ALBUM REVIEW: R’lyeh – “Color out of Space”

R’LYEH INTERVIEWEDhttp://hearhearmusic.com/2014/12/13/interview-rlyeh/

Check out my review of R’lyeh in this week’s issue of NUVO Newsweekly. As you frequent readers of “Hear! Hear!” know, I am a big supporter of these local metal aficionados, who continue to push the envelope of what instrumental metal can accomplish. The album is even better than I’d expected upon first listen. From the review:

[Lead guitarist Anthony] Hampton describes R’lyeh’s music as echoing the rise and fall of mankind, building riff upon riff until everything collapses. That’s hard to miss in the pounding “Monolithic” as it leads into the more spare “November,” the album’s stunningly evocative closer. Often fans assume metal must mean domination through sonic overdrive, and R’lyeh proves the opposite; only through highs can you appreciate the lows. One moment a thunder of percussion and multiplied guitars echoes through our ears, only to be replaced by a repeating pattern of finger-picked notes, creating the ultimate monotonic riff of redemption. Played on repeat the album becomes an endless cycle: birth, death, rebirth, a closed circle.

To read the rest of the review, please support NUVO for helping give this local band a real push. Then check out their show Saturday night at the 5th Quarter Lounge, where they’ll officially debut the brand-new album along with their new three-member performance alignment! If they could do all this on the record with two members, imagine how much better Christopher Cunningham is going to make their live set!

THE LIVE WIRE: Against The Clocks – “Top Floor”

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Rockville, Ind.’s Against The Clocks perform during Birdy’s Battle Royale. They won, advancing to perform again in April. (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)

When you come from a small town, sometimes half the battle is explaining to fans where your band got its start without having to resort to pulling out the Google Maps app. Against The Clocks, based in tiny Rockville, Indiana, will dispose of that problem when their new album, 47872, comes out hopefully this March. With any luck the album will put them and the town squarely on the musical map, because what this band offers is an ear-catching blend of classic rock and modern pop, heavy on the keyboards and the hooks you won’t find anywhere else.

With two keyboard players sharing vocal duties, the band really hits the ground running, merging the big melodies of Journey with the rock aesthetic of the Allman Brothers, adding the hooks and production smarts of a guy like Ryan Tedder. Everything comes out in the mix to create juicy pop music you’ll want to have on repeat all summer.

The band performed their song “Top Floor” at Birdy’s Battle Royale in Indianapolis this past Friday, winning their competitive round and advancing to perform again this coming April. You’ll want to be there when they do, but you can enjoy the video below. This is the only place to hear the entire song until the band releases 47872 later this spring!

ARTISTS TO WATCH: The Venom Cure

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Indianapolis’ The Venom Cure perform at Birdy’s Live during week three of 2015’s Battle Royale. (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)

Though we may have to wait a few weeks to know whether they’ll sneak into the next round of Birdy’s Battle Royale, due to an incredibly close score during the overall voting, there’s nothing keeping you from backing the Venom Cure, clearly a band to watch in the region. Hailing from Indianapolis, this band blends the best of 80’s glam-tinged stadium rock with the deft arrangements of symphonic metal to create a show you’ll want to see more than once. The band has been working the local scene since 2009, drawing comparisons to bands as disparate as Bon Jovi and Queensryche.

Though they had to adjust their performance on the fly due to tech elements not working within the venue’s audio parameters, the band responded admirably. Lead vocalist Steve Nicolas was the quintessential frontman, working the crowd like a pro while the entire band stepped up to the challenge by giving the strongest overall performance of the night, the close crowd vote nonwithstanding. And drummer Jimmy Whetstone’s perfectionist performance ethic was evident in an individual performance which was particularly fun to watch.

I’m told they’ll have another local gig at the Emerson Theater in March — as soon as I have more information I’ll post it here, hopefully along with an interview. Until then, enjoy videos of “Flood” and “Orphan Song” from their Birdy’s performance, both of which can be found on the band’s EP On The Other Side Pt 1. Here’s hoping they make it through to that Wild-Card Round in April!

THE VENOM CURE – “Flood”

THE VENOM CURE – “Orphan Song”

BEFORE I LOSE CONTROL: Lebanese performer Jay Wud is the best guitarist you haven’t heard

It only takes a single listen to Jay Wud’s single “Low” to know you’re listening to someone who knows his modern rock music, someone who should be better known here in the U.S. than he is. The Lebanese singer-songwriter, based in Dubai, has worked regularly with producer Howard Benson (Motorhead, My Chemical Romance) and has been influenced by the likes of Steve Vai and the Foo Fighters. He’s toured the world supporting Guns ‘n’ Roses and Aerosmith, building a reputation for being a versatile guitar presence with electrifying vocals and the stage presence to draw in even the most jaded fan. “Low” is centrally featured on an upcoming EP which he hopes will introduce him to American audiences.

