Friday, November 25, 2011

FDF Volume 3 Issue 248 - downset. - Do we Speak a Dead Language?

By: March

Album – Do We Speak A Dead Language?
Artist - Downset
Key Players - James Morris – bass. Chris Hamilton – drums. Ares Schwager – guitar. Rey Oropeza – lead vocals.
Produced By – Roy Z

Release Date – September 10, 1996

What caused me to blow off the dust? - I try to mix things up on the site. Going 80's one time, to 90's alternative and even dipping in to harder stuff. Just felt like mixing it up.

Overview – This was the second full length album from Los Angeles California band downset. Blending rap metal, hardcore and alternative the four piece would be seen as a political band before they'd realize it. Singer Rey Oropeza's own father died had the hand of the LAPD so the band would turn to political and deeply personal songs. The band would tour, release a few albums, but never garner much mainstream success. They'd disband in May of 2009 just saying the band had “run its course”.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) – Fifteen tracks in under fifty minutes gets started with the track “Intro” which is a segment of a speech from Martin Luther King with chimes and bass. “Empower” takes right off with the grinding fusion of rap/rock. Schwager finds big guitar riffs while Hamilton focuses his anger on the hi-hat. Oropeza pushes himself hard on the vocals and the band has that grinding heavy feel through out. Schwager and Morris have a good tandem run with Hamilton keeping pace and the tempo locked in. It is a heavy and hard intro track. Morris gets the intro on the track “Eyes Shut Tight” riffing a few times before the guitar and drums come in. Oropeza is a little less rushed on this track, but the track is still heavy, but the vocals are a lot less “shouted”. The band does some heavier stop/starts about 1:45 in to the track with Schwager really buzzing on his guitar and after a verse of that Morris gets up in the mix as the band settles back and Schwager throws some delayed guitar riffs over the top. It swells up again and gets a lot heavier. They repeat the chorus again and the track comes to a close, but not before Schwager gets another run. “Keep on Breathing” has Schwager starting with a distorted guitar before the band comes in quickly. Morris finds a tight groove and Schwager joins while Hamilton keeps it all in check. Oropeza continues be angry, and on point. His vocals may not be flashy, but they fit right in with the music. The band is good about some stop/start time signatures, usually with, in this case, a big bass riff to bring it all back in. Hamilton starts things off on “Hurl a Stone”. Oropeza is back to a quick vocal delivery, barking at times and giving tight rapped lyrics at times. Schwager found a great riff on this and won't shake it loose, which is fine with me. Schwager seems to go even faster on “Fire” and Morris and Hamilton are just fine playing along, as quickly as he is. The track has some backing “shouts” in the chorus as the big down beats get your head bobbing at a rapid pace. We seem to settle things down with “Touch” as Morris and Schwager both calmly play and Hamilton slowly rolls across the drum kit with some lush cymbal rolls. The tempo is set from Hamilton and suddenly it picks right up and Oropeza breaks the silence with the vocals asking if you have “any love in your heart?”. The song reverts back to the smooth intro for a time, then Oropeza opens it up again, the track follows this pattern for the duration. Schwager seems anxious to get things started on “Against the Spirits” and again Hamilton is happy to play along, he teases it some, but Morris comes in and it takes off. This is about as fast as the band has been, they are just in the zone and its all out there. Morris pulls a funky bass riff out before the full band gets back in to it and off they go again. This is some speedy stuff. Oropeza leads off “Sickness”. This is the first track that comes to mind where it is only vocals first, before the band comes in. We get full, and heavy, before letting Oropeza sing with the band easing up some. Still heavy, but a refreshing change from the norm of the record. One might think, due to the vibe of the record that a song like “Pocket Full of Fatcaps” has to do with bullets. Wrong. This has to do with spray painting. How gangster is that? It is actually pretty gangster. This was the lead single that I recall hearing from the album with its punchy drums and buzzing guitar. It seemed so new, so heavy and so on point. Check out the sample below, if you like stuff of this genre, you'll dig. “Sangre De Mis Manos” is sung in Spanish, but even language doesn't slow down the urgency and heavy vibe of the track. “Horrifying” continues what he have heard which leads in to a reprise of “Sickness”. The tracks all see like bookends. We actually get a piano??! intro on “Permanent Days Unmoving”. The vocals are spoken and it appears to be a soft spoken poem. The album closes out with “Ashes in Hand” a track which has Schwager and Hamilton slowly growing in intensity as Oropeza comes in shouting “sex kills” before the band gets heavier right along with him. Schwager uses some delay on this guitar again, while Morris and Hamilton grind the track forward to the point where Hamilton appears to grow two more arms and just goes wild on the drum kit. Suddenly we change directions, everyone eases off the throttle and the track wraps up. The track still rolls to silence until about 8 minutes when an unlisted track begins, again it starts out mellow and remains a loose instrumental jam.

Where are they now? - As noted the band broke up in 2009.
James Morris worked with a band Supervillain but their site hasn't been updated since 2005. I wasn't able to find much else on what the guys are doing now.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – I saw the band one time opening for Deftones and Orange 9MM at the Middle East in Cambridge MA. I am not sure of the date due to a lack of a ticket stub. The downset page has a tour history, but it only goes back as far as 2000. This was on the tour for this record as I had the guys sign the cd.

