. They are all about the music. One Step Behind is one of those bands. So, to continue their ‘aura of mystery’, on to the review.

If asked offhand what One Step Behind plays, I would answer metal. If someone wanted a little more depth to it, I would tell them aggressive emo and semi-metal. This is not an insult. Their music is thick and intense, but doesn’t have the ferocity that metal bands possess. On this, the “Shine” EP, distorted screams and flange effect on guitar seem to be their favorite gimmicks. They don’t scream all that often, but when they do the screams are distorted and creepy. The exception to this is “Push Away” which is a true metal song, replete with frenetic screaming and smashing guitar lines. It is one of the best on the album. The rest of the album comes off as repetitive very quickly, as there are no new effects introduced, and the guitars just don’t have the strength to carry this album. The singing is ok, as the singer has a pretty good voice. When he uses it melodically on ‘aggressive emo’ track “Share With Me”, the song turns into a definite standout track. When he tries to sing with intensity, it just comes off as overdone.

One Step Behind does best when they go all out in one direction. Their hardest and softest tracks here are the best ones, and their ‘alternative metal’ offerings just aren’t that great. They need to get harder or softer, and they will be a respectable band. But the lukewarm metal has got to go.

Read: www.onestepbehind1.com

Listen: www.mp3.com/one_step_behind

Buy: www.onestepbehind1.com

Motion Picture Demise

There are some bands who have the high-brow aura around them. The lyrics, the music, the stage presence just all emanates the “I’m better than you”. There are others who give off the “I’m just like you, so let’s rock together” feel. Motion Picture Demise feels like the latter, and that’s a good thing.

The guitars set the stage for this band. Guitars are always the feature that distinguishes between highbrow and ‘working-man’s emo’. MPD’s are clanging, gritty, tough, and have a unique style that is accented throughout the album. The style is best shown on the opener “Wings of Fallen Hope”. The vocals are intense, and the guitars complement that, keeping their frenetic sound going under the vocals at all times. The singer has a smooth, fixated voice, accommodating well to harmony, which they use sparingly but well. To make their sound even more intense, the singer is complimented by a screamer. He is used pretty often, but not in overkill. They try many styles of music throughout this album, but each has an underlying bed of dark emo. While they have shining moments in nearly every song, they sound best when they are playing…. dark emo! Their attempts at punk/emo and melodic emo just don’t come off as well as their ferocity. This could be because of their lyrics, which are dark, paranoid, and eerie, even in the happier songs. The best exemplification of MPD style would definitely be “Wings of Fallen Hope.” Also excellent is the third track, “How to Scale A Mountain”, although it features some odd vocals.

Their guitar work is inventive when they play fast, dark, and hard. Otherwise, it’s just blah. This means they should play fast, dark, and hard a lot more. They do get points for experimenting with other genres, but on their next release, their best material should be highlighted. If the light stuff gets better or the dark stuff increases volume, they will be awesome. This good debut proves there is a bright future for these dark guys.

Read: www.motionpicturedemise.com

Listen: www.mp3.com/motionpicturedemise

Buy: www.interpunk.com/item.cfm?Item=55235&

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

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