Monday, December 10, 2012

Ripple Scribes Sing: featuring Deadweight and Cover of Afternoon

Now, before you get all snarky on me and start screaming nepotism or hanging chads or illegal voting machines in urban Pennsylvania, let me explain.  Yes, this is a column devoted to two of the bands of our wondrous Ripple scribes.  But this isn't about pumping them up or hyping them cause they happen to work at my beck and call.   In fact, their music is being reviewed completely independently of any Ripple association.  Let me explain.

I first discovered Deadweight earlier this year, before the boys had put an album together.  Ripple ran a joint promotion with ReverbNation to give exposure to some artists with Reverb profiles, and Deadweight was one of the bands that submitted.  Their killer cut, "Cosmic Lunch" was so much in my wheelhouse that I wrote the boys, skipped right over reviewing the music, and put their song on our The Ripple Effect Presents:Volume One - Head Music Sampler.  That sampler (which is still free, go get your copy right now!) was a huge hit with thousands upon thousands of plays, and Deadweight was one of the surprise hits off the album, turning the ears of such luminaries as Bill from Soda Shop.  It was only through interacting with the band that Headshot, the drummer, asked if he could come on board to write for us.  So music came first.  That's about as unbiased an intro as I can get.

Cover of Afternoon is the lofty lovechild of our learned educator on all things musically groovy, The Professor.  In this case, he did come to Ripple first as a writer, but included a link to his ReverbNation page.  One day in the middle of a Ripple meeting with Pope (who was rambling on and on about something Pope-ish) I hit the Reverb link.  As the music started, Pope shut his mouth immediately, his eyes widening.  "Who's this?   That's damn good."   I unveiled who COA were and Pope smiled, vowing to review the EP someday.  But I beat him to it.

So, unbiased reviews.  Just music that we dig.

Deadweight - The Red Sun God EP

I still can't hear "Cosmic Lunch" without getting excited.   After a brief cymbal intro, that guitar simply sears across the mix like a hot poker driving through a block of ice, steam belching in it's wake.  Hot and fiery, it introduced me to the fact that this band is the real deal.  But more than that, they back it up with a rocking and decidedly funky party of classic rock.  Coming from Oklahoma, these cats infuse their retro-seventies-fried sound with the earthiness of some of the best of the Midwestern classic bands, and come on like a souped up Allman Brothers, Head East, Black Oak Arkansas backyard stew.  You wanna throw some Blackfoot into the mix, go ahead.  Spice it with some Black Crowes, a touch of Clutch or Orange Goblin and let you palette run wild . 

"Lady" is an epic rocking ballad for the ages, one that a band like Black Oak would've taken to the bank. Gentle guitar picking over a nice organ sound lead us in gently, until that big guitar chord kicks in and launches us off into a soaring world of psychedelic blues rock.  The melody here is big, I mean arena-sized big, and this song would've brought the lighters out in full force during a big 70's rock festival -- alternating with huge dudes rocking out to air guitar.  Lead singer Seth Copeland reveals a classic, soulful voice, aged and perfectly weathered in the time tunnel of the Midwestern classic bands that preceded.  Dustin Ray (Headshot) on drums and Brandon Gibson keep the song tight through the rocking passages and the slower, blusier moments.   Meanwhile, Ryan McGowan and Bentley Smith tear it up on guitar, laying the foundation for what will be recognized as the classic Deadweight sound; combating layers of that searing guitar.  Perhaps the Black Crowes could've come up with a song like this in their prime, but I think not.  This is something better. 

I've already gushed about "Cosmic Lunch" so won't go on again.  But damn can that song light a fire!  Keep a copy handy for the the coming apocalypse and you can use it to rekindle the power plants.  Those guitars simple explode in swords of electric infernos.  "Stone Frog" is a heavy, stomping number, while "Silver" brings in an unexpected Doors-y vibe.  "Astro Cannibalism" attacks full front and in your face, tossing a more modern stoner a la Clutch guitar/vocal assault ito the mix while "Grannymead" wraps things up with another grooveriffic stoner fest with a beat that just won't stop.

