There are times in some bands’ careers when, in order to take the next step forward, it first has to take a step back.
That is what has occurred with Cincinnati-based desert-rockers Valley of the Sun between the release of 2013’s Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk and the recently-released album Volume Rock. For the new full-length (issued in late April through Swedish-based label Fuzzorama Records), the duo — guitarist/vocalist Ryan Ferrier and drummer Aaron Boyer — has toned down some of Thunderhawk’s more eclectic and intricate tendencies in favor of bombastic and driving rhythms. This has resulted in album that has lost a little musical depth, but has gained a far greater grip on the listener’s ear.
Volume Rock establishes its tonal shift right out of the gate with a trio of absolutely monumental Rock & Roll bangers. “Eternal Forever,” “Wants and Needs” and “The Hunt” showcase the strengths that Valley has spent so much time and effort honing. Ferrier’s soaring vocals have a range and power that commands the listener’s attention, while Boyer hits his cymbals with the strength of a meteor crash, his playing drawing your attention whenever Ferrier isn’t on the mic. Weaving throughout is Ferrier’s clean and infectious guitar work, with riff layered upon riff and crafting an auditory sandwich that headbangers are sure to want of bite of. But VotS retains its deeper side on Volume Rock, with Ferrier’s lyrics carrying many of his ongoing themes of higher consciousness, personal introspection and Earth’s natural beauty. It’s just that on this go around, the lyrics are wrapped in even more hooks, making the tracks more instantly and irresistibly sing-along-worthy.
This isn’t to say that Volume Rock is simple or toned down. It’s just that the flourishes found within seem designed to be more easily replicated (and perhaps more impactful) live, and overall there is a more natural feel to the songs. Hand claps, tambourine, a 12-string guitar interlude in “Land of Fools” and other ornamentation give the album a fresh sound while still keeping the tonal theme running through the entirety of its nine tracks.
Like Thunderhawk, Volume Rock features a reworking of a track from VotS’s first EP, 2010’s five-song Two Thousand Ten. But whereas Thunderhawk’s version of “Centaur Rodeo” added different drumming parts and a few other embellishments, Volume Rock’s re-do of “I Breathe the Earth” is more heavily tweaked, bolstering the song’s strengths and mending some weaknesses, while also adding more than a minute to its original running time. The backing vocals are stronger and more dynamic, the guitar tone has more depth and the drumming sounds fuller. With “Earth,” Valley of the Sun was able to take a song that longtime fans already loved and make it even better.
While Volume Rock is undoubtedly a fast and furious LP, fans of the VotS’s more expansive work will still find plenty to love. Of special note is “Speaketh the Shaman” and album closer, “Empty Visions.” Both songs exceed the five-minute mark (not uncommon for the band), showcasing Ferrier’s guitar work by giving the licks more room to breathe. Ferrier’s vocals also expand to throat-ripping levels, and the combination of his guitar and voice swirl through the tracks like the smoke from a, uh, “cigarette,” filling your speakers with righteous Desert Rock majesty.
In many ways, Volume Rock’s name says it all. This is an album that deserves to be turned to 11. It’s the perfect accompaniment to rolled-down windows, long stretches of highway and summer heat. Valley of the Sun spent three years between releases and the musicians used the time to focus on what made the band what it is, and then pushing those qualities to the forefront. In that respect, Volume Rock is a success — while there may be less going on in each song, there’s more of the band’s essence and identity throughout the album. And that identity is too loud to be snubbed.
Valley of the Sun is currently on another extensive tour overseas promoting Volume Rock, which is available in the States on most major digital platforms (like iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Spotify). Certain mail-order services (like Amazon and musicdirect.com) also offer the hard-copy versions on CD and vinyl. You can also stream or purchase the album at Fuzzorama’s Bandcamp site here, or by clicking one of the embedded tracks above.
Although The MudLarks! have only been playing together in this incarnation for the past six years, the band — which began life as the Go to Hells in 2010 and switched to its current moniker in 2012 — boasts an experiential timeline among its four members that, if viewed consecutively, would stretch back to a pre-Civil War calendar. Now that's entertainment.
