SADARTHA “HEAVY SOUND DAMAGE” ALBUM REVIEW

Sadartha “Heavy Sound Damage” Review

It’s been too long since I’ve posted any reviews on here. I keep feeling like I should be adding reviews, but I’ve been writing so much dull, non-music crap for work that I just haven’t been motivated to write about any bands lately. Then I heard Sadartha!

Sadartha is a cool band from Richmond, VA with a unique approach to their sound. Although I definitely see them as a grunge band, they aren’t overly similar to any one famous band. Their influences are so varied that it’s difficult to pin them down as having one sound. They just released their full-length album “Heavy Sound Damage” a couple of months ago (July 2017) and although it has its flaws, it has a lot to offer!  There is a lot of variety from song to song. You can tell these guys have a lot of different influences. The recording quality is kind of lo-fi / garage sounding, which works well for the style on most of the songs. The biggest issue for me is sometimes the vocal style, which often uses off-pitch vocals for effect, takes away from the song rather than adding to it. Although there are a few places where that approach works, I think overall the songs would be better if they were sung on pitch.

The album kicks off with the frantic, noisy track “Never Knows Best.” It’s the kind of song that sounds like it could start a fight in a crowd. The drums are aggressive. The bass line stands out and really drives the song. The guitar rounds everything out with an edgy tone being played with an aggression that sounds like all of the strings are about to be broken. The vocals are also aggressive and work well with the vibe of the song. Although I would rather have vocals on pitch, I understand the use of the off-pitch vocal for this type of song.

“Stupid Toy” and several of the other songs on this disc follow the quiet-loud-quiet-loud formula that people want to accuse of sounding like Nirvana. I personally don’t think the song sounds like Nirvana, but I would imagine that would be the comparison most people would make with several songs on this album just because of the frequent use of this formula.   Once again bass playing is awesome here. I like the vocals here more than on “Never Knows Best.” They are mostly in pitch and sound good that way, however there is one section where they do go way off pitch near the end of the song. Unlike the previous track where I can understand the choice to sing off-pitch, this time it really doesn’t work even as a stylistic choice, so I’m glad it only happens in one spot.

Instrumentally, “Falling Insane” is a very cool song! Although it’s another quite-loud-quiet-loud song, it’s a very different song from “Stupid Toy.” The drummer tried some interesting tribal sounding beats, the guitar has some trippy affects. Unfortunately, the vocals are significantly off pitch throughout the majority of the song in a way that seems unnecessary.

“Pill” rocks!   Drawing from their punk and metal influences, this brash and aggressive song drives hard from start to finish.   The vocal style works really well with this one and has very few spots where the vocals are pitchy. It’s one of the stronger songs on the album.

With a cool guitar melodies and driving bass parts, one of my favorite songs on the album is “Insects Last Moments.” Part of the reason for this might be that I love Nirvana and this song is more similar to Nirvana than any of the rest. However, although there are probably Nirvana influences here, I don’t think anyone would confuse this song with anything by Nirvana. It definitely has its own sound and feel. The band released a video for this one, so I’m guessing they feel it’s one of their stronger songs too. It’s also a great example of how off-pitch vocals can work really well in some songs.

Not only is “Translucent” another one of my favorite songs on the album, it also does a couple of things that the other songs don’t. The first time I listened to the song, for the first few seconds I thought the bass guitar was really off, which is weird because the bass playing is so solid for the rest of the album. Then the guitar and drums kicked in and I realized that this really weird bass part fit in perfectly with the rest of the band – a very cool trick!   The interplay between the bass and guitar is really amazing on this song! The first half of the song is really mellow, then the distortion kicks in and it goes from a mellow, psychedelic kind of vibe into a into more of a stoner rock song, but while retaining some of the psychedelic elements that make the song so cool. Also, this one has some of the best vocals on the album.

Musically, “Brittle Bullet” kills! It pulls from some cool 90s stoner rock influences mixed with a hint of Black Sabbath.   At it’s best, the vocals sound reminiscent of Alice In Chains, but the sections that don’t sound like A.I.C. are off-pitch in a way that doesn’t even sound like it was done for affect. They just sound bad. It’s unfortunate because I think if the vocals were all on pitch, this would be a killer song!

