ALBUM REVIEW: Bound By Gravity by Paragon Theorem

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https://www.facebook.com/paragontheorem

Paragon Theorem are a five-piece hard rock band hailing from Hartford, Connecticut. Their music is a fusion of various kinds of hard rock, grunge and metal. Their many influences range from classic hard rock like Guns N’Roses, Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin to grunge bands like Alice in Chains and Soundgarden as well as modern rock/metal such as Deftones and Breaking Benjamin.  They’ve been releasing music for several years, and before this album they released Bare Your Soul in 2013 and Inkwell in 2015, building up a strong fanbase in the process.

This third album, Bound By Gravity, consists of eleven tracks. It gets off to an incendiary start with the powerful low-end chords and muscular drum sound of Singularity. It also has some very modern elements, with guitars put through some futuristic sounding effects. On top of this colossal wall of sound, the compelling, raw and distinctive vocals of Brian Moore soar over the music and his style/tone brought to mind Layne Staley from Alice In Chains plus elements of the late, great Chris Cornell (Soundgarden/Audioslave).

An effective vocalist is perhaps the important ingredient in the genre of hard rock/metal as it has to be a voice that can cut through a heavy barrage of guitars, bass and drums. Fortunately, Moore is exceptional and blessed with a fantastic vocal range. Featuring an anthemic chorus, lyrically Singularity is a very apposite and timely song about the consequences of science interfering with nature: “There’s a price to pay if you want to live forever, swap veins for copper wires, just trade in your heart for a shiny new battery…”.

Second song The Bottom swaps the societal for the deeply personal, an upbeat rock/metal track with angst ridden and brutally honest lyrics about struggling with deep depression: “Gotta find the bottom before it defines me, gotta find the bottom before it becomes six feet..…”. It features another excellent lead vocal performance along with some very effective Alice In Chains-style vocal harmonies. The guitar solo by lead guitarist Steve Delesdernier is superb, really letting rip near the end. Another instantly memorable hard rock anthem.

Next comes the title track, based around a blistering, meaty guitar riff. It’s another philosophical, existential song that reflects on the human race as the result of the blind process of evolution and the laws of physics: “No more than chemicals in a radiation bath, we’re all here together but we perceive alone….still just animals, no apparent path….”.

Invoking mythological characters like Sisyphus and Prometheus add further intellectual weight to the words, showing Paragon Theorem are a fair bit smarter then most of their contemporaries. The music melds the complex with the simple and effective, combining intricate riffage with a huge, chanted chorus.

Butanna shows the first example of variety in their sound, starting with crystalline acoustic guitars. It soon develops into another rocking track that depicts the bitter end of a long romantic relationship, as evidenced by the opening lines: “It’s not enough to say six years were wasted, they’re nothing but worthless memories…”. It contains one of the most instant vocal hooks on the album (“So long! So long! I do not wish you well!”) as well as some stellar, phenomenally fast lead guitar work.

Fifth track Combustion maintains the consistent high quality of the songwriting, this one standing out by virtue of the Avenged Sevenfold-esque dual lead guitar harmonies which really lift another strong chorus. Lyrically, it has a positive and defiant message to convey through lines like, “Nobody here can escape, nobody can get away, doesn’t mean that we should lay down and throw the towel in…”. The drumming of Josh Ingraham on this track deserves special credit, with some furious double-kick work in certain sections.

The Heist gives us a bigger glimpse of their more gentle and sensitive side. It’s a finely crafted ballad based around delicately picked acoustic guitar and lyrically tells the tale of Bonnie and Clyde from the first person perspective: “No, I can’t tell you why we make the choices we make, oh, I can’t tell you a lie, I think it might be the bags of money!”. The following APB is another song that displays their musical intelligence, with some fantastic triplet-based guitar lines overlaid over straight 4/4 to give the track a progressive metal feel.

Eighth song Charade is an entertaining track that opens with a spoken word monologue before launching into a hard hitting rocker that made me think of Faith No More’s Angel Dust, with its constantly shifting rhythms and complex arrangement. Lyrically, it’s a visceral takedown of someone who has turned out to be a fake: “The man with two faces masquerading as a God, with a homemade crown, he is…the Charade“. Again, some brilliant stacked guitar harmonies lift the music to another level.