Check out a live video below of “Masquerade” which features Malikah, known as the Queen of Arabic hip-hop. To learn more about Jay Wud, check out his official website and Facebook page.

ARTISTS TO WATCH: JEFF The Brotherhood

Nashville rockers JEFF The Brotherhood are ready at last to release their follow-up to 2012’s Hypnotic Nights! Whether the three-year wait was worth it remains to be heard, since as of yet the only new track I’ve heard is “What’s A Creep” (posted below). But the new album Wasted On The Dream was co-produced by Jake and Jamin Orrall with Joe Chiccarelli, who has produced many of my favorite records including the Raconteurs’ Consolers of the Lonely and the White Stripes’ Icky Thump, as well as several classic albums from seminal Mexican garage band Cafe Tacuba. So I have high confidence that this album is going to have more than enough raw rock to get people excited about the state of 2015’s new music. As the band states in a recent press release:

Wasted on the Dream is the first JEFF The Brotherhood album to showcase the band’s recent evolution into a full-blown ROCK outfit: Jake plays six-string guitar (as opposed to his custom-made signature 3-string model), Jamin plays a full kit and Jack Lawrence (of Dead Weather and Raconteurs fame) plays bass on the entire album. The album also features guest contributions from Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast, Diarrhea Planet guitarists Evan Bird and Emmett Miller, and a flute solo by Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull. To accommodate their bigger sound live, JEFF has expanded to a highly voluminous, balls-out twin guitar monster of a quartet.

The album drops March 10th, and will include the following tracks:

  1. Voyage Into Dream
  2. Black Cherry Pie
  3. Cosmic Visions
  4. Mystified Minds
  5. Melting Place
  6. In My Dreams
  7. In My Mouth
  8. Karaoke, TN
  9. Coat Check Girl
  10. What’s A Creep
  11. Prairie Song

THE LIVE WIRE: Burn The Army

Burn The Army live at the 5th Quarter (credit: Jonathan Sanders)

Burn The Army live at the 5th Quarter (credit: Jonathan Sanders)

It has been a full twenty-four hours and I am just now technically getting all my hearing back after the blazing firestorm Indianapolis’s own Burn The Army set loose at 5th Quarter Lounge. For three guys playing mostly instrumental metal, there’s no discounting how hard they worked out there to keep the crowd in a frenzy. Extra credit is due to their drummer, described by other band members as “a prodigy,” who was a whirling dervish out there, proving there’s no need for a gigantic 30-piece kit for a drummer to really pull out all the stops. He has to be seen and heard to be believed. Which you can do, by checking out their new song “Eidolon,” which they debuted, and we captured in HD, last night!

ARTISTS TO WATCH: Gayle Skidmore

Gayle Skidmore (credit: Dennis Andersen Photography)

It’s so rare to stumble upon a singer-songwriter with such a rich textured voice as Gayle Skidmore. Such voice is a warm layering of the folk of Anais Mitchell coupled with the stinging depth of Amanda Shires, one perfectly worthy of two songs as varied as those she just released: “Rag Doll” and “Barrel, Trigger, Gun.” As a direct follow-up to her latest, a full-length LP and coloring book combo called Sleeping Bear, Skidmore — a six-time San Diego Music Award nominee — chose to record two fan favorites from her popular live sets.

“Rag Doll” is the sparest of the two, a guitar-based melody structured to lend full support to Skidmore’s vocals as she sings of the casual abuses we all endure as we fight against our baser instincts, striving to live sin-free even as we are the product of our own maker. The lyrics are staggeringly evocative:

I wear a covering
Chosen for me by a higher being
But he made me all full of dreams
That I may never find and never be

I am a rag doll sewn by a blind man
To keep him company and make him happy
But he sewed me all full of flaws
And now I’m breaking you just because

“Barrel, Trigger, Gun,” meanwhile choses to showcase Skidmore’s hidden Tori Amos, a song built on a simple series of piano arpeggios upon which a steady backbeat of bass drum and hammering effects provides a stage for a positively cinematic piece of performance art. “I was so easily persuaded to do wrong; a little kick was all it took to come undone,” she sings powerfully. “I was just trying to have a little fun but I’m the trigger, you’re the gun.” As the song fades into a wavering final echoed bass note, a return to the song’s opening seconds is immediately mandated.

Based on these first two tantalizing tastes, I assure you I’ll be digging deeper into Gayle Skidmore’s catalog while hoping she chooses to make Indianapolis one of her next tour stops. When she does, buy a ticket. I am sure you won’t leave disappointed.