Friday, July 26, 2013

Above The Flood, Sugar of Lead

Above The Flood
Sugar of Lead
Reviewed by Rob Acocella
Rating: 4/5

Get the album on!

Above the flood is an independent Alt Rock band out of upstate New York. We've been friends and fans of Mike Grosshandler since we first heard his work with The Velmas years ago, back when Paragon was actual print magazine. Imagine that, paper with words on it, that you hold in your hand... anyway, I digress...

When we heard that Mike had a new project going with a new bunch of guys, we were naturally excited to hear what it would sound like. What we got was so much more than we had anticipated. From the pounding intro of "Nothing New" to the rally-cry closing of "Get By" Sugar of Lead is a great collection of songs, even if it is a little short (Hey, it's a 5-song EP, what do you want?).

I hear lots of influences in Above The Flood's music, most notably a bit of Seether mixed with Alice In Chains. Not a bad mix, and there's even a little bit of a Type O Negative-like dirge here and there, which I can only rightfully assume is Mike's doing. Matt Shufelt deserves all the credit he can be given for his amazing voice. He's a tremendous vocalist with a great range for this brand of Rock music. He's gritty and smooth all at once, and really projects the attitude of the music. I'm assuming Matt is the chief lyric writer, as the singers typically are, and to that my only comment is: Dude, there's a lot of bitter relationship stuff on here. While that's great Rock song fodder, don't get stuck into a cliche niche of the genre, because you'll have a hard time working your way out of that spot if you ever want to touch on more serious material down the road. I'm all for free speech, but I would assume that lyrics like "I'm a man and I need to control you, then dispose of you" doesn't really win you many female fans, or at least any with healthy self respect. I mean no disrespect in saying this, of course, I just think that lyrics like that are better left to Poison and Motley Crue.

Back to the music: these songs are really catchy, so if you're prone to earbugs, you should know that going into this. I only have to listen to the album once all the way through and I'll have these songs stuck in my head at random times for weeks. No joke, I would wake up some mornings with the lyrics in my head even though I hadn't heard the songs for days. That's the sign of good song writing, and when it comes to hooks, these guys are full of them. I've gotta say that my personal favorites are the 2 most aggressive tunes on here: "Nothing New" and "Love To Hate You."

Overall, I've gotta say that the production value on this is so much better than most debut EPs we get sent, and when you add that in to the songwriting chops, the huge vocals, and all the other little details, this is one of the most solid first releases I've heard from a band in a long time, especially one that isn't signed to a major label with a huge production budget. You can tell these guys take their music seriously and it pays off big-time for them.

For more info on Above The Flood, check out their Facebook Page

Star & Dagger, Tomorrowland Blues

Star and Dagger
Tomorrowland Blues
Reviewed by Rob Acocella
Rating: 3/5

Star and Dagger is the latest endeavor of White Zombie bass player Sean Yseult along with her friends Dava She Wolf and Von Hesseling. Their first offering is Tomorrowland Blues, a Blues Rock album with some Rockabilly flavors.

"In My Blood" and "End of Days" have a strong presence to start the album off but things get very slow, and dare I even say, boring, with "Selling My Things." "Side Winding" brings the groove back with a great Grunge inspired opening bass line and the song holds up with mid-tempo rhythm and some great vocal harmonies.  "Your Money" brings them into a little bit of a heavier range and a little bit of a darker vocal delivery before diving into another bass-heavy track with "Used To Me." The album closes with "Your Mama Was A Grifter" which I'm honestly not too crazy about.

I'll admit I'm a tough critic as this gritty style of Blues Rock isn't exactly my favorite genre to begin with. That's not to say I can't recognize talent when it's there, and these three women clearly have it, I just have lukewarm feelings about what they put together this time around. I think the first thing that really threw me was that they are labeled a Blues-Rock/Metal group, and when I listen to this collection of songs, I have to be honest, but I just don't hear the Metal at all. Being a White Zombie fan, I suppose I went into this with certain expectations, and I already know that's wrong of me. All in all, though, it's not a bad album, and I'm sure fans of the genre will like it a lot more than I did. I feel like there is great potential in this group but they just need to bring a little more energy and variety to the table. The Blues vocals and dense guitar and bass layers are really great, it's just missing that bite, or edge, that would really give it a larger presence. In fact, the vocals remind me a lot of Shirley Manson of Garbage.

Overall, I gave Tomorrowland Blues a 3/5, because while I'm not a huge fan, I do know that it's well done and the songs are well written, and I can't take away points just because it's not my personal favorite style of music when there is an obviously large amount of talent and potential.