Ninth song There is another fine example of their acoustic balladry, this one bringing to mind the more folky elements of Led Zeppelin through some very melodic and intricate guitar figures. It’s a refreshing change of pace after the juggernaut momentum of the previous tracks. This sound continues with the intro to Marvel, which then develops into their more signature style and another of their five minute epics. The nuanced contrasts in the arrangement mean this song rewards repeated listening.

The final song Wanted closes the album on a highly emotional and moving note, a heartfelt acoustic ballad featuring a captivating lead vocal from Brian Moore. It is reminiscent of the finest Aerosmith ballads, though with a greater emotional depth in the lyrics: “Bare your soul, show me everything you are…don’t be afraid, show me you every single scar…”. The Spanish sounding classical acoustic guitar lends a nice sophistication to this wonderfully sculpted song, ending the album quite literally on a high note.

Overall, Bound By Gravity deserves to be recognized as one of the best hard rock/metal albums of recent years. With an array of versatile musicians and blessed with a first rate rock vocalist, Paragon Theorem also excel at consistently writing memorable choruses with lyrics that stand up to analysis. The result is a hugely enjoyable musical journey that runs the gamut in terms of emotional range and subject matter.

VERDICT =  9.2 out of 10            

Alex Faulkner

 

Pre-order the album HERE

SINGLE REVIEW: Core by Kori Reardon

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Kori Reardon is a singer-songwriter hailing from Christchurch, New Zealand. Aside from his solo work, he is the front man in an alt-rock band called Rezin though the musical style of his solo material is more acoustic rock. He has been releasing songs under his own name for about four years and this year has seen a plethora of releases including Here We Go Again, Awaken Me, Free You, Raw shot and DSA amongst others.

This latest track, Core, is a heartfelt acoustic rock ballad that showcases his fine skills as a singer and songwriter. Starting off with Led Zeppelin-style acoustic lead guitar over strummed chords, what quickly becomes apparent is the passion and intensity with which he performs his vocals. He has a powerful voice, not unlike Jon Bon Jovi but with his own distinctive nuances and performing style. The song is very well crafted and the title hook grabs you instantly on the first listen: “You shook me to the core…”.

Lyrically, it’s about the difficulties of loving relationships, a subject most will relate to well and there’s a wisdom borne of experience to lines like: “It’s nothing but a waste of time to hurt, blame, scream and fight….”. The song’s arrangement builds gradually and effectively, with the drums not entering until the second verse. After the second chorus is an excellent refrain section that adds to the emotive power of the song (“It’s not yet time to say it, it’s not time to say goodnight.…”).

Overall, this a highly impressive release from a Kiwi songwriter blessed with a strong voice and who gives everything in his vocal performance. His excellent skills as a guitarist go hand in hand with his gift for songwriting and with Core, he may well have the song that really propels him to a much wider audience. With flawless production and a natural commercial appeal that encompasses both rock and pop, the future’s looking good for Kori Reardon.

 

VERDICT = 8.7 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

 

SINGLE REVIEW: Shine On You by Jo Oliver

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www.jooliver.net

Jo Oliver is a singer/songwriter, arranger, producer and multi instrumentalist (guitar, bass, drums, keyboards) from Germany, but sings in English. He has been performing since the age of fourteen as a guitarist, with singing being a more recent development. Essentially, he is a one-man band as he writes, sings, plays, records and produces his music entirely by himself.

His music is a fusion of rock, pop, funk and soul. His influences are eclectic, from epic rock like Queen and Led Zeppelin, to vocal groups like Earth, Wind And Fire. These influences are made manifest in this song, Shine On You. It’s a funk rock track with a tight groove and a fine vocal performance from Jo. In fact, the first rate quality applies to everything; powerful Led Zeppelin-style riffs and Chili Peppers funk guitar, with Van Halen-esque lead guitar and a funky, driving bassline.

There is a strong pop element as well, with the title providing a very catchy hook, backed by stacked vocal harmonies reminiscent of Queen. Jo manages to balance a well structured song while expressing his musical virtuosity, which some musicians would have allowed to take over. But Jo understands that the song is the most important thing, and displays his songwriting craft with style here.