The illustrious resumes that the individual MudLarks! — vocalist/guitarist T. Lothar Witt, guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Jimmy Davidson, bassist/vocalist Bob "Lamb" Lambert, and drummer Max Cole — have accumulated collectively over the past four decades is a core sample of some of Greater Cincinnati's most infamous and well-regarded bands across a broad sonic spectrum, from the glistening Indie Rock of The Libertines (now with the legally appended “US” tagged on) and The Highwaymen, the Punk slash of The Reduced, The Headaches and The Rituals and the experimental howl of 11,000 Switches, Cointelpro and BPA, to the twisted Americana stomp of the Wolverton Brothers and the New Wave bounce of Blanco Nombre and the Babettes. Then there's the long distance listings of The Reducers, Ricky Barnes & the Hoot Owls and probably a few that the quartet has inadvertently or deliberately overlooked due to time, tide, roadburn and hangover.
And so The MudLarks! — complete with two capital letters in one word and a Hamiltonian exclamation point — have assembled like a grizzled, creaky yet still powerful Transformer of wildly disparate but somehow completely compatible influences to create their singular Indie Punk mash up of local, regional and national music history in 10 tracks and a little over 46 minutes. Not bad for a bunch of guys whose next tour could be sponsored by AARP.
The MudLarks!'s eponymous debut disc, released by New York's Ionik Recordings Company, who also released the latest Wolvertons EP, Liberty Hotel, last year, whipcracks to immediate life with opener "Help Us;" guitars spark and smoulder like vintage Neon Boys/Voidoids while Witt roars with the phlegm-choked outrage of Johnny Rotten in his Pistols-to-PIL transition. It's the perfect launching pad for The MudLarks!'s first studio foray, as the foursome careens madly from the Pere-Ubu-disguised-as-accessible-Indie-Rock-outfit chaos of "Red Window" to the late-'70s-English-Punk-translated-to-downtown-NYC swagger of "Dirty Things" to the irresistible Iggy-Pop-James-Williamson tag-team cage squall of "You Love You."
The MudLarks! are equally adept at slowing down the pace when necessary. "Mea Culpa" drops tempo while maintaining a booted throat intensity and volume, "Losing Track" sounds like a Crazy Horse demo from Danny Whitten's lost heroin weekend sessions and "Love Has the Power" sways and pulses like The Dictators ballad that Handsome Dick Manitoba and his boys never attempted. And the album closes with the majestic "Sunrise," a towering five-and-a-half minute Punk anthem that somehow manages to corral all of the madness preceding it and herd it into a set-ending finale that explodes with the beautiful fury and smoke that typically accompanies a Rozzi fireworks display.
The reason The MudLarks! are able to tap into all these
various power sources and not overload the system is not because they're
simply familiar with their schematics, it's because they've lived with
them so intimately for so long. They understand the nuts and bolts of
every genre they've played, separately and together, over the past 40
years and they know perfectly well which parts are interchangeable and
will ultimately provide the best performance. Witt and Davidson trade
snarling guitar licks like Babe Ruth and Shoeless Joe Jackson playing
catch by smashing the ball back and forth to each other from bat to bat,
while Lamb and Cole maintain an adaptable rhythm that they can easily
shift from slow boulevard cruise to hyperspace warp jump in the blink of
a bloodshot eye.
There has been plenty of concrete evidence within our own music scene lately to prove that age does not equal obsolescence — witness the triumphant returns of the Warsaw Falcons and Ass Ponys — and The MudLarks! are yet another sterling example of an assertion that author P.J. O'Rourke made 20 years ago in the title of his 1995 essay collection; Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence and a Bad Haircut.
The new EP began as an entirely different project. Ill Poetic was working on a music video for The Synesthesia Yellow single “Silhouette.” The video grew into a short film and Ill Poetic changed course and created an entirely new EP, which he calls a “companion piece” to Synesthesia Yellow that also “exists in a universe of its own.”
“These are my words about love,” Ill Po says about the new project in a press release. “The record store opened me to genres of music I’d never been aware of but quickly fell in love with, greatly influencing my production. So the music is inspired by what I imagine my favorite artists and producers interpret love to be when they create. Each song is inspired by how I feel love translates through their music.”
