Funk is a tool all too rarely harnessed by rock bands these days. On the new record What Is Love by Toronto transplants The Heavy Jack 3 they blend hard rock with parts Steve Miller, and parts Red Hot Chili Peppers for an album that works best when it’s doing something new, rather than relying on its influences.
Guitar-driven opener “Hey There Mama” is a thumping song that pushes forward endlessly, putting an echoing void behind its simple instrumentation to add a heavy sense of wonder to its sound. Thanks to this sound and some wonderfully shifting progressions that mix traditional and more exotic voicings the track rarely feels derivative. Funk grooves start the frantic “Run Away” with distant vocals elevating the energy of the track. The rush of speed makes the song feel like it could lose control at any moment but the powerful musicianship of the band keeps it in check while it keeps you on edge.
The band’s continuous sense of flow pushes into the country-blues of “Blue Moon Sun” without feeling unnatural, and their strange chord choices make the track one that is uniquely theirs. With some playful writing the song pushes forward but does occasionally feel like it suffers from its derivative influences in parts. This issues persists on “Lucy Long Legs” in the more polka-touched verses, where the production choices end up saving it from feeling too bland. Alternatively the drop into the spirited solo finishes the song on a completely energized and unique note.
Going to “No Two Ways” the country blues stomp is given a mysterious and dark overtone, making it work for the most part. The band shows their brilliance however on the vicious and banshee-like bridge, where they complete change the feeling of the song to something intriguing and unique, making the more generic opening feel unnecessary. “People of the Night” finds them walking their generic to exciting shifts like trapeze kings. The shifts make the song more interesting in this case as neither part stays too long, leaving you wanting more of the sonic exploration and getting exactly the right amount of the more simple sections.
Strangely enough the move to “Revelation/Revolution” feels more like a solo and bridge than a different song. The killer jam styles and juicy licks make it one of the more get up and dance moments on the record. Closer “Anastasia” has the band in a chaotic race to the finish through non-stop drums that never ease-up and strings that shift through psychedelic and funk like its nothing. On this final tune The Heavy Jack 3 blend their two styles together seamlessly for a track that works better as a display of both sounds.
Keeping blues from sounding stale is an art these days, with the likes of The White Stripes and The Black Keys being some of the few to reinvigorate it. In Marcus Deml’s latest project The Blue Poets, the band have crafted self-titled album that harkens to classics like Cream and Deep Purple, while also taking notes from contemporaries like Gary Clark Jr and Them Crooked Vultures.
The album rips open on the stomping riff of “Goodbye” with a catchy chorus line that hits a mysterious note compared to the grit of the main riff. Despite a fairly flourished solo the second half of the song does run a little long. After a moderately overextended intro “Too High” hits its stride as the whole band kicks in. Once it starts its mixes parts Cream and Deep Purple for a track that rocks with classic flair.
The band jumps into a Brian Setzer-style rock shuffle on “Sad, Sad, Sad” with all the excitement and pizzazz without the orchestra. The track instead opts for more distortion and ironically darkly themed lyrics. The blues slow-jam arrives on “Alien Angel” as the band sinks into a groove and builds emotion slowly and precisely.
“Sunshine of your Love” covers the Cream classic, with a higher sense of dynamics than the original ever did, even down to the intro. With these changes the band still manage to do justice to the original like in its solo where the band trades playing along with throwing in their own freestyle. On “Shallow Love” the band takes a simple riff-driven song and throw in enough unique elements in their pre-choruses and bridge to give it life.
The 12-bar blues come alive on “It’s About Time” with enough playing around from the band to give it the soul the genre needs. “For A God” finds the band mixing dark themes, on an almost Bond theme sounding track. The track is the most powerful and interesting on the record with raw emotion pouring out of every lick and the overall grandeur of the composition overtaking any other track on the record.
“Won’t You Suffer” rolls on a lick reminiscent of Them Crooked Vultures, before going into a delightfully dark pre-chorus and hitting its amazingly catchy chorus for one of the most fun tracks on the record. Going to the album’s end, the band drops the blues chug on “The Truth” before going to the final soulful jam on “With Your Eyes,” that goes from light to heavy in a powerfully epic way.
The indie rock scene is shifting to more complex rhythms and riffs, making rock feel more like heavy jazz but with a good sense of pop to balance it out. Paris, Ontario’s Bad Reed drop a lot of influence on their new single “Stained Glass,” mixing a jazz style with influence from bands like The Sheepdogs, The Allman Brothers and a bit of Black Sabbath to make a very unique track.
Starting with its funky bass-line the track opens with attitude, dropping in rim based percussion to drive it forward. Once the guitar drops in the groove really moves forward and kicks up the beat of the song. The song does however drop a pre-chorus without dropping a chorus until over halfway through the song, which may feel a little strange on first listen. This said the pre-chorus is catchy in its own right with delicious harmonies and turning the kick of the groove up even more.
The song gets really interesting on its bridge section though, mixing psychedelic and prog-rock inspired licks and rhythms for a section that changes the sound of the song without doing so abruptly. The stop and go rhythms bring the song into its dark, metal-infused section with heavy and held chords before going to its final chorus. The band decide however to close the track on a mix of riffs and drum fills for a final sounding ending that ends the song appropriately maybe only lacking a bit of theatricality in its execution.