Overall, this is a fine piece of funk rock from a highly talented and versatile singer songwriter, who is able to bring his artistic vision into reality with just his own abilities. Shine On You will appeal to those who enjoy commercial pop, but also to the more discerning music fans who appreciate fine musicianship.  Jo Oliver has huge potential to reach a large fanbase and achieve his musical dreams with further material of this quality.

VERDICT: 8.6 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

E.P. REVIEW: Knock 3 More Times by Bad Marriage

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www.BadMarriageMusic.com

Bad Marriage are a five-piece classic rock band hailing from Boston, MA. The band consists of Jon Paquin on vocals, Mike Fitz and Ian Haggerty on guitars, Todd Boisvert on bass and Michael Delaney on drums. Their sound is influenced by great rock bands from the 70’s era like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Aerosmith and 80’s rock like Van Halen and Guns ‘n Roses. They have the honour of being awarded “Best of 2017” by Classic Rock Magazine and have accrued a large fanbase.

This EP, Knock 3 More Times, consists of six songs and begins with the title track. Starting with an irresistible Led Zep-style low-end riff, you know from the opening lines that this band are the real deal: “Standing at the bar at a shotgun wedding, giving everybody a piece of my mind…”. Jon Paquin has the vital ingredient for any rock band worth their salt; an awesome voice.

His style is halfway between Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Bon Scott and Robert Plant, with a great vocal range. Just as importantly, Bad Marriage know how to write great rock anthems, not just write cool sounding riffs like the lesser of their contemporaries. After an infectious verse, the song bursts into a cracker of a chorus, as catchy as the best AC/DC songs. A classic to kick things off.

That band comes to mind again with the slinky, sleazy thick guitar-riffage of Wizard of Love. It fits the lyrics which, in time-honoured rock tradition, are essentially letting the ladies know that a good time is very much on offer: “Your mama told you stories all about me, a rebel king to set you free, cos I’m the real McCoy, a dragon slaying boy….”. There’s a dry, knowing humour to the grandstanding that gives it charm. They deliver another anthemic chorus on this one, and the riff leading into the solo is fantastic.

Third track Be With You is a little more romantic in tone, digging emotionally a bit deeper with lines like: “I used to think that life was a game but now it’s breaking me down….”. They deliver another fist-pumping chorus, and I could detect the influence of Boston on this one, incidentally their home city.

Nay-Sayin’ Blues is back to the stomping 2/4 beat that gets people head banging and making ‘devil horns’. Lyrically, it’s a bit of a departure, a call-to-arms to stand up against the corruption in the world: “You left the truth far behind, there’s a trail of lies following you….now’s the time for revolution“. There’s some fabulous lead guitar worth sticking to the last seconds for.

Dead End Girl is another great song about women troubles, this one about a lady who’s a femme fatale, who can’t tell when she’s got something good going: “You’re fooling me with the tears you’ve cried, promises you can’t deny…”.

They bookend the E.P. with another instant classic, Old School Stereo. It’s another chunky, driving AC/DC-esque riff that provides the platform for a super fun song about the joy of listening to vinyl records on a jukebox. The addictive chorus sums up the theme nicely: “Turn up the new school music on the old school stereo…”. It’s a line that rather sums up the ethos of Bad Marriage; fusing traditional blues rock with modern lyrics and production style. This one must be a single if it isn’t already!

Overall, this is a consistently entertaining and enjoyable rock n’ rollercoaster ride of an EP that doesn’t have a dull moment. Taking the best parts of 70’s rock, they show consummate craft and flair in updating it for the modern age. In Jon Paquin, they have an authentically great rock voice, and the high quality of the musicianship backing him is self-evident to all who listen. This band deserve to be huge.

 

VERDICT: 8.9 out of 10 –

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Pour Me An Encore by Audiobender

coverart  http://audiobenderband.com/

 

Audiobender are a three piece band from San Jose, California, consisting of singer/songwriter and guitarist Jared Richard, bassist Paul Cingolani and drummer Jeff Lemas. Their music could be described as hard rock/power pop but essentially it is good ol’ rock ‘n roll with a modern twist. I had the privilege of reviewing their excellent debut album Reverb, and though my review was glowing, my one slight criticism was that they had not yet forged their own unique sonic identity. This second studio offering rectifies that issue with a great deal of panache.