On April 1, Ill Poetic’s made The Silhouette Project’s ethereal, melodic and soulful slo-mo jam “It’s All Around” available to stream on Spotify and purchase on iTunes. Check out the single via SoundCloud below.
The EP is being released through Ill Poetic’s Definition Music, which has morphed into a music, art and film collective. You can find out more about Definition Music here.
Ill Poetic is embarking on a Midwest tour in support of
the new EP that kicks of April 29 with a free show (it’s $5 for those
18-20) at Northside’s Urban Artifact. The show will
also feature performances by Raised x Wolves, FAROUT, Jay Al, Hafrican
and Ronin. Click here for details.
Earlier today, music website Northern Transmissions premiered the music video for “I Want Your Drugs,” the endearingly noisy and melodic first song on Cincinnati fuzzy, lo-fi Rock trio Bummers Eve’s recently released self-titled full-length. The trippy sheen that coats the song (a highlight on the overall great LP) is reflected in the video’s psychedelic swirl of flickering, morphing and over-exposed imagery. I was going to suggest that the video also clearly shows the band has plenty of drugs, but it looks and sounds like the musicians are having a blast. So, by all means, give Bummers Eve your drugs. You might need less after watching the video anyway.
Bummers Eve’s debut was released in late February (on vinyl, cassette and CD) through Brooklyn label Almost Ready Records, which has put out music from a variety of cultishly beloved bands. Read CityBeat’s review of the album here. And listen to/download the album at Bummers Eve’s Bandcamp page here; you can also order the physical formats through the site.
Bummers Eve recently put a lot of mileage on its van with a tour supporting the new release that included several shows in Austin, Texas during South By Southwest and dates on the West Coast. The tour wrapped up last week in Memphis. Keep an eye on the band's social media (here, for example) for the latest on the Bummers Eve, including future local show dates.
Pop Empire first came together in 2009 as a duo. The group featured Henry Wilson, an audio engineer who worked on video sessions — like the cool one-shot live music video series, The Emery Sessions — with his father, renowned photographer Michael Wilson, and he has also done production and mastering work with Cincinnati acts like Aaron Collins, ADM and Shadowraptr. With Cameron Cochran (currently with The Midwestern Swing), the twosome released an EP and a full-length, 2011’s The Devil’s Party, before parting ways.
But that was far from the end of Pop Empire. Singer/songwriter/bassist Wilson joined forces with guitarist Ryan Back and the pair release the Future Blues LP in 2014, showcasing the strengthening of the Blues-tinged Psych Rock sound for which Pop Empire has become known.
The growth and evolution of Pop Empire continues as the band approaches the May release of a new EP, The Violent Bear It Away (the exact date is TBA). Now a trio with the addition of drummer Jake Langknecht, the group is in peak form, and the new tracks reflect the musical chemistry and potent live energy of the current configuration.
“These songs were written through a collaborative process since we began playing in our current three-piece Garage Punk setup,” Wilson says about the forthcoming EP, which features four tracks and was recorded by Wilson and the band at their Northside practice space.
Here is the premiere of the EP track, “Psyche,” a trippy, glammy strutter that brings to mind a blend of T Rex and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
After The Violent Bear It Away’s release, Pop Empire is planning to support the EP with Midwestern and East Coast touring in June. Hometown fans won’t have to wait that long to see the band. The trio plays Northside Yacht Club on March 12 with locals Orchards, New Jersey’s The Off White and New York’s Psychiatric Metaphors. And on March 22 at Northside’s The Comet, Pop Empire and Us, Today will be the special guests of Dawg Yawp, which is playing the club’s every-Tuesday residency this month.
Keep tabs on Pop Empire’s latest happenings here.
An EP can be a risky endeavor for any musician. The shorter run time leaves little room for a filler track; the artist has to make their impression and showcase their style in the span of time it takes for some full-lengths to start stretching their legs. Of course, crafting a journey for the listener is a bit easier when their leader is a scene veteran with a wide array of releases to his name. And that’s exactly what makes Northern Kentucky resident Jimmy Snowden’s new EP, Mandarin, so enjoyable. (In his solo guise, Snowden is billed as simply “Jims.”)
