Custom are a five-piece hard rock band hailing from Seattle. They have played a major part in the Seattle rock scene, having been together for over a decade with hundreds of live performances under their belt. They consist of David Lyon on lead vocals, Corey Petro and Scott Bickham on guitar, Paul Yarnold on bass and Brian Cochran behind the kit. Bickham and Yarnold also contribute vocals. They have released several albums over the years including Flat Out Fast (2014) and Brace For Impact (2018). They have received considerable acclaim from various rock music publications and amassed a huge fanbase along the way.
This album, V, consists of ten tracks and was mastered by the great Jack Endino of Nirvana fame. Proceedings gets off to an incendiary start with the storming opening track, King Alice. It showcases the Custom sound and style; a mixture of classic rock, grunge and metal that takes the best aspects of each. Every great rock band needs a great lead vocalist and with David Lyon, they have one. His full throated, impassioned vocals give King Alice its cathartic edge, twinned with the serrated edge electric guitar sound and the thunderous drumming of Brian Cochran.
The song captures the band’s rare ability to perfectly blend the melodic with the visceral, a richly melodic verse then switching to heavy riffage that shows both the influence of classic rock bands like Led Zeppelin and classic metal groups like Iron Maiden and Slayer. You can also detect 90’s grunge influences like Soundgarden and Pearl Jam.
Equally good is Snake In The Grass, a rolling rhythm driving a colossal riff and building to a killer chorus that is instantly memorable and anthemic. It’s a classic tale of the lure of a femme fatale: “Your eyes upon me,
I feel the heat of your gaze, you’re coiled and ready, baby but I will not be your prey…”. It features another superb vocal performance from David Lyon and the wah-drenched lead guitar is the icing on the cake.
Open Road is an absolute juggernaut of a track, hurtling along like Deep Purple’s classic Highway Star. It’s a thrilling song about escaping your situation and hitting the road, referencing the poetry of Robert Frost along the way! The musical synergy of the band is very apparent here, generating a fierce momentum that serves as the bedrock for another high register lead vocal.
The momentum and brilliance is maintained by the fiesty and fiery Game On, an ebullient laying down of the gauntlet to their rivals and enemies. Paul Yarnold gets to shine on this track, delivering a killer bassline, gripping the listener from the outset. It develops into a perfect marriage of soaring melody and hard hitting riffs, with an exotic, mellifluous modal guitar solo.
Finis Omnium is the album’s epic at five minutes long, and finds them st their most poetic and, dare I say, prophetic. It’s a timely track about the strong possibility of an impending apocalypse captured in the soaring, poignant chorus: “We’re primed to fall, our starship slowly dying…the signs abound, our wounds are self-inflicted…”. They do still offer hope with the line: “There’s still time to save our starship…”
Ten Years Gone takes a sad subject, a relationship that has died but is not yet over, and married it to another rollicking rollercoaster of a musical ride. Emphatic use of dynamics and syncopation give this one a wild energy.
I Sit Alone is the album’s darkest and most vulnerable track, expressing the hell of deep depression and despair with typical eloquence in the chorus: “I hide in the darkness and bathe in my madness, I sit alone and hide from the light...”. A superb song showing the band’s emotional range and depth.
Do It Again provides the perfect contrast, starting out like an AC/DC track then building into a fist pumping anthem full of great hooks and riffs. The way the band have carefully balanced the ups and downs of the songs’ emotional content is skilfully done.
They let their hair down and have some fun with the light hearted, tongue in cheek dark humour of penultimate track He Should Be Dead. Set at a hectic pace, it features the Custom signature sound of roaming bass, powerhouse drums, razor sharp guitars and another entertaining, almost theatrical lead vocal. Lyrically, it’s wry gallows humour: “One said he heard our friend had died in the CIA but then the others said they’d heard the KGB, no-one seemed to know the facts, but he was dead, they all agreed…”. Special mention should go to perhaps the best guitar solo on the album, featuring some phenomenal Richie Blackmore-style runs up and down the neck. I can imagine this track going down an absolute storm when they play it to a packed audience.
After the riotous, party-vibe elation of that song we are brought back down to earth with a beautiful and haunting reprise of Finis Omnium. Consisting of simply flowing minor key piano, it shows the classical influence to their music, yet another layer of sophistication which is beyond the reach of most rock bands. The final seconds are the poignant, portentous sound of falling rain and rumbling thunder.
Overall, this is a truly fantastic hard rock album from this clearly highly experienced and accomplished five-piece band. All members contribute to the Custom sound, but what stands out is the consistency of the music’s quality whilst managing to encapsulate a number of musical influences and styles cohesively. Perhaps most importantly of all, Custom rock like hell and if there’s a better rock album released this year I’ll be amazed.