Rocking from start to finish.  A touch modern stoner/groove rock with a solid background in the the heart of the country classic rock.  Psychedelic.  Stoner.  Whatever.  It simply rocks, baby.   Deadweight are still a new band, and it'll be fun to see which way their sound develops.  Personally, I hope they gravitate towards the more retro-psych end of their spectrum like "Lady" and "Cosmic Lunch" because that guitar sound is destined to become their signature calling card.

Get your copy at bandcamp.

Cover of Afternoon - S/T EP

As hard as it is to place a definitive label on Deadweight's brand of retro-fried seventies stoner rock, Cover of Afternoon is nigh impossible.  Combining elements of prog, post-hardcore, rock, metal, acoustic, and even some emo, there's just damn not enough adjectives to describe their unique brand of rock.  Other than to say . . . it rocks.

Searching, I think a band like Sound&Shape, who I've reviewed many times on Ripple would be about the best fit I can think of.  Punk enough at moments to be at home on a label like Engineer, this simply isn't punk music.  It's prog, in all the best senses of the word, and wouldn't sound uncomfortable jamming on stage with Ripple's own Fen.  But they ain't prog, not in the traditional sense anyways.  The band lists Thrice and Anberlin as influences.  Sure.

Acoustic-y, metal-y rock-y.  Yeah, that's what it is.  And it's all good.

Cover of Afternoon is a three piece that sounds a helluva lot bigger than that.  Ripple's own, Alex Roberts (the Professor) leads the crew on bass, guitar, piano and vocals. Allen Bishop also sings, plays bass and guitar and Reid Mewborne plays anything that you smash with fist or stick.

And let me tell you, when the boys get their groove on, it's something special.  I'm gonna preface this by saying I don't have a copy of the finished EP yet.  What I have are some early mixes of songs that I got off that original ReverbNation page, so things may sound different in final mixes.  But if these are just roughs . . . then Oh My God!

"Not Afraid" is about as near perfect a prog/emo/post-hardcore song can be.  Starting off with a few tentative yet melodic piano notes, at about the 30 second mark, the real beauty of the melody kicks in with a gorgeous piano passage growing to a full-on guitar-led prog rocker.  As the guitar chimes and rings, that stunning piano can still be heard in the background, layering on a veil of atmosphere that is undeniable.  After a moments break, the guitar kicks into a stuttering riff with the vocals lending a touch of neurosis.  It all builds to a cresendo of flying guitar and melodic chorus that stands right up there with something Steven Wilson may have come up with for Porcupine Tree.  At only 3:47, it's hard to call this song an epic, but it is.  It simply is.

"Drop Your Weapons" is a more recognizable post-hardcore/emo/prog stunt in the Sound&Shape vein, with killer melodies and ringing guitars, time changes, musical drop outs, and cool vocal hooks.  "Harlot" may be my favorite cut, a tragic, spiteful tale of brothers stabbing brothers and infidelity.  The pain of the betrayal hangs like a funeral pall over the delicate melody that explodes into moments of pure rage and release.  Stunningly gorgeous, evocative and melodic, until it's a disintegration of violence and hardcore cries for vengence.  Truly, a stunningly realized composition, that sums up every man's feelings after his bitch cheated on him "You both belong together/ the liar and the whore/I can't wait to see the thing that karma's got in store/for Judas and the Harlot /there's a special place in hell/for people just like you."  What a catharsis!

There's six songs here in total and not even the slightest let up in quality.  Big guitar riffs come out of left field, emotive vocals rip through moments of silence, sing-along harmonies lift melodic chorus to cherished heights.

Yeah, I don't know what to call it.

It's Cover of Afternoon and it's unlike any thing else I know.

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