FDF Overall Take – If you are a fan of bands like Rage Against the Machine you'll be right at home. Fast, heavy but still melodic at times. It might seem a little dated, but I hadn't listened to this record in a long time and found it refreshing for some reason. Honestly though if you like the style to begin with there is little for you to NOT like on this record.


Official Page
Facebook page.
myspace page

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

Pocket Full of Fat Caps
Eyes Shut Tight

The album appears to be in print still. You can track it down here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

FDF Volume 3 Issue 247 Eyes Adrift - Self Titled

By: March

Album – Eyes Adrift
Artist – Eyes Adrift
Key Players – Bud Gaugh – drums and percussion. Curt Kirkwood – guitar, lead vocals on most , Krist Novoselic – bass, vocals on 3,6 and 12.
Produced By – Stuart Sullivan

Release Date – September 24, 2002

What caused me to blow off the dust? - I am not even sure how I stumbled upon this cd to begin with. I recall being struck by 2-3 songs though. Its just been sitting on the shelf for a while.

Overview – So you take the bassist from Nirvana, the guitar player from the Meat Puppets, toss in the drummer from Sublime..and have it. The band would blend alternative rock and “cow punk” for a pretty fun romp. They'd disband in 2003 after this lone release.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) – Gaugh opens on the cymbals to get “Sleight of Hand” underway. Kirkwood strums his guitar and before you know it a deep bassline is swooping in. Filled with percussive instruments the band is comforatble with its laid back feel and pace. It feels like a big change from what the each members prior bands had done. “Alaska” is a little more heavy with the guitars, but the band still holds to the “power trio” with some big riffs and Gaugh clacking off the snare drum. A long guitar opens up “Inquiring Minds” with Gaugh hardly touching the cymbals. This is the first track that Novoselic has lead vocals. The track is about the murdered girl “JonBenet Ramsey” and they sing her name about putting flowers on her grave. The bass and drums are top notch on the track, it is mixed flawless and Kirkwood really has a great tone for the duration. “Untried” again finds Kirkwood in fine form on guitar. A clean guitar sound throughout after a simple drum intro finds Kirkwood a little more laid back on his waving vocals. The acoustic guitars blend with a few electric chords as “Blind to Me” gets underway. Again, we are laid back some vocally. Novoselic has a nice tone to his bass and seems okay with a secondary role on the track. It is a well mixed track with the subtle drum work from Gaugh ringing out. “Dottie Dawn and Julie Jewel” finds Novoselic on the lead vocals with a deep country vibe. Kirkwood uses a slide on this guitar and Gaugh really has a solid back beat for the duration. You can hear the smile in Novoselic's voice which is a lot of fun. This was one of the first songs from the collection that really stood out with me. We feel a bit more “heavy” as “Solid” gets underway. Big guitar riffs with cymbal smashes, but we mellow it out vocally. Kirkwood seems in his element when he can have a laid back delivery. There are a few more vocal harmonies but they are not expansive on the track. We go laid back again on “Pyramids” which finds Gaugh playing some keyboards. This adds a nice touch to the bass/drum/guitar feel of the record. Kirkwood again is smooth and not pushing himself too hard. They have an exended outtro on the track where they find a comforatble pocket to play. We get heavy, again thankully, at the start of “Telescope”. The guitar and bass seem to have a “chugging” sound which help set it as another stand out on the album. As solid as the band is, the heavier stuff just seems to sit better with me personally. Kirkwood actually seems to get angry with his guitar on the backend of the track. “Slow Race” has about a 30 second slow intro before the guitar comes up and finds Gaugh slowly rap-tapping on his snare. Novoselic's bass work works in and out, providing a welcome feel to the track. “What I Said” is another track with a more laid back feel before the full band comes in. Here the band has a nice full sound for the three piece and the vocals are strong and there is a perfect guitar/slide solo. The album concludes with the lengthy track “Pasted”. It starts off noisy, then settles right back down. Novoselic has the lead vocals and it has little bit of rock-a-billy feel to it, but not the 12 bar blues to go with it. The band changes directions a lot, mostly it feels like they are trying to find their way. There are longer guitar solos with rumbling drums and then a longer buzzy guitar run. It can be a little taxing on the listen and sort of an odd choice for an album closer, but it makes sense at the same time since you will be challenged as a listener. It seems to be a long and loose jam session.

Where are they now? - This was a one and done thing for the band. Kirkwood is back with his band The Meat Puppets. Gaugh is back with the new incarnation of Sublime called, Sublime with Rome. Novoselic wrote a weekly blog for a bit and is currently in law school.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – I never saw the band live, and there is a pretty good chance there was never a tour.