A strange thing happens with the next two songs: “Manic Fits” and “Blasphemer.” Although “Manic Fits” starts out with a really cool, mellow guitar / bass part, this feels like a demo with some great ideas that were never fully developed. There are a couple of hooks that almost work. I think a good producer could have turned this one into an amazing, unique song.   But as it stands, it feels unfinished.   In my opinion, this one had a lot of potential, but ends up feeling like a good idea that would have benefited from more development time.

Immediately following “Manic Fits” we have “Blasphemer.” This song kicks ass! It’s heavy, driving and 100% cool just as it is. There are some awesome vocals parts that are very different from anything else on the album. But the weird thing is, this entire song sounds like the band took the vibe they had for the heavy parts of “Manic Fits” and wrote a new song around that vibe. After hearing “Blasphemer” I’m even more confident that with a little more time, they could have forged “Manic Fits” a much better song.

If you played a song from the 1960s through a “Nirvana” emulator app while singing it in the wrong key, you’d have the song “Heartworms.” I don’t know if I love this song or hate it.   I’ve listened to it several times to try to answer that question. There’s so much musically wrong with here, yet the result is almost endearing. I’m not even sure the bassist and the guitarist are playing in the same key. If you don’t like quirky music, this definitely isn’t a song for you, but it almost has a Sid Barrett solo album thing going on.

“Mind Vomit” sounds like a cross between Black Flag and Fugazi with hints of The Sex Pistols while still sounding exactly like Sadartha.

The album finishes out with “Permeate The Ether.” After listening to each song on the album several times by this point, I feel like I have a good understanding of what Sadartha is all about.   If I had listened to this song first, I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much, but putting this song at the end of the album is the right placement. It’s a very cool, dark, psychedelic instrumental track with thick effects. It feels like it could have been written specifically to conclude the album. I almost feel like I should be watching the album credits scroll across my monitor while I listen to this song.

With this album, Sadartha has presented the listener with a world of music that all works together very well. Despite their variety of influences, they definitely have their own unique style.   It’s not pop-friendly. It’s not pre-packaged for the average consumer.   You won’t hear any of these songs playing in the background at your favorite local chain restaurant. But if you have a taste for something new, dark and odd with a distinct grunge feel, give “Heavy Sound Damage” a chance.

Here’s a link to their facebook page.

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A new magazine for modern grunge bands!

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Grunge Special Magazine, September 2016

It’s been almost two years since I started the blog.  I started the blog because I am a fan of grunge music and I was frustrated that bands from this genre rarely got much press.  Since I’m a writer by trade, I thought I could help fix that problem.  Along the way, I’ve found some great bands making very cool music and I’ve made some awesome new friends!

Because of the blog, I was asked to write for a brand new grunge magazine that was supposed to come out early in 2016.  It took a little bit longer than we had expected, but as of this week, the September 2016 issue of Grunge Special magazine is now out in stores.  My interview with Jason Cope of the band Pure Ed is the featured cover story and my article on the grunge scene in London (Is London the New Seattle?) is also mentioned on the cover. I’ve extremely excited about the release of this magazine!  I hope that the issue sells well and becomes a regular monthly magazine.  Even a bi-monthly or quarterly release schedule would be amazing.  So if you’re a fan of grunge music (and if you’re not, then why are you reading this?), you need to go out and pick up a copy of Grunge Special right now!

Ganesa “Voice” single review

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Ganasa “Voice” single

Last year I did a review of the album “The First Sigh” from the band Ganesa. The band is based in Petrozavodsk, Russia and they have returned with a new single called “Voice.” The song is brutally heavy and really well crafted. My first thought is a grungy version of Black Sabbath with a more modern bass and drum sound. There are also hints of Alice in Chains in there. If this song is any indication of the direction that the band is headed, I believe their next album will be very cool! Check out “Voice” on their bandcamp page HERE.

THIRTY SILVER “LOST SAINTS” EP REVIEW

Thirty Silver LOST SAINTS

Thirty Silver – Lost Saints EP

I have owed the band Thirty Silver a review for their “Lost Saints” EP since December of last year.   At the time, I had a long list of bands that I was checking out for potential reviews and I was really having trouble keeping track of them all. Then I ended up heading out of town for a couple of assignments and had to focus on my paying work rather than the music reviews that I enjoy writing.   Over the months, Thirty Silver’s guitarist / vocalist, Drew, followed up with me to see if I’d had a chance to check out his music. He was always extremely cool about it. It’s now about eight months later and Thirty Silver is poised to release their follow up EP “Dusk,” so I thought I had better get to work on this review!