Snowden is a member of Cincinnati-area acts like Smoke Signals… and Sweet Ray Laurel, and each of his projects places a spotlight on his myriad influences, from unpredictable Post Punk to acoustic-guitar-driven Indie Pop. Mandarin’s five tracks are undeniably Snowden’s design, each showing a fragment of his musical sensibilities. As a whole, they coalesce to provide a complete picture of the artist and his broad skill set. Snowden wrote, performed, and recorded the EP entirely on his own, and Mandarin bleeds Snowden’s individual playstyles as a result.
The first track, “Systems,” has an initially startling introduction. The track features vocal loops layered over downplayed percussion and acoustic guitar, which lead to a track that mixes unease and catchy melody in equal measure. It highlights Snowden’s more experimental qualities before allowing the rest of the EP to showcase his more traditional, Indie roots. It may not initially line up with the rest of the EP’s auditory aesthetic, but it’s an important track due to its insight into Snowden’s more forceful proclivities.
What follows are four tracks that thematically fall in line more evenly than what “Systems” initially hints at. “She’s Down” and “Hey Nola” feature driving guitar riffs and unconventional percussion set just under Snowden’s emotive singing voice. Snowden’s layering techniques are in full effect on each track. At times, it sounds like Snowden was running between instruments during recording to give each their own standout moment in the mix. The guitar is the star of the show, with Snowden crafting licks that enter your eardrum, weave into the folds of your brain and take up residence long after the disc has stopped spinning.
On the final tracks, “LOVE” and “ALONE,” Snowden takes his formula and makes subtle shifts to alter the mood and take the listener to a more introspective and thoughtful place. “LOVE” introduces keys at critical points of the song to create an almost mournful tone to the balance of guitar and upbeat percussion. Snowden carries the same feeling into “ALONE” by stripping away almost every layer that he had so carefully constructed on the previous tracks and focusing mainly on his vocals and guitar. What comes out on the other side is an artist laid bare. It’s a song that easily climbs beyond its self-imposed limitations and works as a suitably antithetical bookend with EP opener, “Systems.”
While Mandarin’s run time is a scant 14 minutes, Snowden is able to expose his listeners to the many elements of his musical style that enables him to be a part of so many disparate bands and be successful with all of them. Mandarin is a release that gives new listeners a fantastic introduction to Snowden’s skills. But for those of us who are already aware, it’s a solid reminder of his eclectic talents.
A pair of Cincinnati Rock bands had new projects revealed today on a couple of popular and far-reaching music websites.
Wussy’s music video for “Dropping Houses,” the first single from the band’s forthcoming Forever Sounds album, debuted on Stereogum this morning. The clip was made locally, directed by Lightborne’s Scott Fredette (who gets a shout-out in the accompanying write-up and also plays with local band Culture Queer). Check the clip out below.
Forever Sounds is released by the Cincy imprint Shake It on March 4 and the band plays a pre-release show this Saturday at Woodward Theater. Read CityBeat’s cover story on the band from last week here.
Meanwhile, another band with national/international attention on them growing, Electric Citizen, has its second album for the Riding Easy label, Higher Time, due for release May 13 (you can pre-order here). Today the website for popular Rock mag Revolver premiered a new song from the album, “Golden Mean.” Click here to listen.
The Higher Time track “Evil” can be heard below.
Electric Citizen heads out on an extensive European tour supporting Wolfmother beginning in April.
David Rhodes Brown's Warsaw Falcons and Nick Dellaposta's To No End could not possibly be any further from each other on the musical continuum.
The Falcons, recently reborn with the classic lineup of Brown on guitar/vocals, the thunderous John Schmidt on bass and the irrepressible Doug Waggoner on drums, are Rockabilly personified, heavy on the Rock and hypercaffeinated to the point of heart palpitations.
At the other end of the spectrum, Dellaposta's To No End is a Prog-tinted Blues unit with a propensity for lilting atmospherics and visceral Pop/Hard Rock anthemics.