FDF Overall Take – What is good, is really good on this. Personally I'd like a little heavier of a record. Even with the electric guitars it never really seemed to unload on the listener. The band found a comforatble place to have some fun. If you stumble upon it you may be more surprised than you expected.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

Dottie Dawn & Julie Jewel.
Inquiring Minds

The album is out of print, but you can track it down easy enough, like right here

Friday, November 04, 2011

FDF Volume 3 Issue 246: Heretix - Gods and Gangsters

By: March

Album – Gods & Gangsters
Artist - Heretix
Key Players – Marvin Huffman – drums, percussion. Eric Hill – Bass. Brian Hill – guitar, vocals (lead vocals on “Fire Inside”). Ray Lemieux – lead vocals, acoustic guitar
Produced By – Ed Stasium (5 tracks produced by Ross Humphrey)

Release Date – June 15, 1990

What caused me to blow off the dust? - I am not sure many outside of New England have ever even heard of them.

Overview – Boston band Heretix blended a bountiful pop/rock sensibility. At times heavy, at times soothing always melodic. The band would be well known in the Boston area winning awards for albums, live shows and many “best” categories (Best male vocalist for example). The band would be signed to major label but the times were changing and the band was dropped.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) – The ten song, just shy of 40 minute album opens with the title track “Gods and Gangsters”. A big bass and drum hits right out. The band settles back and Lemieux comes in. He has a deep and strong voice. (When I refer to the Hills I'll use first names). Brian offers some good backing vocals whole Eric and drummer Huffman keep everything in check. The overall sound of the band is similar to the rock that was on the radio at the time. Just that touch of heavy with big hooks. Huffman breaks things down and they toss some vocal effect on Lemieux as Eric and Brian fire notes back and forth. The song keeps a pretty consistent verse/chorus/verse feel. Brian starts off “Climb to Begin” on his own. Huffman rumbles in and Eric joins with the rumble of his bass. Lemieux is a little more laid back on the first verse. The acoustic guitar seems to be a little higher in the mix on the verse. The track has a good deep riff at times that will reach out to grab the listener and find them reaching for their “air guitar”. Huffman sets the tone as “Simple Wish” begins quickly Eric and Brian join. They run through a few bars before settling back a little and the vocals begin. Lemieux is a little laid back, but still very strong. Brian gets a quick guitar solo and the band seems to let him go with it. It is not flashy or too long before Lemieux comes back to the chorus. The shortest track on the album comes in “Up and Running”. Takes a little to get rolling but the Hills seem to have a lot of fun with Eric having a particular rumble to his bass. Huffman really pushes this forward and you can actually hear the smile on Lemieux's face as he sings. Just a fun, rocking tune. Lemieux plays the acoustic a the start of “My Head” and after a few bars Huffman wants to get things rolling and the rest of the guys agree. As the verse is started it gets hushed and Lemieux doesn't seem to have a set of lyrics are the start, he does get to the words making sense and your feet will be tapping along before you know it. The song has a very rock-a-billy feel and they seem to tease “Aint that a Shame” as well, but they don't go all the way there. If the band had a “radio single” from the record it came in the track “Heart Attack”. The band is a little subdued on the track, but it has that big rock vibe with soaring chorus and the switch of strummed acoustic guitars to big guitars. Huffman seems to keep everyone from taking off and manhandles the tom-toms as the chorus approaches. The backing vocals are well timed as well, just on parts of the chorus. One of the most underrated songs of all time in my humble opinion. Eric gets to stand on his own for a moment at the start of “Insomnia” as Huffman joins. Brian rings a few choppy guitar lines over and the vocals begin. Eric is high in the mix for a lot of song, as a bass player I enjoy that touch. Brian Hill takes the lead vocals on “Fire Inside”. Eric plucks a few short notes and Huffman seems to hit everything on his drum kit once, but not too hard..just working his way around the drum kit. Brian does an amicable job, but he also seems to be comfortable with his abilities. “Turning Around” finds Brian buzzing on his guitar with Huffman and Eric offering up choppy fills before Lemieux starts to sing. The track has Brian doing a solo earlier and the band seems to be okay with the change up. The backing vocals are strong again. The album concludes with the track “Waste of Skin”. Brian comes out of the gate and Huffman finds a steady, calming beat. It is a more laid back track that still contains the elements of what makes the band, and Lemieux so strong. Good harmonies, tight playing and a big sound at all the right times.

Where are they now? - There appears to be no facebook, myspace or even unofficial band page. If any band member, or friend of the band, has any info drop a comment and I'll be glad to update. One person I think is a match is Ray, and it appears he is in the real estate business now.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – I only saw the band live one time. It was April 17, 1992 at “Nightstage” in Cambridge MA. The support band was Letters to Cleo that night and I recall the night well, as a friend of mine turned 21 that night. He had fun, we all had fun.

FDF Overall Take – I read one review that compared them a little to bands like Candlebox and Collective Soul. In a sense I see it, both those bands had heavy riff based tracks on the radio, which Heretix does here. Ray Lemieux is a terrific vocalist and that sets them above the aforementioned bands. If you see this in the cut out bin, and like early 90's rock you'd be VERY much at home. The track “Heart Attack” alone is worth the cost of a download.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!
Wow, I can't even find a clip from this record on line. I'll need to work on this...

Out of print, but you can find copies here.