The song also comes with a dynamically shot video (directed by Garrit Ainsworth) that really matches the tone of the song perfectly. Switching between more generic colours and slowly adding different colours and effects as the magic put on the band by a demon (played by their lead singer) takes effect. The extreme colour kaleidoscope of the bridge is matched by the dark rainbows of its second half where it gives each colour a more neon feel.
PROTEST THE HERO TO RELEASE PACIFIC MYTH NOVEMBER 18
Protest The Hero will release Pacific Myth via Sony Music (Canada) and Razor & Tie (U.S.) on November 18, 2016. A digital preorder is also available on the PTH Bandcamp
A special two-hour documentary series titled “Of Our Own Volition” filmed by award-winning director Marc Ricciardelli is also now available http://protestthehero.vhx.tv/.
The songs were previously recorded and released solely for members of the band’s Pacific Myth subscription platform. Intended as a way to create and distribute new music for core fans, Pacific Myth resulted in six new tracks, each with correlating artwork created by talented artists Jeff Jordan and Graham Curran, packaged together physically for the first time. The individually released tracks have been fully remixed and remastered to create the cohesive sound of Pacific Myth which runs over 35 minutes.
The band explains, “Pacific Myth was purely an experiment. Normally, we take as much time as we need to write records – lots of which is spent procrastinating. With Pacific Myth, we didn’t have that luxury – we promised to release 1 song per month on the 15th of each month for 6 months running. What we discovered in writing these tunes was the fact that strict deadlines (even if self-imposed) do not allow for over-thinking – something we are incredibly guilty of on our four existing full-length albums. Surprisingly, the constricting time frame lead to some risks in writing we wouldn’t have normally taken – or at least some risks we would normally have had the time to identify as “too risky” and then re-worked until we felt safe again. For this reason, it’s a totally “go-with-your-gut” record and one we are extremely proud of.”
PTH will be will kick off a Canadian headlining tour in support of the new release kicking off December 8 in Vancouver and wrapping up in Toronto on December 18 at the Danforth Music Hall. International tour dates will be announced next week.
In addition to Pacific Myth, Protest the Hero have released four full length albums and have toured the world over. Hailing originally from Whitby, ON, Protest the Hero consists of four core members, Rody Walker (vox), Luke Hoskin (lead guitar/vox), Tim MacMillar (guitar/vox), and Michael Ieradi (drums) alongside their longtime friend Cam McLellan filling in on bass.
Protest The Hero / CDN Headline Tour
w/ A Wilhelm Scream, Auras and Cyclamen
Dec 08 – Vancouver, BC @ Vogue
Dec 09 – Kelowna, BC @ Level
Dec 10 – Calgary, AB @ Marquee
Dec 11 – Edmonton, AB @ Union Hall
Dec 12 – Saskatoon, SK @ Louis Pub
Dec 14 – Winnipeg, MB @ Garrick Centre
Dec 15 – Thunder Bay, ON @ Crocks
Dec 16 – Timmins, ON @ The Working Class
Dec 17 – Sudbury, ON @ Sudbury Events Centre
Dec 18 – Toronto, ON @ Danforth Music Hall (Stay Warm Fest)
With the recent first presidential debate driving the news cycle right now, and the election itself fast approaching, it should be no surprise that the wave of politically charged music is starting to pick up too. Just in time for this debate is the new single from New Jersey trio The Spiders, titled “Election Day.” Between some heavy commentary and classic power rock, very much in the style of Judas Priest or The Runaways, the track will definitely be stirring up some riots this election cycle.
Starting off is the song’s strong point and political weapon, it’s lyrics. Firing right out of the gate with “One’s a liar and one’s a fool/You have no choice, who you gonna choose?” the song let’s you know the Spiders’ stance immediately, not taking any sides. The pre-chorus goes on to take a dig at both Trump and Clinton on the wall and email scandal, which despite being fairly easy targets aren’t really delivered saying anything new.
The chorus delivers the song’s rallying cry, with a very catchy refrain of “HEY, I got something to say/HEY, on election day,” providing the song’s best hook and best political chant driver, with a bit of the flavour of “You Drive Me Wild.” Unfortunately instead of going for some deeper cuts on the two candidates, or offering some third solution the second verse is a fairly straightforward everyman complaint about life and government. This said the lyrics serve their purpose here, and getting into deep, unbiased political commentary on a three minute song is a stretch.
That said the instrumental side of the track does make its lyrical fallbacks a little harder to ignore. The instrumentation isn’t bad however, technically speaking it’s tight and mixes hooks in greatly. Unfortunately somewhere between the production and writing that feels fairly textbook, outside of a couple hooks the melodies don’t bring anything new to the table. That said considering the genre, an overtly complicated track may have had its message lost and been harder to follow but here even the bridge could have used something to spice it up.
Overall “Election Day” is a decent 2016 update for political rock, hitting both sides without holding back. Those looking for something new musically or commentary-wise will have to look elsewhere but if you’re looking for something to perfectly sum up the election in catchy way The Spiders hit the nail on the head.