Immediately it becomes apparent that the production has stepped up a notch from their debut, with a blistering drum sound courtesy of Don Budd at Tone Freq studios, who also did a fine job recording the bass. With a little help from their friends, the band themselves produced the album (mixing and mastering courtesy of Jeff Lemas) and they’ve done a first class job.

Most importantly, they’ve maintained one of their key strengths from their first record, which is capturing the energy and intensity level of their live performances (also recommended is their ‘Live at the Whiskey’ album). They have also maintained their other strengths; being a 3-piece allows the music a sonic clarity and a chance to breathe, with Cingolani and Lemas providing a solid rhythmic platform for Jared Richard’s soulful, emotionally raw vocals.

The albums starts with a little musical humour, a few seconds of strummed country style guitar floating out of the speakers before a needle scratch intervenes and the band launch into the incendiary opening song Venus. Musically, it’s the lovechild of AC/DC, Green Day and The Clash, with whirlwind drumming that would have Tré Cool dribbling into his beer. The band strike a great balance between playing tight yet maintaining a raw edge, avoiding the overly slick, overproduced and sterile sound that mars many modern rock records.

Venus is a great showcase for the band’s improved sense of dynamics, ranging from quiet and subtle to Def Con 1 with consummate ease. Lyrically, Venus is a classic ‘femme fatale’ song in time-honoured rock ‘n roll tradition: “Fill your head with lies while they cut you down to size…”. A mid section based on a rolling tom-tom pattern leads to the song’s climax, with some nifty bass runs from Paul Cingolani and a great vocal performance from Jared, singing at the top of his range. A perfect opener.

Second track Show Me A Sign shows their funkier side, with a bouncy, elastic bassline, an insistent groove and Chilli Peppers-style high-end guitar. Jared once again rips it up on the memorable chorus, channelling Robert Plant and rivalling him for vocal range. Though the music is upbeat, it’s a song about emotional struggle and world weariness: “Sometimes I feel caught beneath a tidal wave or a thousand pounds of steel, heading for an early grave….”. A strong track that shows they can do deep and introspective alongside the pure rockers.

Next song Easy maintains the emotional intensity, with a brooding Queens Of The Stone Age vibe on the verse before Jared unleashes a killer chorus, aided by a snaking bassline. Once again, it’s women that are driving him crazy, this one depicting a duplicitous type who hides behind a facade and whose feelings only run surface deep: “It’s easy to pretend, cos you’re easy to believe….”. While a few cuss words rule this one out as a single, it’s another well crafted, memorable track that completes an explosive opening trifecta.

Next comes a distinct change of pace with the self-explanatory Stuck On The Floor of a Hotel Bathroom, musically an upbeat piece of funk rock with an insanely catchy main melody. As the title implies, it’s an ode to nights of hard drinking and the messy situations that ensue: “Last night, everything was possible, the world was in my hands….now I think I need a hospital…”. Great fun, providing a little levity and humour after the emotional heaviness of the previous two tracks.

Stop Talking opens with an ominous sounding, slinky syncopated bassline soon doubled by low-end guitar to create a formidable and deliciously dark groove. After a moody QOTSA-esque verse it builds into a swirling riff that develops into a superb instrumental section where Jeff Lemas gets to shine with some cyclonic fills round the kit. Audiobender are tasteful with their displays of virtuosity; there’s no element of the self indulgence that you associate with the rock of the seventies and eighties (excessive guitar solos, ten minute drum solos etc.). Jared’s vocals on this one brought to mind the late, great Chris Cornell of Soundgarden (R.I.P.).

However, they do continue to flex their musical muscles on next track , the instrumental High and Dry. Based around a rapid fire descending guitar and bass riff, it creates a fierce sense of momentum before some colourful bursts of bluesy harmonica enter the fray, courtesy of special guest Jake Flood. Jared gets to shine with a ripping, wah-drenched guitar solo that doesn’t outstay its welcome.

