Bastion's music reminds me of bands like Chevelle and Deftones in that, while it has elements of the standard, generic sound of Radio Rock and attracts fans of those kind of groups (your Fuels, Papa Roaches, etc.), there is something a little smarter going on. A cursory listen to Ultra Violent reveals metallic riffs, vocals that occasionally sound like James Hetfield with some vocal processing and none of that "Mrrnggghpff" stuff and pounding drums. Listen a few more times and the songs reveal themselves to be a more complexly arranged. Don Gauck might be one of the best guitarists in town, but in Bastion his role, while creative, isn't flashy. It buoys every song on the new release with authority and drive. Drummer Greg Slone, likewise, is a phenomenal skinsman; yes, he pounds away like the heaviest of drummers, but he has a deliciously deft, intuitive touch that reveals itself on tracks like "Get Up" and "Lonely Boy." Singer/bassist Brad Wilkins handles both chores like an old pro -- his meticulous bass work shouldn't be overlooked, and vocally he has the perfect voice for Bastion. There's action and drama in his voice, but he doesn't resort to Screamo tactics (though he howls intently on the searing "Turn Around"), instead opting for intense, straining melodies and more dynamic, hushed vocalizing. He sounds a bit like a modern-day Ozzy (well, not the actual modern-day Ozzy -- he's intelligible -- but Blizzard of Oz Ozzy as a 30-year-old).
The CD also requires a few listens before the songs really stick -- the first two cuts, "On Our Ashes" and "Get Up," while intensely powerful, kind of bleed together, with a similar anvil-heavy air. But "Lonely Boy" shows the group's versatility.
Sure, it might be seen as a more "ballad-like" tune designed to appeal to a wider audience (remember when ballads became chic with Metal bands in the '80s, largely in an attempt to get more chicks to buy their albums?). But, ultimately, it's a standout track because it more clearly shows the tightness and creativity of the musicians; beneath the pummel lies a beating heart. Likewise, "Winners" is a bit less engulfing than the faster, heavier tracks and comes out being a lot more memorable for it.
My main qualm with Ultra Violent is its formatting. While 10 tracks long, it is essentially a five-song EP with five "bonus" live tracks. And three of those five tracks are just live renditions of the studio versions of "Winners," "Turn Around" and "Get Up," all included here. The live tracks sound fine -- the group is indeed a powerful live unit -- but their inclusion is a little baffling. Perhaps they were intended to show that the band can actually play live? And, I can't swear on it, but the live tracks also sound like they've had "crowd noise" added in the mixing process.
It's perplexing that a band that can write songs that would squeeze perfectly into a Rock Radio playlist would add such distracting extras. Still, don't let it scare you away if you are fan of precise, tight and robust Rock music with a gleaming contemporary edge. Can't wait for a proper full-length. (bastiononline.com)
More Local Notes
· The residents of Rabbit Hash, Ky., along with several area musicians, present a benefit for artist Richard Young, the husband of Terrie Markesbery-Young (who owns the Rabbit Hash General Store), who has been diagnosed with Stage 4 neck and head cancer. The money raised will go to offset some of Young's huge medical bills. For the benefit, there will be a silent auction and lots of great music at the General Store this Saturday and Sunday (starting at 1 p.m. both days). Saturday, performers include Lagniappe, David Rhodes Brown and the Private Orchestra, The Modified, The Turkeys, StarDevils, Poke, 500 Miles to Memphis, The Kenton County Regulators, Cynical Mountain Boys, Anna Scala, Brian Ewing and the Comet Bluegrass AllStars. Sunday, catch Core, Kelly Thomas and the Fabulous Pickups, Dallas Moore, Jake Speed and the Freddies, Straw Boss, Lauren Houston, The Downtown County Band, Raison D'Etre, Chris Dunnett and the Moxie Band. For more info, go to rabbithash.com.
· Another benefit for a friend of local music, Ryan Schmidt (brother of Ampline's Kevin Schmidt), takes place Saturday at the Mad Hatter in Covington at 9 p.m. Ryan recently underwent serious back surgery that will keep him off work for several months, so the money raised will go toward helping him until he gets back on his feet. Along with raffles (including a chance to win free oil changes!), music is to be provided by Ampline, The Joe Blobs, Arapyma, Knife the Symphony and Covington.
· Cincy natives Dan Allaire and Dave Koenig are returning to the area Friday for a free show at the Northside Tavern with their group, Spindrft, a "Psychedelic Spaghetti Western" band from Los Angeles. Both musicians have played with Brian Jonestown Massacre (Allaire still plays with that wild bunch) and Allaire has worked with local bands from Higbee to Pearlene to the Elliott Ruther Trio. (myspace.com/thewest)
CONTACT MIKE BREEN: mbreen(at)citybeat.com