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

Ramington Flashride “Back To Seattle” album review

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With Nirvana’s release of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in 1991, grunge music burst out of the shadows and demolished the hair metal juggernaut that had cheapened popular rock music for the last decade. However, by the time of Kurt Cobain’s death in April of 1994, the major record labels had figured out a way to commercialize and sanitize grunge music just like they did with previous musical styles. Most people think that grunge died a slow, painful death from 1994 to around 2000, but that’s not true at all. Real grunge music has simply returned to the shadows where it can be made with the passion and creativity that it deserves – away from the control of record label executives who have no idea what the music is about. It is in these shadows that you can find amazing bands like Ramington Flashride.

Based in Dusseldorf, Germany, Ramington Flashride has definitely been influenced by the original grunge movement, but doesn’t try to mimic the top bands of the time. With their album “Back to Seattle” they have crafted superb, hard rocking album with solid songs that stand on their own and also work well together within the context of the album. The band is out of the gate rocking right from the opening instrumental “Open Your Door.” The theme of rocking, grungy songs in the tradition of a heavier Nirvana continue with Track 2 “Your Business” and Track 3 “Why Why Why.” Both are very solid, enjoyable songs.

The awesomely heavy song “Sure We Can” sounds like guitar fuzz sludge seeping out of your speakers.   This track seems to have more far in common with Black Sabbath than any bands jamming under the grunge banner.   This is definitely one of my favorite tracks on the album!

“Hope You Die” is an upbeat punk rocker that brings to mind the frivolity of The Sex Pistols and some of the early Southern California punk bands.

The musical diversity continues with the “M.O.F.” in the form of a nod to the punk-influenced commercial rock of the early MTV generation like early albums from The Cult and Billy Idol.

We’re back to grunge with “Protection Overlord,” but a more post-Nirvana commercial kind of grunge.   The song isn’t bad at all. It just reminds me more of The Toadies than Mudhoney.

“You Are My Fire” may be the most Nirvana sounding song on the album and even then, the band maintains a unique voice, plus the lead guitar section in the middle displays a level of hard rock / heavy metal tightness and technical proficiency that most grunge bands have rarely displayed.

The next two tracks are the low point of the album for me. The classic lyrical theme of being in love with a girl found in the song “Running Home” combined with its relatively straight forward music make this track feel like it doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the album. It’s not a terrible song, but even on a hard rock album, it would be nothing more than filler on the second half of an album.   Here, it’s more distracting than filler and I think the album would have been better off without this one. Next up is “Passing Away.” The chorus is great musically, but the music in the verses is just kind of annoying.

After two weak songs in a row, I was pleasantly surprised by “Burn!” This creepy track successfully blends Woodstock-era psychedelic rock with equal parts Alice in Chains and Nirvana.   I may have heard similar attempts before, but none have ever succeeded as well as this song! It may have stood out more if it weren’t placed after the two previous songs on the album. I think “Burn” is the hidden gem of “Back to Seattle.”

Closing out the album we have “Fascination Wins”- a slow, bluesy song reminiscent of Pearl Jam when they were invoking the spirit of Led Zeppelin. I don’t know that this song really fits with the vibe of the band, but either way it’s a very cool song. Using it as the closing track of the album feels like it gives the band the leeway to stretch out without ruining the vibe of the album as a whole.

In the end, I think “Back to Seattle” is a very good album with only a couple of duds. With this album, Ramington Flashride has definitely supported my statement that GRUNGE IS NOT DEAD!  Check them out on Facebook here: http://facebook.com/flashride