Oddly enough, both bands are touting new releases, and each one is, in different ways, associated with a legendary entertainment figure. The Warsaw Falcons' new EP, Warsaw Falcons Live with Bobby Keys, features the work of the saxophonist sharing the title, one of Rock's most travelled and compelling sidemen who boasted near-membership with The Rolling Stones and sessions with Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, Carly Simon and three of the four Beatles, among many others.
To No End's new video for the track "Twisted Knives" from its third album, Remora, features the on-screen talents of Michael Parks, one of Hollywood's most versatile and durable actors whose television credits include Then Came Bronson in the late '60s and Twin Peaks in the '90s, and who has since become part of Quentin Tarentino's ensemble of reliable players.
The Warsaw Falcons' latest archive release is a five-song excerpt from a live recording done at Top Cat's in Clifton in the very early '90s. Keys, already a fixture in the industry (his iconic blowing was all over the Stones' Sticky Fingers, one of Rock's acknowledged masterworks), had played with Brown in Nashville and had become a semi-official member of the Falcons, eventually guesting on their 2003 album Right It on the Rock Wall.
At the time of the Top Cat's gig, Brown had just returned to Cincinnati to care for aging mother, and had reassembled the Falcons for occasional in-town performances. Bassist John Schmidt reclaimed his spot with the band, while guitarist George Cunningham and drummer Maxwell Schauf rounded out the quartet.
For the Top Cat's recording, the Falcons blew through a jumped-up set of band faves with Keys, visiting from Nashville to lend his towering sax fills. Although there was a good deal more material delivered at the Top Cat's set, the five tracks on the EP represent the songs where Keys was most directly and completely spotlighted. And Live with Bobby Keys might well stand as the most incendiary and pulse pounding 22-and-a-half minutes released this year.
The release starts with the rafter-rattling thrash of "Jello Sal," a five-minute Rockabilly workout featuring Brown's distinctive vocal rasp and his and Cunningham's slinky yet muscular guitar gyrations, grounded by Schmidt's bedrock solid bass and Schauf's technicolor timekeeping. On the EP’s second track, "Sometimes," Keys intros the song by thanking the Falcons for inviting him to the gig and pledging his admiration for Cincinnati and its desire to Rock and Roll.
"That's what we do," Keys declares in his authentic Texas accent. "Rock and roll!"
What follows is the Falcons' version of a ballad, a slow-cooking slab of meaty, bluesy Rock that gives way to its primal impulses and howls with blood-boiling intensity, even as the band maintains an almost laconic pace. Brown and the Falcons mix a jaunty Blues stroll with an effervescent Chuck Berry bounce on "You Can't Do That to Me," switching to spy-theme noir for the insistently smoky and sultry "Two Cigarettes in the Dark" and finishing with a pulsating version of Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels' classic cover of the Righteous Brothers' "Little Latin Lupe Lu," with Brown doing his best hip-twitching, lip-hitching impression of Elvis while the band kicks up its heels and swings with deliberate abandon.
Through it all, Keys — who passed away last year at age 70 — does what he always did best; find the emotional heart of the songs and then play the living hell out of them. Keys had the intuitive gift to know when to serve as a brilliant supporting accompanist or elevate his position to an equal partnership in the arrangement, as evidenced by his call and response lick-trading on "Jello Sal." Brown says there may be more recordings of Keys in the Falcons' extensive and as-yet largely unplumbed archive. Based on the results of Live with Bobby Keys, which was officially be released at a Thanksgiving Eve extravaganza at the Southgate House Revival, we can only hope there's a lot more.
Meanwhile, To No End's new release, Remora, the band's third album since forming in 2012, is not only musically dichotomous from the Falcons' EP, it's quantitatively different as well, with an additional 11 tracks over two discs. But, as noted, the one area where the two bands intersect is in their use of a celebrity guest to enhance their presentation.
With TNE, it's the presence of famed actor Michael Parks in the band's video for "Twisted Knives." TNE frontman Nick Dellaposta secured Parks' services for the video through Dellaposta's lifelong friend Josh Roush, whose journey is the subject of "Twisted Knives," perhaps the most personal and deliberately direct song he's ever written.