This leads on to arguably the album’s most instant song, the AC/DC influenced Die Another Day. After a chugging verse that builds the tension nicely, it bursts into a classic chorus that sticks in your head from the first listen and marks it out as a strong potential single. After the second chorus, it enters a languid section of Steely Dan-style harmonized guitar which is unexpected and very well crafted. A full-blooded solo section follows, the whole band playing their heart out, before a final killer blow of the last chorus. This is Audiobender at their best.

I Tried is the album’s ‘slow burner’, showing their excellent command of dynamics. It starts subtly with vocals and sparse guitar, Jared setting the scene of someone who’s given all he’s got to a relationship: “Slow down baby, give me time, I’ve been down to my last dime, I’ve been searching up and down, I’ve been rolling all around…”. The music gradually builds with a pulsing hi-hat groove which develops into an addictive, syncopated beat in the second verse. This creates a brooding tension which eventually breaks out into a section of tribal tom tom patterns, as Jared expresses his anguish at the peak of his range. A real grower.

The last official song, This Is The End, is a poignant depiction of a relationship on the verge of finishing, with emotions running high:“It’s gotten so tense that even words hit me in the chin…”. Featuring one of the most anthemic choruses and gorgeous four-part stacked guitar harmony, it’s pretty much the perfect way to end the album.

But wait….not quite, as there’s a ‘hidden track’ – a light hearted cover of the jazz standard All Of Me, which actually links nicely from the preceding song in terms of theme. There’s some more humour to bookend the album, which I shall leave for the listener to discover.

Overall, Audiobender have truly raised the bar on this album, taking the best elements of 70’s/80’s rock and merging them with the most effective aspects of modern rock to create a distilled, potent fusion. With several classics in the bag, they deserve to spoken of in the same sentence as their luminaries and Pour Me An Encore proves them to be serious contenders for the throne.

 

VERDICT: 9 out of 10.

Alex Faulkner

ALBUM REVIEW: Live At The Whisky by Audiobender

live_at_the_whisky2(1) http://www.audiobenderband.com/

Audiobender are a three-piece rock band hailing from San Jose, California. They were formed in 2012 by singer/songwriter and guitarist Jared Richard who recruited former Soulorgy bandmates Paul Cingolani (bass) and Jeff Lemas (drums). Their music style is essentially alternative rock, with a healthy dose of blues thrown in, somewhere between Jet and The White Stripes, with Jared Richard’s expressive lead vocals sometimes bringing to mind Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, Caleb Followill and Roger Daltrey.

Following on from their very well received debut album, Reverb, this live album captures their first ever performance at the legendary Whisky A Go Go venue. If any band is suited to releasing a live album, it’s Audiobender. Whilst the Reverb album did a pretty good job of capturing their musical essence in a studio environment, you can tell that this band feel most at home playing in front of a crowd, putting on a hell of a show with the amps turned up to eleven.

After a brief intro, they start with the same song that opens Reverb, Alright With Me. It is the same quality musicianship and performance level that you hear on the album, but this live version has an extra vibrancy and raw energy that so often bands struggle to capture in the confines of the studio. The balance of the sound is good, though the guitar could have been just a little louder in the mix.

However, this allows Jared Richard’s powerful voice to take centre stage, backed up by the Keith Moon-in-a-cyclone drumming of Jeff Lemas, whose drum sound is fantastic, and held together by Paul Cingolani,  who plays some fluid bass runs towards the end of the song. They stick to the Reverb running order with next song On and On which shows a lighter, more laid back side to their oeuvre and we get to hear some nice lead guitar from Jared Richard.

Things get cookin’ with MFH (Here Come That Girl), which Jared announces as ‘a drinking song’, channelling the raw power of The Stooges and MC5 with echoes of Hendrix, Led Zep and a more modern band like Wolfmother. The main riff is a classic and the way they bring things down in the middle for a ‘girl walks into the bar’ monologue, then build it back up again for a raucous finish, works very well.

