Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Darker Shore: The Mechaphysik

The Darker Shore.  The Mechaphysik.
Love Muffin, 2011.  The Darker Shore:

Describing themselves as “hard rock, progressive rock, art rock, metal” on their web page leaves The Darker Shore with a lot of territory to explore.  They also use the phrase “eschewing the stagnant norms of typical groups,” which means that they’re smart guys.  However, I had to go to the web page to get any info on the band because there are no notes with the CD.  Maybe not so smart.  I was wondering if they still exist as a band, since their web site lists shows from 2012, but their Facebook page tells us that they’re in the studio for a new album.  I’d better get this review out now.

The Cleveland band is indeed a very good hard rock group, with tinges of all that other stuff, especially traditional metal, although all that other stuff counts because it does set them apart from other bands.  Their sound is sophisticated, informed by a variety of styles.  One might write them off as just another metal band with the title track, but wait.  The guitarist is hitting chords that are reminiscent of surf music (to me), recalling Dick Dale.   While Eric Scott has a rather deep voice, he eschews the distorted vocals of some groups.  Their songs are generally of the gloomy variety, but the lyrics suggest deeper thoughts.  “Divider” takes on contemporary issues (with a delivery that is disturbingly like Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” in some spots), although all the songs seem to reference alienation and coping with an indifferent universe in a way Mr. Joel never would.  “EGR” seems to be led by the drummer, Nick Lammarino, with some unusual time signatures.  Time changes in “Dirt Harvest” suggest the art rock influences they mentioned, and includes very nice solo by bassist Jay Ketchaver.  I like the fact that he gets a number of chances to lead off or take over.  Songs alternate between pulverizing and the thoughtful/melancholy, and a few combine the two, although the music never stops its forward motion.  

The latter portion of the album includes two slower tracks, which are the ones I like best.  They display power without the pyrotechnical displays that are featured in earlier tracks, although those are enjoyable too.  “Dragging a Body” and “Dark House” show how much musical prowess the band has, and takes us into the progressive/art rock that they promised.  The former has a Led Zeppelin quality to it, with significant contributions by everyone.  The latter is the longest song, at eleven minutes, and recalls some of the lengthy tracks on the Doors’ early albums.  “Dark House” is particularly enjoyable in its atmospheric qualities.  Scott even gets on his Jim Morrison to some degree, and Tony Klein’s guitar sounds a bit like Robbie Krieger’s.  Very enjoyable trance music.  “Wee Wah” closes out with distortion, soaring guitar solos, and all-around bombast.  

The Darker Shore is a fine band, and The Mechaphysik an excellent start.  I hope their new album takes them to new heights.

Personnel:  Eric Scott (Story Teller/vocals), Tony Klein (Technical Guide/guitar), Jay Ketchaver (Atmospherics/bass), Nick Lammarino (Sensory Exploration/drums).
Tracks:  The Darker Shore, Divider, EGR, Dirt Harvest, My Mechanical Brain, Ne Plus Ultra?, Dragging a Body, Dark House, Wee Wah.

The Grand Wazoo

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