A decade ago, Roush departed Ohio for Los Angeles, where he has worked in the film industry in various capacities, which led to a position last year on the set of director Kevin Smith's horror film Tusk. During production, Roush met and became friends with Parks, who had a role in Tusk. When Dellaposta invited Roush to partner up to produce the "Twisted Knives" video (the two had worked together on TNE's first video, "Somethin' Wrong with You"), the pair decided to ask Parks if he would be interested in appearing the video, which is largely made up of eerie atmospheric footage that Roush has shot himself over the years.
As for the rest of Remora, Dellaposta takes To No End further down the similar path he and the band explored on last year's excellent Peril & Paracosm, which blended the Kenny Wayne Shepherd-meets-Warren Haynes
Blues direction of the band’s debut with a blistering ’70s Hard Rock energy. In addition, Dellaposta has divided Remora into a pair of 30-plus-minute sides that are stylistically distinct. The harder Side A is subtitled “The Underworld,” while the gentler and more contemplative Side B is themed “The Great Unknown.”
“The Underworld” songs clearly follow Peril & Paracosm's general blueprint, with Dellaposta and guitarist Grant Evans soaring and scorching with the intensity and focus of '70s guitar heroes like UFO's Michael Schenker and Budgie's Tony Bourge, polished to a contemporary but never overproduced shimmer. The opener and ostensible title track, "The Afterlife II (The Underworld)," is a perfect example of Dellaposta's modern Blues/Hard Rock translation, a riff-laden celebration of the forms painted with a new brush. The guitars careen and howl while the rhythm section of bassist Eli Booth and drummer David Nester provide a sturdy but flexible foundation for the song's shifty mood swing between jaunty minor key melodicism and darkly menacing wordplay.
Elsewhere, "Shatter" starts out with the reflective quiet of an O.A.R./Red Wanting Blue ballad but becomes more forceful and expansive as the song unfolds. "Everybody Talks" offers an indiosyncratic New Wave clockwork guitar motif that displays an interesting new songwriting wrinkle for TNE, while "Like Hell" and "Play That Card" show that Dellaposta's heart will never stray too far away from his KWS/Gov't Mule roots — even if they come out in fascinatingly different ways.
Remora's second "side," “The Great Unknown,” dials down the volume but not the songwriting intensity. Two songs from “The Underworld,” "Twisted Knives" and "Trash Day," are reprised on the second disc, with "Twisted Knives II" presented in an almost Folk/Americana light. "Trash Day" is similarly counterpointed between the pummeling Zeppelinesque boogie of “The Underworld” version and the lilting yet still powerful take of "Trash Day II.” And for sheer beauty, look no further than the acoustic heart-tug of "Hinterland Empire," a gorgeous evocation of The Beatles' classic "Blackbird."
While Remora's 16 songs would have fit comfortably onto a single CD, Dellaposta was clearly more interested in thematic continuity than production costs. Rather than interspersing Remora's more sedate songs with its amped-up fist-pumping anthems, Dellaposta and To No End show two different sides of themselves to suit your listening moods, further proof of his thoughtful creativity and amazing talent.
Warsaw Falcons’ Warsaw Falcons Live with Bobby Keys is currently only available at live shows (look for copies in brick-and-mortar, local-friendly record shops soon). Click here and here for show updates and more.
Over the past year or so, Northern Kentucky’s SofaBurn Records has risen to become one of the more notable independent record labels in the region. The imprint has helped draw national attention to locally-produced gems like singer/songwriter Jeremy Pinnell’s amazing OH/KY album, and it has also released various singles featuring area artists like Buffalo Killers and R. Ring (featuring Kelley Deal and Northern Kentucky’s Mike Montgomery). Tomorrow (Oct. 9), the label is putting out the latest from former SubPop recording artist and Kentucky native Daniel Martin Moore; you can listen to Moore’s Golden Age (produced by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James) now via the Wall Street Journal’s website.
Another great local band that is part of the SofaBurn roster is Alone at 3AM, the soulful and melodic Roots Rock crew fronted by singer/songwriter Max Fender that has been kicking ass for the past decade and a half-plus with consistently excellent releases showcasing Fender’s compelling songwriting abilities.