Thirty Silver is a two-man band from Boston, MA made up of Drew Smith on guitar and vocals and Joe Z on Drums. Their “Lost Saints” EP contains some seriously good songs, but suffers from a lack of decent production.   After a few seconds of guitar feedback, the EP blasts out of the gate with my favorite of their songs, “Goat.”   It reminds me a little bit of the band Bush, but in terms of songwriting, I prefer “Goat” to anything Bush has released. The great guitar riff and excellent vocal melody make this song one of the better songs I’ve heard from any independent band. The performance isn’t bad, but could have been a little tighter. I think all of the songs would also benefit from having bass guitar, but this is still a great song.

The second, “Familiar,” has a hint of Alice in Chains influence. It’s not as strong as “Goat,” but this is another very solid song.   In terms of performance, the vocals are off pitch in a few spots and there are a few notes on guitar that don’t sound quite right, but the song is well written. I think the right producer could have taken this song up a notch.

Next up is the song “Someday” which makes me think of the band Hole with David Byrne from Talking Heads singing. It’s a decent song, but I like the verses more than the chorus. This one may have the most solid vocal performance on the album.

Track four, “Martyr,” has so much potential that I think it would be worth revisiting if the band ever decides to record a full-length album. It’s well written, the guitar and vocal performances are passionate and it seems like both Drew and Joe are rocking full out on this one.   Unfortunately, it feels like the groove gets away from them in spots and the momentum suffers from an overly long, self-indulgent drum solo near the end. It’s still a really good song though.

The EP closes with “Broken Wings.” This one feels kind like a throwaway song to me. There’s nothing particularly bad about the writing, but it’s just not very memorable.   Pitch problems with the vocals drag the song down even more. The coolest thing about this track is probably the feedback at the end of the song.   It connects to the feedback at the beginning of the first song, creating sort of a loop with the songs.

In terms of songwriting, four out of the five songs on this EP are great tunes. I think with the help of a producer, this could have been a much more polished EP, but these guys have still managed to get their ideas down in a way that conveys their potential as a band. After listening to the songs again, I’m looking forward to hearing the new EP when it comes out. By the way, guys, I am sorry I took so damn long to get this review written.   Thanks for being patient!

REVERSE “BURNING SPRING” EP REVIEW

Reverse Grunge

The band Reverse from Germany

Based out of Germany, the band Reverse released their debut EP “Burning Spring” back in April of this year (2016) and it’s well worth checking them out! The EP begins with the song “Distress & Control,” which is a very solid grunge influenced, hard-rock song.  “You Know Why” is the second track on the EP.  It’s also a very good song that reminds me of some of the better post-grunge music of later in the 90s mixed with a touch of Weezer. The third track “Everything is Great” has a strong Nirvana influence that I really enjoy. Up next,”Forever is a Lie” is a raging song filled with passion. Although the production is slightly less polished than the other tracks, it’s still a very strong songs and possibly the most emotional song on the EP. Closing out the EP is “River Stones and Broken Bones.” This is another upbeat track but with more of a bounce than the other songs on the EP. All five tracks are well written and performed, but most impressively, Reverse manages to create five different songs with a variety of influences while still maintaining an overall sound as a band.  The band and the “Burning Spring” EP specifically deserve a listen. Check them out on YouTube!

As always, support independent music!

London Tapes – New EP from Ramington Flashride

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Ramington Flashride – London Tapes EP

In early 2016, the German grunge band Ramington Flashride was performing in the UK with another awesome band, Free Recovery. While they were in the UK, Ramington Flashride stopped in Scream Studios in London to record a couple of new songs. Those two songs plus a remix of the song “Why Why Why” from their “Back to Seattle” album make up their new, 3-song EP called “London Tapes.”

The EP opens with the song “Captured” which is a very cool 90s sounding alternative rock track that builds into a heavy, grungy chorus. It’s a good solid track that I could definitely imagine would have fit right in on the radio in the early 90s.

