It’s amazing what music can do for the soul. For Raw Zero the mastermind behind Toronto hard rock outfit KornuCopia, it saved him from a life of addiction, and several years later has found him with the album Unplug by Seven. Mixing elements of Pearl Jam, Eagles of Death Metal, and Soundgarden, as well as some unique production style, the album definitely surprises more often than it plays to a crowd.
“Universal” opens the album dynamically between some trippy sound effects and a driving drum beat, unfortunately the cool sounds are mixed way lower than the less interesting guitars. This said the track mixes in a lot of fun backing vocals and a classic rock chorus to make it a killer banger with more than enough killer hooks to start the album right. Stereo guitar play the audio magic on “Not Sensible,” making a simple guitar line interesting with some clever production. There’s a hefty kick to the chorus that moves into a much grittier thrashing of guitar and drums to make it an easy moment for crowd chanting and head-banging in live shows.
The strengths that keep earlier tracks from sounding too familiar aren’t as present on “Prove Me Wrong,” leaving it sounding good but not fresh. On the other hand however, the bands transition into each chorus is amazingly seamless and feels immensely satisfying, in spite of its derivative weaknesses. “Love” opens on an eerie and thumping intro with a soundscape mixed in with a heavily sustained flanger guitar that uses the effect well to make it feel like its bubbling on the surface of the wall of sound. The cool way the band builds an entire song and intensity from within this consistent push of sound make it a uniquely restrained song that soars.
On the chug of “Universal Blues” the band save a blues song from being the usual 12-bar monotony with excited instrumentation and a lot of passionate vocals. The crashing chorus and even the harmonica solo bring more excited energy to the track, and a unique mix of effects make the track one that can pull in both blues and rock fans. KornuCopia taps into the same magic of Eagles Of Death Metal on “Giant Awakens” with hip-shaking beats, over-distorted guitars, goofy vocals and the addictive falsetto jumps in the vocals. The vocal hooks on every chorus and the almost overstated guitars just add to the over-the-top fun that make this one the most fun of the album.
The album closes on the nine-minute epic “Sane” that goes from flaring guitars to an wash of effects on top of a weird monologue with Rod Serling overtones. After the ominous way it carries on until the halfway point of the song the track drops viciously into its final, extended chorus, bringing all the tension crashing down with a fury, closing the album on a powerfully ambitious track for the band.
While Unplug by Seven does suffer from some derivation blues, it often makes up for it with interesting composition choices, catchy writing and strong instrumentation. With some more time the band will certainly move away from their influences and transform fully into the ambitious and ecstatic band they are on the verge of being.