Alone at 3AM’s fantastic new album, Show the Blood, was released by SofaBurn last month and it has already scored some glowing reviews, including one from Roots Rock/AltCountry bible No Depression, which called the LP “a superb album from the first to the last track.”
This Saturday, Alone at 3AM is playing a free show at Northside’s Comet to support the new release. The 10 p.m. show also includes sets from Northern Kentucky’s A City on Fire and Joliet, Ill.’s Death and Memphis.
Ahead of the show, the band has unveiled a new music video for Show the Blood track “I’m Dying,” a Heartland Rock ear-worm that Springsteen/Petty fans should instantly fall in love with. (The track was premiered on Guitar World’s website back in July.)
The “I’m Dying” video is a no-nonsense clip shot in Northern Kentucky. "This video is just a little window into what life is like in Dayton, Ky., where I wrote the album,” Fender says. “(We) had lots of fun shooting it with Sarah (Davis, Alone at 3AM harmony singer and keyboardist).”
After the show at The Comet, Fender is setting off on a European solo tour with labelmate Pinnell. Click here to keep tabs on the latest Alone at 3AM happenings.
Casino Warrior is a name that many local music fans aren’t aware of. So far, the quartet (bassist Kevin McNair, vocalist and guitarist Miguel Richards, guitarist Billy Buzek and drummer Chad Wolary) has only played two real shows, one of which was its recent EP release party. But rest assured, based on the strength of the band’s live performance and its new, riff-laden, five-track release, the name will become much more recognizable quickly.
Centaur EP follows in the same vein as other Rock/Metal hybrids that are currently dominating many a longhairs’ playlist. If the likes of Red Fang, Black Tusk, Orange Goblin or old The Sword cause your skull and brain to repeatedly high five, then the Centaur EP is right up your alley. Richards and Buzek’s guitar leads show considerable chops; there are enough riffs in these five songs to warrant several back-to-back play-throughs just to unravel the heavy layers. Guitar nerds will be overjoyed; the rest of us will just bang our heads until we get a nosebleed.
Of course, riffs are great, but unless the floor tremors and eardrums pop, the Metal equation is only halfway completed. That’s where McNair and Wolary come in. McNair’s low-end rumbles through the mix and sets up shop in your chest. Playing this record at a high volume (as if there was any other allowable setting) is liable to shake things off the wall. Beware of any loose china or pictures of grandma that you may have sitting around your sound system. Wolary’s skin work rounds out the quartet and he brings the thunder; at times, it sounds like Zildjian gave the Incredible Hulk a gear sponsorship. And Hulk definitely smashes.
Richards’ vocals walk a fine line between ’70s Rock clean singing and the current-day growls. Each chorus and verse is delivered with a ferocity that makes the lyrics even more hilarious. I cannot wait for more people to get their hands on the album, learn the words, and yell “Horse balls!” when Casino Warrior performs “Centaur” at its next gig. In fact, each song on the EP is as ridiculous as the last. When your subject matter involves chupacabras, pterodactyls and the aforementioned centaurs, things are bound to get a little weird.
Of particular note is the song that Casino Warrior closed its EP release show with — “Pig Roast.” The track starts with a tribal rhythm from Wolary that’s worthy of accompanying a Fury Road war party, along with a bassline gut-punch courtesy of McNair. Shortly thereafter, Richards and Buzek join in with an earworm of a riff and Richards’ beefiest vocal delivery on the record. His ode to our great city demands attention before the band transitions to an extended outro that allows Richards and Buzek to show off their soloing abilities. And, what do you know — they’re amazing at more than just riffing.
As a whole, “Pig Roast” exemplifies what Casino Warrior is capable of. The band has a rhythm section that lays a rock solid foundation of groove upon which the guitars build a temple to the Riff Lords of old. The songs are more than the sum of their parts — and their parts already have quite a few big numbers involved. The guys have created a rare release that is musically serious, but still fun; heavy, but still accessible.
If you’re a Cincinnati Rock and/or Metal fan, do yourself a favor and jump on the Casino Warrior bandwagon now — it’s about to get much more crowded.