The next tracks Sweet and One In The Hand are a nice contrast, showing their more melodic side with 60’s-style major-to-minor chord changes and a bouncy, McCartney esque bassline from Paul Cingolani on the former. One In The Hand is a proper ballad with some nice, almost jazzy, guitar work and a chance for Jared to show his vocal versatility. He also contributes an impressive solo, though the sound does come across as sparse at that point, as he is the only guitarist.

Next comes a taster of their upcoming second album, with the song Venus. It’s a feisty upbeat rocker in the vein of MFH and the kind of song the band do best, in my opinion. It has a great hook and could possibly be a potential first single from that album. Next track Stop Talking is announced as a “new, old one” and features some fabulous meaty riffs and exceptional drumming from Jeff Lemas. They close with Let It Bleed, the final song from their Reverb album and it’s an excellent finish. The band sound really on fire by this point, with every member getting to let rip, including an eviscerating guitar solo from Jared Richard.

Overall, this is a highly enjoyable live album from a band still early in their career, but already accumulating some fantastic songs. The tracks from Reverb sound as good, or even better, performed live than on the studio album and the new song Venus suggests that their second one will be something worth waiting for.

 

Alex Faulkner

Verdict: 8.4 out of 10

Learning To Love Again/Long Gone by Fellowcraft

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Fellowcraft are a relatively new three-piece rock band hailing from Washington DC. Having formed only 7 months ago, they have developed fast, having already played a number of live shows (picking up a fanbase along the way) and recorded original material. Their music is a melding together of classic and modern rock to produce a raw but still fairly commercial sound that you can still classify as good ol’ rock n’ roll.

Every good rock band needs a great singer who can make himself heard about a wall of distorted electric guitars. In frontman, lead singer and guitarist J.R. McDonald they undoubtedly have one, his gritty voice and expressive range giving the band a distinctive sonic identity. In these two tracks, you can hear various influences of great 70’s rock from Led Zeppelin to Neil Young and Tom Petty, with a healthy measure of blues thrown into the blend.

Learning To Love Again starts out a little loosely, but soon starts to hit its stride when the crunchy rhythm guitar sound kicks in. The verse begins, the lyrics telling of problems with entering relationships after having been disappointed (“love comes and goes, and it’s high and it’s low, too fast, too slow“). It builds to a huge anthemic chorus with McDonald showing his impressive range and vocal power.

After the second verse and chorus comes some tumbling torn fills from drummer Brian Nelson-Palmer, before McDonald leads into a concise, effective guitar solo with a swirling, psychedelic tone that Jimi Hendrix would have been happy with. One last chorus brings things to a close a well-written and memorable rock/pop anthem.

Second track Long Gone has more of a funk influence, with a roaming, melodic bassline, and the verse sung in a high range that borders on falsetto, which makes the chorus all the more effective when he switches to his ‘throat’ voice, his more raw style. This, combined with the heavy guitar sound, creates a simple but very effective dynamic of clean/soft verse, heavy/raw chorus.

This use of dynamics is pretty common in rock music but, perhaps instinctively, McDonald creates a further contrast through emotional, vulnerable lyrics on the verses, switching to a much more aggressive, masculine tone on the chorus. The verses tell of a captivating woman who “had the face I saw in my dreams…she had everything I thought I would ever need….”.

He addresses her in the first person on the chorus, trying to forget the strong feelings she awoke in him, the main hook being: “It don’t matter now you’re gone….”. Though a long track at five minutes, it doesn’t drag at all and the chorus certainly packs a punch as strong as the first song.

Overall, though Fellowcraft are still a little rough round the edges and not yet what you’d call the ‘finished article’ (hardly surprising having only just formed), these two songs show a band with a huge potential to do big things in the future. The most important factors for a rock band are the ability to write great songs and do them justice in the performance. I’d say the songwriting ability is very strong on this evidence, with the musical performances needed a little fine tuning to give them the best shot commercially. I look forward to hearing their debut album.

 

Alex Faulkner

Verdict: 7.8 out of 10

 

LINKS

OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://www.fellowcraftband.com/

SPOTIFY: http://open.spotify.com/artist/74gKIQIrOOxc7E13PYzvSq

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/FellowcraftBand

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/fellowcraftband

YOUTUBE : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_uzpCSjoZGDQrZ2CrKloXA