Next up, the song “She Should Die” reminds me a lot of Nick Cave lyrically. This one alternates between rocking hard and haunting vocal passages. It builds into a blistering guitar solo before the last chorus section followed by an awesome creepy piano part to close the song. This song is pretty different for Ramington Flashride, but it’s a great song nonetheless!

As I mentioned before, the album closes out with a re-mix of the song “Why Why Why.” Sometimes re-mixes seem pretty pointless, but in this case, this mix is very different from the album version. Although the vocals are a little bit loud in the quiet sections for my tastes, I think that the heavy sections of the song are much better in this new mix.   There’s also a cool guitar solo that I don’t remember from the original version.

The EP will be available soon through iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, etc.

Check out the band on their website at www.ramingtonflashride.de or on facebook at www.facebook.com/flashride

FREE RECOVERY SELF-TITLED EP REVIEW

Free Recovery EP

Free Recovery EP

Half an hour south of London, England is a town called Guilford. It’s not exactly a place where I’d expect to find an amazing grunge band playing frequent shows and helping to build a grunge scene in the UK.   Nonetheless, that’s the case.   Since 2012, Free Recovery has been laying down the grooves in Guilford while also branching out to London and other surrounding areas to spread their music. After going through numerous member changes in the early days, a solid lineup finally clicked in 2014. From that point on, things really started coming together for the band.

Although the vocals are reminiscent of Eddie Vedder and Free Recovery’s music is similar to Pearl Jam, they certainly have more to offer than being just a knock-off of a classic grunge band. The band also seems to pull from Alice In Chains, Creed, Stone Temple Pilots and many of the classic rockers from the 70s.

Their self-titled debut EP was released in 2015. The 6-song EP opens with the sound of radio static that tunes into a radio station playing the acoustic intro to the first song, Furtherman, with studio wizardry similar to that utilized on the intro of the Pink Floyd song Wish You Were Here.   As the band kicks in, the song blasts away from the radio and becomes the great audio quality that will be present on the rest of the EP. Furtherman is a slow, heavy rocker that reminds me a lot of Pearl Jam.

Our Summer Is Dead begins with some cool drumming under a mellow guitar part but quickly turns into a hard rocking song with vocals that sound like a newscaster broadcasting news about war. The chorus is the only part of the song that’s sung in a traditional fashion, but the chorus has a great hook both vocally and musically. What appears to be dueling guitars take turns for a solo that becomes more and more dissonant and out of key until they battle each other simultaneously building up to the outro of the song.

The band mellows out on Vintage Sky, a tune that sounds new but feels familiar. It begins with the crackles and pops that you would hear when listening to a vinyl record. The song builds into a slow, ballad style rocker, similar to the band Creed. It’s the kind of song that I could hear being used on a movie soundtrack. The song ends with the sound of a record looping in the runoff groove.

Denial begins as a mid-tempo acoustic rocker that builds up with the addition of distorted guitar. It’s a solid song that reminds me a lot of Pearl Jam. Unfortunately, much like the Pearl Jam songs it brings to mind, it’s kind of generic. There’s nothing wrong with the song at all and I suspect that upon repeat listens, it’s the kind of song that would grow on me, but after two listens to this collection of songs, Denial is the least memorable of the six songs on the EP.

With a name like Swamp Thing, it should be no surprise that there’s more than a little bit of southern rock influence on this track. Although I wouldn’t confuse it with Lynnard Skynnard or Molly Hatchet, Swamp Thing has a very similar, slinky groove and dexterous guitar work. The song really rocks and includes probably the best guitar playing and certainly my favorite guitar solo on the album. This is the track that really shows off the band’s musical skills while offering up a great vibe as well.

The EP concludes with the song Mary Rose, an emotional, ethereal song that showcases the vocals beneath a wide echo. Although definitely a rock song, there is a heavy psychedelic groove and touches of Celtic influence on this one. It may be the farthest song on the album from grunge, but it’s a wonderful song nonetheless.

Overall, with this EP Free Recovery succeeds in stretching their musical chops and offering the listener a range of styles that shows how wide their pallet of influences must be. The total playing time is actually longer than several full-length releases that I’ve reviewed over the years, so despite only including six tracks, the amount of music is more than the EP designation would suggest. Fans of Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Creed and the classic rock side of grunge should definitely check out Free Recovery at the band’s website here: freerecovery.band